Archive for July, 2013

Is Nigeria Broke?

Posted: July 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Pat Utomi

The politics of signaling on the economic health of a nation is high art. When public officials who yesterday waxed lyrical on the robustness of the economy, in the face of naysayers who strive to make light of economic growth numbers suddenly begin to argue that there is no money available, something is amiss.

In our contemporary experience the dramatic switch from promoting buoyancy to expressions of distress by the stewards of the economy and financial services, is to highlight irritation on how crude oil stealing has affected the treasury’s intake.

All this has confused the unfortunately simple folk and simple minded are active in public life presuming to know but who do not quite understand the game of talking up economic performance. Of course there is psychology and idiosyncratic response to all decision making. In choices about where and how to invest, the issue is even more subject to how reality is perceived. Take the example of how a perception of crime varies between those who follow Nigeria and South Africa.

Many who refer to high crime rates in Nigeria as an impediment to investment often do not seem aware that the incidence of criminal activity is much higher in South Africa and indeed in some parts of leading US cities. But because of weak institutions, poor management of issues around crime and the weak selling of Nigeria, the country’s lower crime rates are perceived to be much higher.

A good example comes from personal experience. Back in 1984, not too long after I returned from graduate studies in the United States I persuaded a Nigerian who was in school with me to return. He came home with his Caucasian American wife who had probably never left the American Midwest and began his NYSC programme attached to a firm I had founded immediately I returned in 1982. His wife got a job at the American International School in Lagos.

One day, after school, she was at their Ikeja home while her husband was at work and armed robbers arrived at about 4pm. She was quite traumatized and drove straight to the US embassy with a message left for her husband: “We either return to the US together straight away or I return alone for good”. I intervened, trying to persuade her to change her mind. To the question: “You know this can happen to you in Indianapolis”, she said “yes”. Then went on: “But there I can call the police and know for sure that there will be a quick response; here it is highly improbable”. I could not refute the veracity of her comment.

It was a clear pointer to how weak institutions like the policing function were making perceptions of uncertainty higher than reality thereby making economic intercourse poor and transaction costs high, thus reducing competitiveness. The bottom line is there is need in the course of nation building and governance to either talk up the state of things, market the economy or talk down problematic stuff. In truth the vacillation between high growth economy chests pounding by officials and pointing to being broke to dissuade those vandalizing crude oil delivery systems and the integrity of the process that produce the blood line that keeps Nigeria alive is currency of modern statecraft and should be no cause for alarm.

So is Nigeria broke? Not really. But those who must share the FAC account every month to run the governments of Nigeria and to extract the economic rent that make them seemingly thrive are naturally in panic from disruptions of such vital blood link. In that circumstance a big cry out is expected.The real dilemma for me is what should be the right emphasis here, monies being lost to crude oil thieves or the damage being done to the environment by the crude manner in which the crude is stolen.

I am more worried about the despoliation of the environment and damage to the eco-system that will leave long term harm on future generations than that there is less money available to today’s profligate power-wielders. Indeed, if it were not for the damage to the environment and the injustice in loss of what is the commonwealth to a few crooks, I would be happy that the revenues from oil were entering the treasury in a diminished manner. A constricted flow of oil revenues may force a rethink of our parasitic politics, bloated governance structures and governing mindset to wealth creation and nation building as different from today’s prebendal booty-sharing. I am often remembered for an interview published in London’s Economist in 1996 in which I said Nigeria would be better off if its generals and politicians could take the oil and move out of Nigeria, that the Nigerian people would be better for it. While this was said, albeit tongue in cheek, I realize that some countries have not suffered the so called curse of oil, and that revenues from oil have been channeled into driving growth of other sectors. Norway may seem like champion here in both overcoming Dutch disease and ensuring future generations get their share of God’s gift, but Malaysia’s accomplishment with PETRONAS and diversification of United Arab Emirates economies that now see many Nigerian elite spending much time in Dubai, is good example of how it can be different.

The simple truth beyond the games of talking up and talking down economic activity, which are a necessary part of managing a modern economy driven by market psychology, is that Nigeria is not broke but it can become fatally broken if business as usual persists. Yes crude stealing is grave danger for more reasons than sabotaging what Shell can remit to the government treasury, and must be stopped, but it is not reduced oil proceeds that has economic activity in Nigeria in jeopardy. The real danger is the politics of sharing which has triumphed over cake-baking and job creating economic growth policy making.

•Pat Utomi is a Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship based in Lagos. He is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

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By Azuka Onwuka

Last week, the National Teachers’ Institute announced that about 80 per cent of teachers in Northern Nigeria were not qualified to teach. Just before that, the Federal Ministry of Education had announced the cut-off marks for admission into the Federal Government Colleges, known as Unity Schools, with the shocking piece of information that while the cut-off mark was as high as 139 and 138 for Southern states like Anambra and Imo, it was as low as two, yes two, (out of a possible 200 marks) for pupils of a Northern state like Yobe.

According to the Federal Character Commission, “In 1954 when Nigeria opted for a federal form of government, the concept of Quota System as a policy was adopted in the recruitment of persons into the officers’ corps of the armed forces and the police as well as in admissions into educational institutions,” to promote a fair representation and close the existing disparities among the parts of the nation. On the surface, it is a good idea, because it ensures that no single area gets into federal establishments to the detriment of other areas.

However, over the decades, it has dealt a heavy blow on the psyche of Northern Nigeria. Man is naturally competitive. Man performs at his peak in times of difficulty: the maxim “necessity is the mother of invention” captures it. The collapse of communism bears testimony to this. Remove competition among people, provide amenities for them equally, reward them equally — no matter their individual contributions — and the will to excel evaporates. Even as the Federal Character policy was established with good intentions, those who created it and those who still support its continuance are indirectly not wishing the North well.

In the 2007 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, Imo State produced more candidates seeking admission into the universities than all the 19 Northern states put together. That is not just shocking but dangerous.

The top five states with the highest number of candidates were Southern states. They are as follows: Imo 93,065; Anambra 64,689; Delta 61,580; Edo 57,754; Akwa Ibom 47,928; while the lowest five states were Northern states as follows: Sokoto 3,925; Taraba 3,832; Zamfara 2,904; Jigawa 2,541; and Yobe 2,516.

The trend remains virtually the same year after year. For example, last year, the top three states were Imo (123,865 candidates); Delta (88,876); and Anambra (71,272); while the last three states were Northern states.

Last month, UNESCO released a report that ranked Nigeria as the country with the most number of children out of school: a whopping 10.5 million – the population of Portugal! No doubt, a larger proportion of these children would be from the North. Some blame the almajiri system for this. It is a system that was created to offer young boys the opportunity of being groomed and tutored by a religious leader, so as to grow into exemplary members of society. But it has gone awry, making these young boys roam the streets begging, with nobody to direct them, and then growing up into angry youths that can be used to cause mayhem at the drop of a hat.

Right from birth, the Northern child is disadvantaged. While his Southern counterpart grows up attending school, the Northern child does not. Through education and entrepreneurship, the Southern youth grows up with more opportunities in life. He knows that he can only succeed in life through excellence. That drive makes a southerner successful and he trains his children in good schools, instilling self-reliance and competitiveness in them, thereby improving the chances of the children even succeeding more than him. The average Yoruba person does not want an Igbo person to beat him in any field of human endeavour and vice versa; that spurs both sides to excellence. The average Urhobo person, Efik person or Bini person does not want an Igbo person, or Yoruba person or Ibibio or Ijaw to beat him. So there is healthy rivalry among them, which leads to excellence and success.

On the contrary, with no education, no artisanal skills and lack of competitive spirit, the Northern child grows up with extremely low chances of success. He cannot secure a decent job; he cannot even offer specialised services of an artisan; he is afraid to start off a small-scale business because he virtually has nobody to understudy. The only available job is the most difficult and yet the least remunerated: the work of a labourer. He supplies water in 25-litre kegs to people who live on the fourth floors with no elevators for N50 per keg. He uses a wheelbarrow or tub to move sand and concrete at construction sites; he stays around markets to help those who have bought heavy items like tubers of yam and bags of rice to move these items from deep inside the market to their vehicles or even home. And for all this hard labour, he gets paid pittance.

As he renders this poorly paid service to people, does anybody expect him to be happy with the successful people around him? It is impossible.

The Northerner is not less intelligent than his Southern counterpart, neither is he weaker or less creative. How many people can beat the business acumen and creativity of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, or the automobile design ingenuity of Jelani Aliyu, or the academic intelligence of Nasir el-Rufai, or the resoluteness of Col. Abubakar Umar and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, or the football skills of Tijani Babangida and Daniel Amokachi, or the musical talent of Innocent Tuface Idibia, or the organisational and leadership abilities of Sir Ahmadu Bello?

Some would claim that Islam is the reason for the North’s poor embrace of education. If that were so, why is a predominantly Christian state like Taraba found among the states with the lowest literacy rate? Saudi Arabia, the headquarters of Islam, is very education-focused with a literacy rate of 85 per cent, ranking 116th of 194 countries. Indonesia, the most populated Muslim country in the world, is education-savvy with 92 per cent literacy rate. The United Arab Emirates has 90 per cent literacy rate. Nigeria has 72 per cent literacy rate, but should actually be in the 90s.

The danger in having the North lag behind is that Nigeria has to always move at the pace of the North or put appropriately, lag behind with it. Nigeria is a unit and cannot move and leave some parts behind. Again, the more the South moves ahead of the North, the more conflicts will arise between the North and the South. While the North will feel that the South is cornering the joint resources of the nation, the South will feel the North is pulling it backwards.

One other factor that has worked against the North is its long years of ruling the country. There is a form of complacency that comes from the feeling of “We are in charge.” At such periods, you let your guards down; you don’t complain so as not to overheat the administration of your “kinsman”. But when your brother is not in charge, you feel left out and thereby complain the loudest of marginalisation. Those in charge bend backwards to satisfy you with different projects. The North should de-emphasise its focus on the presidency. Forty years of Northern presidency – civilian or military – have not offered the North any tangible advantage.

Those who hate the truth would rise in righteous anger, seeing this treatise as the work of an enemy rather than digesting the hard truth and finding solutions to a worsening problem. And those who love ethnic bashing will quickly see it as advantage to start shooting at the North. But the truth is that the progress of the North will serve both the interest of the North and South.

There should be a two-way approach to this problem. The North should set up a 20-year target to catch up with the South in education and entrepreneurship. The Northern states must make it an offence for any parent to deny their child education. The state governors and local government chairmen need to start a programme of sending as many Northern children as possible to Southern states for their secondary and tertiary education. The new Northern youths need to leave their comfort zone: compete with their Southern counterparts, interact with them and imbibe some of the ways of the Southern people.

The second aspect concerns uneducated youths who may no longer want to go to school. Lack of education is no impediment to success. The Northern governors and local council chairmen should start an intensive skills acquisition programme for the youths. A labourer cannot train another, neither can he rise much in life if he continues as an unskilled labourer. But someone who has learnt masonry, tiling, sewing, vehicle repairing, generator repairing, painting, plumbing, etc, can grow to a level where he will have apprentices. Massive construction takes place non-stop across the federation. Nigerians have an unquenchable appetite for cars and fashion. So, they need these services. That way, the number of skilled workers increases; the earning power of the people increases; and such people can afford a better life for their children, gradually changing the face of their community.

Quota system or federal character is derogatory and has worsened things for the North. Every Northerner who loves the North must tell Nigeria to stop insulting the North with this federal character bait. The North must refuse anything offered it on a platter: it is either a Greek gift or a poisoned chalice. The North should save itself by rejecting this insulting Unity Schools’ cut-off marks that cut it off from development and modernity.

azuka.brand@augustconsulting.biz

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By Maryam Uwais

Once again, Senator Yerima is in the news, claiming Islam as the basis for his argument that a girl automatically transforms into an adult of ‘full age’ once she is married, with the attendant responsibilities that relate to the renunciation of citizenship, irrespective of her age or mental capacity. Because the Senator from Zamfara State has gone public with his personal comprehension of the Shari’a, it has become necessary to respond publicly to his utterances.

It should be pointed out, however, that several media reports on the constitutional review debate at the Senate give the impression that underage marriage has been endorsed by the Senate Chambers. Facts are that S.29 of the 1979 Constitution permits a Nigerian citizen of ‘full age’ to renounce his or her citizenship by declaration in a prescribed manner, for which purpose ‘full age’ was stated to be 18 years and above. The subsection also provides that, ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age’. In its current efforts to review the Constitution, the Senate Committee had determined that the particular subsection should be deleted, basically because citizenship has no bearing on gender, as for example, voting, the right to drive a car, possess a weapon or such similar social interactions that are evolving or are germane to a democratic Nation. Senator Yerima, however, vehemently argued (and lobbied) against the removal of the clause, on the grounds that deleting that clause was against (his understanding of) Islam. In his understanding, a girl, once married, automatically assumes the full mental capacity and responsibility to consciously make the prescribed declaration of renouncing her citizenship.

This position needs to scrutinized carefully, against the backdrop of similar positions that obtain under the Shari’a and in our context, as a Nation. Does it then follow that the married girl who is below 18, at election time, would be permitted to vote, or is her not being issued a voters card un-Islamic? Is the Senate now going to make an exception to that law, permitting her to vote, or even drive, in accordance with (Senator Yerima’s understanding of) Islam?

Contrary to the position conveyed by the Senator from Zamfara, there is certainly no unanimity of positions on such contemporary matters of social interaction, within Islamic jurists or the various Schools of Thought. Surely where there is ‘silence in thetexts’ (i.e primary sources) or lack of unanimity as regards a particular practice, that opening allows for a society to determine for itself what is in its best interest (maslaha), in its own context. What about married Muslim girls who inherit property? Is it not the position that in some cases, where not considered sufficiently mature (‘sufaha’, based on Qur’an 4:6), such property remains in the custody of her guardian, until she grows to be intellectually mature? This would, of course, depend on her age, mental capacity and the size and nature of the property. Why does such property not devolve upon her automatically upon marriage, to deal with it as she wishes,irrespective of her mental capacity? There definitely appears to be no basis, under the Shari’a, that would compel a girl to deal with matters of such gravity as therenunciation of citizenship, merely because she is married. Islam is certainly not so presumptuous or harsh as to burden her with what she is mentally and physically incapable of bearing. Her guardian is permitted to determine the age or stage at which such a child can be entrusted with such grave responsibilities, the assessment of her mental capacity being the main determinant.

As a Muslim woman (without pretensions of scholarship) forever striving for knowledge, research into these matters has revealed that in matters of social interaction (mu’amalat), there is a lot of latitude in what is permitted, unless it is expressly prohibited by a clear text. The rules are certainly not so definitive. What is also evident is that the ‘best interests of the child’ is a paramount consideration within Islam, along with the principle of public good (maslaha or istislah). The operational rules are not defined (probably deliberately, in my humble view) and the determination of such issues is best left to the experience, custom and context of the particular society. The Qur’an provides that the predominant consideration in matters relating to children would depend on the point at which they can be said to not be ‘sufaha’ (mentally immature) anymore, in the context of that particular community.

It is interesting that Senator Yerima would rather link the weighty and dispassionate subject of citizenship with his understanding of gender vis a vis his perception of the age of marriage, rather than with other matters of social interaction, such as those relating to inheritance rights, driving or even voting. Indeed, citizenship is a contemporary phenomenon within the Sharia, as in the early days the concept of citizenship had not been defined and people traveled across boundaries, without restriction. In a Muslim community, when matters evolve, it is for scholars or experts in Islamic legal philosophy-‘Usul-al-Fiqh’- and juristic reasoning (and not even those solely learned in the Qur’an-‘Mussafirun’, the Fiqh-‘Fuqaha’ or the Hadith-‘Muhaddithun’), to analyze the issues with a view to arriving at an appropriate position for the context of that relevant community. In this particular instance, it is certainly perplexing for the Senator to insist so categorically that even a married ‘intellectually immature’ girl must be permitted to renounce her citizenship, irrespective of her mental capacity. The foundation for such a general and sweeping statement within the Shari’a is difficult to locate.

The public good remains the overriding consideration in the process of analytical reasoning by those qualified for the purpose, so long as the deductions are not in direct conflict with the primary sources of the Shari’a. Therefore, in following arguments repeatedly canvassed by the Senator, it may be necessary to examine the context in which we live, to determine what is good, for the purpose of encouragement and support, and what remains harmful to our society, to be confronted, discouraged or prohibited by Muslim jurists.

Today the North of Nigeria continues to throw up Nigeria’s poorest indices on matters relating to healthcare, nutrition, education, empowerment and productivity. Consequently, unemployment, insecurity, violence and poverty remain rife in that region. Statistics have it that 2/3 of the 102 million poor people in Nigeria live in the North. Extreme poverty in the North translates into extreme vulnerability to the effects of climate change, food security and so much more. Incidentally, over half of the women in the North are married off by the age of 16 and commence childbirth within the first year of marriage. Also, of the 16 million births by girls below the age of 18, 9 out of 10 of them are married.

Facts are that nearly half of all the children under 5 years of age are malnourished in the North East zone, with women and children in the nutrition ‘high-burden’ States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe andZamfara suffering the most from malnutrition, wasting and stunting. This singular factor remains the underlying cause for 53% of under-5 deaths. If the child is stunted in its first 1000 days, that condition is irreversible, so the future of these children, and the larger population, is permanently shortchanged. The health and nutritional needs of mothers, new-borns and children are closely linked, with young mothers accounting for a majority of severely malnourished children.

Multiple health risks arising from child marriage include the sexual exploitation (including forced sexual relations) that she is subjected to, as well as limited access to reproductive health services, despite the real and present danger of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS, STIs (sexually transmitted diseases) and the debilitating ailment of VVF/RVF (VVF-a tear in the flesh between the vagina and the urinary passage, usually due to prolonged labour, resulting in uncontrolled urine or feces in the case of recto-vaginal fistulae-RVF), including the abandonment that comes with such ailments. Nigeria, with 2% of the world’s population, has 10% of VVF patients. Three-quarters of those with VVF/RVF are young girls who are not yet physically mature but have suffered trauma in their first pregnancy.

Statistics show that stillbirths and deaths are 50% more likely in babies born to mothers younger than 18, as against babies born to mothers above that age. Each day, 144 women die in childbirth in Nigeria, with the North East alone having 5 times the global rate of maternal mortality. The lack of information and access to support ultimately results in psycho-social and emotional consequences, domestic violence, abandoned (street) children, with the attendant deprivations of their rights and freedoms, whose wellbeing is severely compromised. The prevalence of the abuse of the right to the exercise of divorce by Muslim men has only compounded the situation, leading to so many negative social deviations such as substance abuse (that has become so rampant), commercial sex work and the complete loss of values in the entire family set up.

Many of these adolescents are married off to men much older than they, and because of the associated power differentials, this singular factor impedes communication between them, with the girl having no negotiation skills in crucial decision-making that may affect her life. Having lost out on these critical life opportunities, these married adolescents can never aspire to living as meaningful and productive members of society. Not being able to participate actively in the community translates to their losing out completely on benefitting from economic activity and earning a decentincome. Many of these girls remain excluded from community life, having been separated from peers and family members by marriage. Depression sets in. A life of diminished opportunities. The community loses out completely; the economy cannot improve where half its population is stuck in this rut.

Child marriage, from available statistics, ultimately hampers the efforts of these young adolescents from acquiring an education, as sooner than later, they find it difficult to combine the onerous responsibilities of being a wife and mother, with schooling. They drop out, if they have not been removed for the purpose of marriage, in the first place. Consequently, 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North West zone are unable to read or write. Due to the fact that these girls are deprived so early of an education (including the access to information and knowledge) they remain bereft of the purchasing power necessary for an adequate diet, healthcare,skills, or even recourse to support in emergencies, all of which would enable them rise above the circumstances of abject poverty. It is paradoxical that Muslims like Senator Yerima would rather their wives and daughters be treated by female medical personnel if they fall ill, and yet they are, by continuously advocating for child marriage, deliberately closing the avenues for girls to aspire to such professions.

Deprivations of formal and non-formal education translate, at such an early age, into restrictions on mobility, domestic burdens, the denial of sundry freedoms in respect of survival, development and participation, as well as the loss of adolescent years. Indeed, children of young, uneducated mothers are also less likely to attain high levels of education, perpetuating cycles of low literacy and limited livelihood opportunities. Child marriage, therefore, ultimately deprives societies of the intellectual and financial/livelihood contributions of girls, and of their offspring. It is no wonder then that the North continues to portray such poor ratings in almost all aspects of human endeavour.

As a consequence, MDGs 1 (relating to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger), 2 (on education), 4 (on reducing child mortality), 5 (on maternal health), 6 (on combating diseases) remain unattainable goals (at least in Northern Nigeria), if we cannot confront the consequences and implications of child marriage. Evidently, the geography of poverty requires a coherent and urgent Northern strategy and a solution to the instability that has bedeviled the region in recent years. Against this background of grim data, we can ill afford to play politics with the obvious deficiencies in our human capital. The North, as an intrinsic part of Nigeria needs to improve on all fronts, to impact positively on Nigeria’s progress and support its growth. Since child marriage has all these devastating and diminishing implications, surely checking the increase in the practice can only trigger and catalyze positive growth, in so many dimensions.

It is certainly not mandatory in Islam that girls must be married off as minors, so to keep insisting that this practice must remain sacrosanct, given the background of needs in Northern Nigeria, is incongruous, even under the Shari’a. Where a practice is determined to be merely permissible and not mandatory, it is considered practicable and entirely feasible within Islamic jurisprudence, to discourage or prohibit it, where it is found to be so harmful to individuals and to the community. Countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Somalia and Bangladesh, with majority or high Muslim populations have set a minimum age for marriage as 18, in the acknowledgment that there are serious social, physical and mental health risks associated with child marriages. This progressive step became necessary, in that these indisputable facts placed a heavy burden on the accountable and God-fearing leadership in majority Muslim countries, to protect the vulnerable in their midst.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to expect that educated elite and public figures such as Senator Yerima, being conscious of their grave responsibilities to prohibit harm and to enjoin good in our own context, should actually discourage this devaluing and belittling practice of early marriage, in the public good, for the protection of the vulnerable and the realization of social benefits. To enable our girls attain their fullest possible potential is definitely a target that Senator Yerima should also be working passionately towards, along with the rest of Nigerians who yearn for a better future.

Indeed, the overriding objectives of the Sharia include the promotion of human dignity, justice, compassion, the removal of hardship, the prevention of harm, the realization of the lawful benefits of the people, and the education of the individual by inculcating in him a sense of self discipline and restraint, which aims are by no means exclusive. All else may be adapted to achieve these ends, which measures may encompass matters of concern not only to law but also to economic development, administration and politics. For those that reflect, the hardship that these little girls experience, where married off and divorced soon after, so wantonly, is certainly unacceptable within the faith.

Although the fundamentals of faith and the practical pillars on which they stand remain immutable in principle, they may be interpreted and justified at the level of implementation in the exercise of public good. This process must of need be carried out solely by persons learned and eminently qualified to speak on the subject matter in question. We must always bear in mind that the ‘appropriation’ of divine authority in religious interpretation is best left to Scholars learned in Islamic legal philosophy and analytical reasoning. Having acquired the requisite knowledge and expertise (including the capacity to weigh the various views in the particular sphere of learning in the context of our times), these Jurists would also need to have imbibed, at the barest minimum, the attributes of humility, compassion, reflection, wisdom, self-restraint, diligence, objectivity, along with piety. Our learned Scholars must stand up and be heard, rather than remain silent on matters that so adversely affect us as individuals, as a region, a Nation and as members of a global community, which challenges paradoxically controvert the deeper meaning and purpose of the Shari’a.

Back to the issue in contention, it is important to commend the thinking behind the decision to delete the constitutional clause that seeks to lumber even an ‘intellectually immature’ girl, where married, with the grave responsibility of the power to renounce her citizenship, thereby elevating the subject of citizenship to the level whereby both men and women have similar responsibilities, without discrimination. It is hoped that ultimately, members of the Senate would reflect deeply on the implications of their recent action and revisit their decision to retain the contentious clause, if only to ensure that every Nigerian citizen of full age, without distinction, is subjected to similar standards and responsibilities under the provisions of our Constitution.

Maryam Uwais MFR
Chairperson, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, Kano
20th July 2013

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By Prince Charles Dickson

By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed, and you can beat a fool half to death but you can’t beat the foolishness out of him. African Proverb.

It’s new but it’s not news, it is news but really is it new. Everything is Rivers, either Rivers of Babylon or rumble in the rivers, emergency rivers, or legislative rivers. The impasse in Rivers state is a contagion, we are all suffering from some form of Rivers or the other.

I recall those days in school, Communicable diseases…It was not so much of anything serious until I was infected by this young girl, a medical student…I was wooing her and she had left her notes, I still recall the text, something on Communicable Disease In Africa bla bla bla… it said “An infectious disease transmissible (as from person to person) by direct contact with an affected individual, it is a contagious disease, a contagion, transmitted only by a specific kind of contact…

If you hear someone say a disease is communicable what they mean is that the disease is contagious and can be spread to others. For example, HIV is a communicable disease. Much like the common cold, some diseases are viral and some bacterial, viral diseases are the type that are most commonly passed from person to person.

I am guilty, you are, we all guilty. Let me say conclusively even before my admonition takes shape, the Rivers saga will come and go. We are only victims of a contagion that spreads fast and as it is, for now the cure seems far from us.

Rivers state is trending, for all the wrong reasons. I can’t recall if the Aluu 4 even got this news space, it is so much of a news item, that the several dozen kids killed in Yobe is now secondary item. I will spare us the agony of the Amaechi vs Dame Patience, and Jonathan war, in the contagion called Rivers, for the following reasons…

Gov. Amaechi and President Jonathan are birds of same plumage, product of same faculty of PDP, the institute called Nigeria. Forget what a section of the media tells you both men have failed their people, and have only succeeded in giving Nigerians another ‘Oputa’ Panel. Something to engage us while they loot away and we create sainthood of otherwise political miscreants.

For example, before the fight at the ‘dis’ hallowed chambers of the RSHA went contagious, the Senate almost did its own fisticuffs over state of nation address, we have forgotten Dino Meleye reloaded, and while it is a subject of debate, these fights largely show the poor cerebral quality of these men on top, and the high amount of hooligan quotient in them.

Soyinka, Nwabueze, Falana and co, with respect, these names have only shown how we all have caught the disease, what has Dame Patience done, that Turai did not do, really is it news or new? Nigerians learn slowly when they manage to, but sadly forget quickly, but for increased awareness, the social media, and a big plus–a growing democracy. The contagion called Rivers is only a repeat episode of Jos, Ibadan, Yola, Ekiti, etc.

Of all that I have read, know and what informed sources say, at best, this is a crude fight for power, on the other hand, it is a fight with no moral, no agenda, a fight of ego and on a final count–there is no fight at all, it is all diversionary, nothing will come out of it, we won’t even learn from it.

What saddens me is that Nigerians have refused to learn, I hate this psycho-make of us. Unfortunately it is partly who we are. We are either fighting ourselves or fighting for those that are misgoverning or looting us blind because we share faith, creed and not on any defined ideology.

“Soyinka, Nwabueze, others condemn Rivers Assembly crisis”, “Jonathan is a man of peace – Presidency blames Amaechi, calls Soyinka to order”, “Patience Jonathan is my Jesus Christ… –anti-Ameachi lawmaker says”,

“Rivers Assembly: An extension of 16>19”, “Amaechi writes Jonathan, NASS, demands redeployment of state police commissioner”. “Injured Rivers lawmaker to be flown abroad for treatment”, “Rivers crisis: Gov. Amaechi shows rare maturity”, “Rivers State: “Try Us and See” Melaye’s Group Dares Presidency”, and finally, let me ask, does any of these headlines defy expectations?

I will end with this small gist, its author is unknown–There once was a farmer who discovered that he had lost his watch in the barn. It was no ordinary watch because it had sentimental value for him.

After searching high and low among the hay for a long while; he gave up and enlisted the help of a group of children playing outside the barn.

He promised them that the person who found it would be rewarded.

Hearing this, the children hurried inside the barn, went through and around the entire stack of hay but still could not find the watch. Just when the farmer was about to give up looking for his watch, a little boy went up to him and asked to be given another chance.

The farmer looked at him and thought, “Why not? After all, this kid looks sincere enough.”

So the farmer sent the little boy back in the barn. After a while the little boy came out with the watch in his hand! The farmer was both happy and surprised and so he asked the boy how he succeeded where the rest had failed.

The boy replied, “I did nothing but sit on the ground and listen. In the silence, I heard the ticking of the watch and just looked for it in that direction.”

You can educate a fool, but you cannot make him think, a whole lot of us as Nigerians have refused to sit on the ground and listen, we are all talking at the same time, are we really engaging in any critical-problem solving manner, we just do not want to think, or maybe we are…only time will tell.

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ImageBy Prince Charles Dickson

 
 

Last week my office literally turned into a small battle-field, the issue was basically, on the proliferation of arms, the fact that something is inherently wrong, whether by default or not.

Somewhere in the battle, the term Négritude was used by my humble self to draw an analogy; ‘Negritude’ is a literary and ideological movement, developed by francophone black intellectuals, writers, and politicians in France in the 1930s. Its founders included the former Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, and the Guianan Léon Damas. Negritude literally means Negro-ness. It takes pride in “blackness” and traditional African values and culture, black surrealism, power and revolution, mixed with an undercurrent of Marxist ideals.

Before we get lost my admonition this week, simply ask us, why are we this way–are we so docile, yet violent, why are we mute, and allow majors become minors…what is our pride in “Nigeria-ness” and traditional values and culture.

Two months and still counting, our Nigerian-ness has been only made visible by our continuous inaction to happenings around us. We are even more concerned Tahir square, Egypt and Morsi, while the Republic of Ombatse grows with impunity.

Northern governors I gathered have donated N100million to families of policemen killed. I have read the inside story of the militia group, we have been told they have been banned. The Nassarawa Governor has as usual inaugurated a Commission of Inquiry, despite his ‘alleged’ complicity. PDP has denied involvement, not that they have ever accepted any charge before. Weeks back police claimed to have arrested ‘notorious’ ombatse’ member.

To cap it, the DSS boss says the group has been forgiven, while its chief priest says he has not been invited by anyone. Less I forget to add, the stories of how the officers/men of security agencies were killed by ‘gods’ and ‘ghosts’. The ‘god’ of ‘ombatse’ is one of our many Nigeria-tude.

In our republic, Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson stated over the week while with one of the naval chiefs “militants where vandalizing oil pipelines, stealing crude oil for the purpose of procuring arms, and recruiting new members.

He described oil theft as “a threat to national security, also decried the proliferation of arms in the region, saying oil theft could be linked to the procurement of such arms”.

…“It is from there they have easy funds to recruit followers; it is from these activities of crude oil theft and illegal refining that people are able to sustain such large numbers of youths and put them into various cult groups. What is going on has a direct effect on the proliferation of small and light weapons because they need an army of youths to protect their territories, to be able to withstand the onslaught of legitimate security personnel.”

Gunmen attacked Government Secondary School, Mamudo in Yobe, 42 students were killed, and then the Zamfara episode where some 60 were butchered or the scores at the Langtang, Plateau axis. The Mubi Killings, the recent massacre of traders from Oyo at the Borno axis, the corpse found in that River in the East, and skulls discovered only last week in Aba, all soon become forgotten stories. In our Nigeria-tude we move ahead and along. Apart from the 24hour outrage and in local parlance we do the ‘Eyaaah’ and say may their souls rest in peace.

Zamfara is talking, and this is the talk–providing arms for the state’s vigilante groups. The state said there was no going back, that the arms have already been purchased and is currently at the state police headquarters.

“Special Adviser to the governor on media and information technology, Alhaji Sani Abdullahi Tsafe, said that “the issue is with the police and the state government will not say anything again until the process of acquiring the permit is accomplished”.

A source in Zamfara says once permit is given “distribution to some ‘trusted’ members of the vigilance groups across the state” will take place.

“…other states were doing it secretly. This has been the practice in some parts of this country, particularly when one looks at the situation in the Niger Delta. Who arms the militants in that area who are also civilians?”

Some states legislatures are currently deliberating on the issue with a view to making a law backing similar projects. The Nigeria ‘Grooving’ Governors’ Forum (NGF) is currently working on how to come up with a common decision on the issue…interesting they are at least ‘working’ on ‘something’.

The Senate discussed the matter via a motion and rejected it, urging President Goodluck Jonathan to stop Zamfara state saying doing so could jeopardize the security situation in the state.

Senate argued that the move could provide access to arms by groups that are neither trained nor authorized to bear arms. But isn’t it the case in the republic…

Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa (ANPP, Zamfara), said that he has spoken with Governor Yari who told him that he did not purchase arms for the vigilante. Who is lying?

Senator Magnus Abe (PDP, Rivers), said it would be wrong for the Senate to condemn the action based on mere newspaper publication. How did it get to the newspapers?

Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (PDP, Borno), said there was nothing wrong for Nigerians to own guns so long as they obtain it legally. Is he the same Ndume, very innocent until proven otherwise, I agree with him.

Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, said the security situation in Zamfara state as “very worrisome” as he alleged that bandits were taking advantage of the weakness of the security agencies to perpetrate evil. The republic is sadly growing…

Senator Sha’aba Lafiagi, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Intelligence and National Security, noted that Yari had purchased the arms before seeking the Inspector General of Police’s permission. Who do we believe, in Nigeria-tude, it’s simply a case of, your faith, ethnicity, political camp, the rest is inconsequential.

He said, “The truth is that the governor has acquired the arms and ammunition; he now approached the IG to grant him permission. Why is it so easy for anybody to acquire arms without hindrance? We have to do all we can to put a stop to illegal acquisition of arms.”

Senator Ali Ndume said that “armed criminals easily assailed Nigerians because they did not have guns. One wonders, what argument, but again speaks volumes about democracy and free speech, a pot pourri of ‘magana banza’, ‘otito oro’ and ‘akuko onye ara’. He added that, “with arms, curtailing the activities of criminals can be easier”.

His comment also that some senators had guns had to be withdrawn, after the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, noted that the allegation was sweeping and unfounded. Withdrawn or not, it had already been made, that is the Nigeria-tude, what makes the republic of ombatse.

The issue of state police was touched, but I will take Senator Victor Lar’s comments “…all these are as a result of the frustration in the polity as many governors were wishing to have state police, noting that they were more concerned about regime security and not national security.

“We should resist the temptation of arming local militias in the face of the insecurity problems…” He concluded.

These men represent Nigerians whether we elected them, or they selected themselves, this one topic shows us how divided we are, it paints the picture that is in front of us. Reading in between the lines tells it all.

Nigerians are dying, others are arming, preparing–while we discuss, Rotimi Amaechi and his palm wine quarrels with NGF, Mrs. Jonathan and his family the PDP. The local shenanigans called APC or opposition are crying over everything from their name and doing nothing, than a dangerous building a conglomeration of ex-this and that.

Whether the arms are being bought secretly or openly, they are being bought anyway, sadly even Senators are not left out in the ‘buying thing’. The fact is if the snake doesn’t show its character, its snake-ness, it will be used as a waist belt by a child. We are simply in a Republic of Ombatse…where it leads us to–only time will tell.

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By Sam Omatseye

What did the five errant lawmakers in Rivers State want Tuesday morning? Not to enforce the rule of law, or to dignify the ethos of democracy. They wanted to enshrine brigandage in the temple of law.

So, they had painted a scenario of morbid potential before Tuesday morning. First, they wanted to lop off the head of the state House of Assembly, that is the speaker. They did not have the number. They amounted to five, and the mainstream had 27 men. Following the law portended suicide. So they took the law in their own hands, and they made a dawn arrival in the chambers and decided to effect the unlawful.

According to the scenario, they would cut off the leader, who was the speaker. That completed, they would proceed to the main agenda: bully the governor out of his position with a hurried impeachment proceeding. It would not have mattered what the law demanded before an impeachment proceeding. Once they enacted a fait accompli, and Governor Rotimi Amaechi ousted from the throne, Abuja would move in with the armed forces and the spartan temerity of power and the new imposed speaker would take over as governor.

Where would that have left Governor Amaechi? He would resort to the court, battling from outside, from the position of weakness. The court would fall under the spell of dalliance, the court sessions postponed indefinitely just like the battle over the leadership of the PDP in Rivers State today.

The intervention of Governor Amaechi’s forces routed the renegades in what looked like a civilian equivalent of a military counterattack. The renegades lost out ignominiously as the 27-man House not only convoked a meeting but passed into a law the budget proposals of the governor.

Since the state crisis unfurls as a President Jonathan versus Governor Amaechi war, the Presidency suffered a severe and unmitigated disaster, just like Hitler’s misadventure in the Second World War in the operation Barbarossa in Russia. Not only the president, but also the long line of “democratic coup plotters” and in the lead was Nyesom Wike.

We have seen this before. During the Obasanjo era, we witnessed the impeachment of Governor Joshua Dariye by a comic set of six turncoats who represented a fraction of the quorum. That reckless move enjoyed official anointing, and Dariye fought a fruitless battle of restoration till the end. Also, with irony, the other one occurred in Bayelsa State, and the travesty was not just numbers but geography. The Governor, Dieprye Alamieyesiegha, lost his reign to impeachment – and President Jonathan was deputy governor – not in the environ of Bayelsa State but in far-flung Lagos. President Goodluck Jonathan benefited from the travesty and that began his storied rise to a presidency of bumbling. Also for irony, President Jonathan has ensconced him in his inner circle. Before all these, Governor Ngige fell out of power when President Obasanjo cradled the nation’s top office and we all watched as the governor was spirited out of sight in a gangster-like kidnap and impeached.

Yesterday lifts the Jonathan era to the ignoble height of democratic torpedoes of the Obasanjo era. The difference: the Obsanjo men succeeded in quite a few: Plateau, Ekiti, Anambra and Bayelsa states. President Jonathan won in Bayelsa by rallying all the armed forces to oust a governor in a fear of the lofty rules of democracy. He wants to replicate in Rivers State the pill he administered in the primitive ouster of former Governor Timipre Sylva. Now again, they failed. They have done many things in infamy. They have devised methods like sending a militant to organise a rally, stopped his plane from flying, implanted a toady as commissioner of police, barred traditional rulers from visiting the governor, barred him from saying hello to the President, tried to oust him as chairman of the Governors’ Forum, and so on. The question is, what is next?

Muslim fasting (abstinence from eating, drinking and sexual desires, from dawn to dusk) is prescribed for ‘eligible’ individuals, in order that they may have piety. The significance of fasting in preventing ailments that relate to eating habits as well as the spiritual ailments that relate to self-desires and uncertainties is apparent.
 
Piety makes a Muslim direct his life in accordance with the dictates of Allah (SWT), against the ego and passion and serves as a shield against the the evil dictates of the human mind. This is depicted in the description of fasting as a “shield” by the Holy Prophet (SAW), in one of his
Ahadith. Muhammad bn Abubakar Zar’i states, in ‘Dibbin-nabawi’:
 
“In fasting is a medical treatment for both the soul and natural dispositions (of man). When a person guards what he is supposed to guard while fasting, it will be of an immense help to both his mind and his body, and protects him against foreign entities that may be harmful to his body, as well as the removal accumulated wastes, thus regulating the body’s (normal) functions”.
 
Furthermore, by abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual desires from dawn to dusk, during fasting period, Muslims are made to taste the miseries and deprivations that the poor have to constantly suffer in their impoverished existence. In this way, fasting helps Muslim to purge themselves of evils by restraining their carnal desires that prevent man from perceiving and attaining reality. He who masters his carnal soul that commands evils can most certainly master other creatures, just as he that is dominated by this soul could be dominated by creatures. Indeed, war against the ‘soul’ is more difficult than that against the ‘force’. In an Islamic society, therefore, fasting could restrict the influence of ego and whims among individuals thereby checking the attendant negative consequences.
 
Fasting and Physical Health 
Maintenance of a good state of physical and mental health in the body is the objective of every health-care programme or healing art.
 
In Islam, Ramadan fasting is decreed only on healthy adults, exempting children, debilitated elderly, the sick (including pregnant women and nursing mothers), and travelers, who are at liberty to fast a similar number of days later. The debilitated elderly is given an alternative of feeding the needy.

The liberty of fasting similar number of days later is also extended to those who are exposed to certain conditions that are detrimental to health if they fast under such situation. For instance, a longer day period of about 21 hours experienced during the summer in Europe, which could be debilitating to a healthy person, just as the normal fasting period could be to an already debilitated elderly one. Similarly, the excessive and unbearable hot weather during the Spring in the Sahara and Sub-Sahara regions of the world, that may lead to shock, or even death from excessive dehydration. This proves the significance of fasting as being designed to maintain and improve the health status of the body system. It further points to the desire of Allah, of making fasting a relief rather than a discomfort to the believers (Q2: 185-6).
 
It is obvious that deficiency of food to a certain extent in the body may precipitate or predispose the body to one ailment or the other, as well as exacerbating an existing one.

However, fasting as a temporary period of abstinence from food serves as a regulatory period within which the body system transforms (metabolizes) various classes of food needed by the body and distributes it in precise and adequate proportions – balanced diet – to all parts of the body. For instance, the usual 6-8 hours fasting that every living person is engaged in while asleep during the night. During this period, food taken into the body is broken down and used for various functions and for the manufacture of other components that are needed by the body. Excess food is converted into a stored form for future use when deprivation occurs.

The waste products of the breaking-down of food (catabolism) and building-up (anabolism) processes are then channeled through appropriate excretory pathway.
 
The tight control between anabolism and catabolism and their regulation ensures normal body functioning by the wisdom and power of Allah (SWT).

For this reason, the Prophet (SAW) taught us to say, after every meal: “
Glory be to Allah who feeds, quenches (hunger and thirst), metabolizes it and places for it an outlet”, and to say, when coming out of the toilet:
“We seek your forgiveness; Glory be to Allah who removed from me waste and made me healthy”.
 
During the 10-12 hour fasting, the stored form of food in the body is converted into utilizable form to supplement the decrease in the food intake into the body. For instance, excess glucose is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver. When glucose is depleted in the blood, glycogen is converted back to glucose and utilized for energy generation. If glycogen is depleted (hypoglyceamia), glucose could be manufactured from other food sources, apart from carbohydrates, in the body (gluconeogenesis). For example, Fat stores could also be converted to glucose, and in the absence of fats, tissue proteins (as a last resort) could also be mobilized for energy required by the body in an instance of starvation. But deprivation during the normal hours of fasting under normal conditions could hardly lead to starvation. When adequate supply of food is restored, at the time of breaking fast, the alternative energy generating pathways are shut down, leaving the normal pathway (glycolysis) to predominate.
 
Fasting could therefore be considered as a dietary regulatory mechanism by which the healthy status of the body is maintained and also prevent starvation. The fasting and breaking cycle for a certain period of time (e.g. 29 / 30 days of Ramadan) ensures just adequate intake, transformation, utilization, excretion and regulation and also control of the disorders that are associated with an imbalance in the proportion of certain nutrients in the body.
 
A Muslim health professional identified the verse “ Eat and drink and do not be extravagant; for he does not like extravagance”, as a summary of all forms of medications revealed in the Holy Quran. This implies that some forms of disorder in the body system evolve from an unregulated food intake. Example, Bronze diabetes is associated with iron overload; Hyperlipidaemia is associated with excess lipid in the blood e.t.c. For this reason, it is recommended for Muslims to fast (apart from the obligatory fasting of Ramadan) at least three days of every month; or up to two days (Mondays and Thursdays) every week; or on alternate days, but never continuously throughout the year. The Prophet (SAW) discourages that by his words: “He has neither fasted; he that fasted the era, nor had he broken the fast”. 

Some group of patients could also tolerate the normal fasting hours without harm. For istance Insulin Dependent Diabetic (IDD) patients that are hitherto exempted from fasting. According to Saudi based researchers from King Fahd Hospital and King Saudi University IDD patients who are reasonably stable can manage their diabetes well during Ramadan, and the control of blood sugar is not significantly different from that which they attain during other months of the year. The study concludes that IDD patients who wish to fast can be allowed to do so as long as they maintain their usual insulin dose and follow-up as in other months of the year.
 
Fasting and Mental Health
 
The ability of an individual to form harmonious relationship with others, and to participate in and contribute constructively to doing things in his social and physical environment defines the mental health of an individual. Mental disorders that relate to the ailments of the mind are of two categories: that of Illusion and Doubts and that of self-desire. In whatever form, ailments of the mind manifest as blameworthy attitudes such as pride, arrogance, deceit, and show-off or even Shirk. In this state a person becomes enslaved by the soul that commands evil, and act according to his ego and whims. This state of ailment is more difficult to treat than the physical ailments. Shaykh Ibn Ata’allah
11 states:

“The persistence of the joy of desire in the heart is a disease so difficult to treat”.     

Fasting, when viewed, as a deliberate restraining of one’s self-desire of food and sex, despite their availability and his accessibility to them, implies a struggle against the soul (Nafs) through which Satan inspires doubts and evil dictates. The Prophet (SAW) describes struggle against the soul as “the greater struggle”. For this reason, following the dictates of one’s soul is identified as the root of all wrong doings, self-desires and heedlessness, in a similar way that resisting the dictates serves as the root of all obedience, awareness and awakening. Sheykh Muhammadul Busiri states, in his book,
Burdatul-Madihi:
 
Oppose the Soul and Satan and disobey them If they offer you counseling, query it!
 
To a Muslim, therefore, fasting serves as a self-training mode towards acquisition of attitudes that bestow unto him tranquility, closeness to God and a good state of mental health. Glory be to the One who made fasting of an immense benefit to both physical and mental health, and as a means of integrating thoughts and actions for the sake of Allah and strengthening the mind in His love and service.
C. faruk sarkinfada