Before It Kills Us, Let’s Kill Fake News By Yekeen Akinwale

If we are not careful, fake news will kill us. Already, it has sent some to their early graves. Fake news is creating confusion and killings among us.

The purveyors of fake news do not care if Nigeria collapses. As much as there is no other Nigeria elsewhere that anyone can run to – if this one and only Nigeria sinks – we will all sink with it. This is not a doomsday prophecy.

Fake news is a threat that nobody seems to care about. In the last few weeks, fake news –through manipulation of pictures, videos and outright falsehood – has shown and proved how potent a threat it is to our democracy. It has created tensions and the effects are here with us all.

The 1994 Rwanda genocide where certain members of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population nearly eliminated a Tutsi minority keeps coming to mind as a gory example of damage fake news can do.

But many are yet to understand how much a problem and indeed a threat fake news is. More than before, untrue information is being disguised as credible news. More and more people are beginning to consume and believe fake news without bothering to fact check or even read beyond the headlines.

With the scary and reckless manners purveyors of fake news are feeding unsuspecting public, fake news looks harmless but definitely a time bomb ticking to explode. When it does explode, we are all doomed.

After the news of gruesome murder of over 86 people in 11 communities in Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South local government areas of Plateau State on Saturday June 23, 2018 sent shivers down the spines of Nigerians, citizens again were shocked two days later to read in the media that the killings were retaliatory.

Like the news of the attacks, the report that the attacks were retaliatorily attributed to Danladi Ciroma, Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria North-Central zone, featured prominently in all the major news media and online newspapers. And it ran under different headlines but all saying the same thing. That was exactly on June 25, 2018.

“These attacks are retaliatory. As much as I don’t support the killing of human beings, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission. There have been recent reports of cow rustling and destruction of farms between Berom farmers and Fulani herdsmen.

The people carrying out these criminal activities are well known to the communities but the communities are hiding them,” Ciroma was quoted as said

As it would be expected, what looked like a confession of a witch by Ciroma’s comment attracted widespread condemnation and indeed calls for him and his kinsmen believed to be behind such dastard act to arrested and prosecuted. It was unimaginable the aftermath of this admittance by Miyetti Allah− some more retaliatory attacks, perhaps besides war of words by all actors on the social media. But again, Nigerians were to be confounded that the news was indeed not true−fake.

Ciroma denied ever saying such. Up till now, there has been no documented evidence to prove that he indeed utterred those comments.

It was not until when PREMIUM TIMES, the online newspaper that broke the news of the retaliatory attacks recanted its story that its reporter in Jos, who filed in the report failed to do due diligence before sending the report to the editor. Definitely a trying moment for the reputable newspaper, the management labored to clear its name from a debilitating aftermath of a misleading story that strained the already tensed security situation in the country.

What Newsroom Must Do

The gatekeeping role in media environment is fast eroded because today everyone is a journalist. Social media has given everyone the opportunity to be both consumer of news and creator of it−fake news inclusive. The role is not necessarily restricted to the newsroom these days. That is where the danger lies.

“With today’s fast-paced and competitive media environment, there has been a significant rise of these social media channels, creating outlets where anyone and everyone can be a journalist. Therefore, why do we need gatekeeper journalists anymore?” says Gabrielle Tutheridge, a journalism expert.

The public needs reliable, intelligent and relevant sources which they can go to for news, thus creating a push to try and deregulate fake news within the media. Whereas, gatekeepers ultimately craft and conduct what is being published to the masses. Therefore, they determine what is to become the public’s social reality, and their view of the world. Unfortunately, the role of gatekeepers is now overlooked.

In a traditional newsroom, a reporter’s copy passes through more than three hands before it is certified okay for publication− news editor, sub-editors, proof readers and fact checkers are left to do the remaining aspect of gate-keeping after the reporter delivers the story. For both economic reasons and technology, these functions are subsumed in one body of a reporter who does the news gathering, reporting, editing, proof reading and fact check. The output can best be imagined.

Now, a copy from a reporter passes through the desk of a heavily burdened news editor and straight to the pre-press. It is garbage in, garbage out. That explains why what the public reads now are not only a plethora of grammatical errors but unpardonable factual errors and inaccuracy . No one cares as long as the copy keeps coming out. The reading public too does not care, or so it seems. They consume everything including all the lies, fictions and propaganda.

What must be done must be done; the audience needs to know what they are reading is truthful and honest. As the conventional role of a journalist is to serve the public and maintain ethical conduct, this is where gate-keeping is still significant in our diverse media environment. If the media must maintain its credibility and professionalism, journalists need to be able to uphold high standards and try to differentiate credible news from the overcrowded fake news that has taken over the media environment.

Fake News − Working Like The Magic Bullet Theory

Fake news is on the rise. In a nation like Nigeria, it is created deliberately by different actors (government, politicians and others) for unsuspecting public. And they have their reasons up their sleeves. For a population of about 190 million, where the percentage of literacy is 59.6 percent, the effect of fake news on Nigerians reinforces the hypodermic needle theory of mass media. Also known as “Magic Bullet” theory, it graphically assumes that the media message is a bullet fired from the “media gun” into the viewer’s head. It suggests that the media inject its messages straight into the passive audience.

The characteristic hook, line and sinker assimilation of fake news by Nigerians, even by those considered as literate and how it has further led to conflicts calls for more introspection about the power of the media. It calls for more careful appraisal of the motives of those behind fake news.

According to Tutheridge, audiences have become too used to this fast-paced and competitive environment of breaking news and sometimes lack understanding. What is published in the media is not always reliable and honest.

If we trace the causes of recent ethnic, religious and political violent crises, it would not be surprising that a whole lot of them were triggered off by fake news, videos and pictures. It is more worrisome that journalists have also become pawns in the hands of creators of fake news.

They help redefine, refine and transmit fake news. Perhaps for economic reasons too, many journalists are willing tools in the hands of fake news makers. So who is safe, if journalists cannot discern fake news or they choose deliberately to look the other side.

The National Campaign Against Fake News

The fake news phenomenon is capable of undermining confidence in the media, and once the people lose confidence in the media, the media and the society are in trouble. This is why it is tempting to align with the argument advanced by the government to want to regulate the social media.

Government has always had its ulterior motives to control citizens’ freedom of expression. But again, considering the fact that social media and of course online journalism do not lend themselves to the known “Ethics of Journalism”, regulating what appears to be threatening the peace will not be a bad idea.

Perhaps, the recent launch of the National Campaign against Fake News by the Federal Government is a welcome development. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture explained that “the essence of the campaign was to sensitize all Nigerians to the dangers posed to the peace and security, and indeed the corporate existence of Nigeria by the phenomenon, and the fact that each and every Nigerian has a role to play in curtailing the spread of fake news.”

One could not agree less with the federal government with the timing of the campaign because the role of fake news in aggravating the various crises in the country and the need to check the phenomenon ahead of the 2019 elections are more obvious. The minister should also know that government is duty bound to make information available to its citizens. When government put out accurate news, it reduces the scope for fake news.

Joe Abah, a former Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, said: “Government often doesn’t give out false information. The reality is that government often doesn’t give out any information at all. Most times, government’s information release is reactive. The problem is the damage has already been done before that.”

Fake news is a global epidemic that could be worse than all the plagues that the world has recorded put together. It is a clear and present danger to global peace and security, and a threat to democracy if not taken seriously now and tackle headlong.

Yekeen Akinwale is with International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)

30 Paragraphs On Socio-Cultural And Political Problems Of Nigeria By Som O. Adedayo

Nigeria is a West African country; England is in the Western part of Europe. England, formed by small Celtics and Anglo-Saxons in the early medieval period; Nigeria, a 1960 independence of at least distinct 250 tribes with over 500 languages. Nigeria is the largest part of the African world; England, the largest part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Your Professor lecturer briefs the history of Nigeria at ODLT lecture theatre. He talks about a pretty history. He talks about the Royal Niger Company and the amalgamation, independence and Republicanism, military coups and the civil war, and the civilian rule of the Third Republic. You like how he constructs his sentences; raw, simple and genuine. You want to listen attentively so you close your note. You place your elbows on the desk and cup your palms to rest your chin. You squint your eyes to follow his waving hands. After all Dr. Ogunfolabi had told you keeping an eye on the body gesture of a speaker is a sure way to reflective listening. Note making is useless when you can reflexively listen to how the British, led by Lord Lugard sucked life out from your country, Nigeria.

Obafemi Awolowo University has just restructured her accommodation policy so that you couldn’t get hostel. You live on Road 7, Awotile, off campus. You are on your way home now. You have to trek because no commercial vehicles ply the road except about five always-overloaded shuttles which scurry like bush rat to OAUTH complex. You can also get free ride,  but once in a month. You will definitely not forgive OAU for that! So you prod yourself through on Road 7 sidewalk in the light evening rain (You are still in harmattan semester though).

You ruminate on what your history Professor lecturer had said earlier. How Nigeria is a diverse but dynamic country. You begin to wonder what was the cause of this amalgamation of entirely different countless tribes. Now, you think you have to make research and write an essay on it. You will probably publish it on Sahara Reporters. You’re jogging now. You must be happy you finally have something to say about the situation of Nigeria.

You get home wet and weary. The lecturer you’re staying with is not yet at home so you are in a free world. You pick up your second phone, a decrepit Nokia 1280, and turn on its frequency modulator. It’s 6 o’clock world news. The first headline is so sad: Fulani Herdsmen Kill 50. It makes you wonder why people of a country that symbolises unity in diversity kill one another. Interesting. Prof. Salami had told you philosophy involves logical and critical enquiry into the nature of things. So you will try it.

You get to the Hezekiah Oluwasanmi library. You want to check England and Nigeria in Crompton Encyclopedia. You smile as you rummage your bag for the library card. You smile wider. A smile that pastes enthusiasm on your face as if you would interview your president in ten minutes time. You can’t find it! But you’re with your friend’s card with no passport photograph. You have a brainstorm. You pack your book and dash out to the photocopy stand.

You come back in a few minutes. You try to swallow your panting as you join the queue. The security man is talking to a female colleague. He pokes his thumb and fore finger into a scissors-like shape so that you can slot your card into it. Of course he doesn’t check it, he only holds onto it a few seconds.

This is your first time in the library, in the reference room. You’re shocked the place is exactly what Boluwatife described in his A Diary of a Disappointed OAU Freshman. But you’re there on a purpose so you get to work.

You pick a 1970 book on Nigeria colonialism. So old and dusty, you flip through it. You keep jotting some points down.

You pick another book, also old. It’s on precolonial Era. You read about Hausa tribe first. The Muslim Hausa-speaking societies were renowned for international trade, high-quality textile, craft production and ancient centre for Islamic learning. In the 19th century the political system centered on them; the Sokoto Caliphate was probably the most powerful and complex state system in West and Central Africa.

Interesting. The Christian and Muslim Yoruba-speaking societies now. In the past, especially before the 15th century, the Yorubas practiced tradition of metalworking, technical innovation and elaborate city development.

You shake your knees in enchantment. You trace the words with your index finger. The Christian Igbo-speaking societies. They were mostly hardworking farmers and traders.

You go now to the Languages & Literature shelf to get Crompton Encyclopedia. You see a Chinese University Bulletin, 2010. It’s probably one of the latest books in the library.

You nod as you scan through. England, an early middle-age conglomeration of small Celtics and Anglo-Saxons. England speaks in English having a few dialects. You close the book in anger. Red veins stand at the sides of your head all straining away from your ears.

You had read Crompton’s description of Nigeria earlier. Nigeria, an enormous and complex region both culturally and politically. Now you wonder if the English colonial master really knew what Enormous Diversity And Complexity in Culture And Politics meant. If it was proper to merge entirely different regions with distinct languages, culture and history. By that you need a dire conclusion. There must be a genuine reason for that because most people around consider the white man infallible. No. You want to do philosophy so you decide to read more.

You remember you had done ethics in philosophy class yesterday. Now you think the English colonial master’s action must be graded as consequentialist. Of course he might have been looking forward, towards the consequences and effects. You stare hard at the fat book before you, into it, through it and land into the Wonderland of your thoughts.

This is it. He wasn’t interested in the effects of it on himself alone (though philosophically human being is selfish). So he wasn’t egoistic. He was doing it for the interest of his own people then. No. He wasn’t ethically utilitarian. You know it now.

You go back to the Languages and Literature shelf for a big Oxford dictionary. You stand there flipping through the light brown pages. Shit! You can’t find it. You can’t find the word. You return back to your seat disappointed and angry. You don’t know why. Maybe because the big dictionaries that should have the meaning are mostly 3rd edition.

You think you should decide now. You don’t need any English man dictionary to define your term. Yes. The white colonialist was being altruistic. Psuedo-Altruism. You smile. If you’re being asked to define the word, you would smile sharply and say it means taking actions to benefit others over yourself in disguise.

The colonial master merged the regions (Nigeria) together to benefit your country of course. As in, he merged the diverse and complex regions into Nigeria for the sake of peaceful coexistence, unity and civilization.

Language is perhaps the greatest source of unity. A society with less diversity in language is more likely to survive. You applaud your sense of empiricism. No, rationalism. Whatever. You humorously call your self a philosopher.

You smile once again. It’s true England had once comprised distinct regions which differed in economy, religion and dialects (still a single language though). You wonder why Nigeria has to come together. Taraba state, for goodness sake, has more languages than at least 30 countries in the world and mother Nigeria herself constitutes 7% of the world languages. Altruistic colonialist indeed.

It’s getting late and most people are leaving the library. You yawn. You’re tired but can’t leave now. You want to finish your research. You’re charging your phone from a socket outlet, on the Square pillar behind you. And when you try to unplug it you brush your hand against the chair rusty metal armrest which its leather covering is reeled off. It’s 5 o’clock – you still have an hour more.

You’re tired so you close your note and try scrolling some Internet pages. Because you don’t have data subscription you login to Airtel free basics. A captivating headline is glowing in Bembo font as you tap The Punch. God bless Airtel network provider. You take your time to read the news. A Nigerian lawyer files a lawsuit against Oxford University Press over alleged wrongful definition of the words ‘Mortgagee’ and ‘Mortgagor’.

Yes. The altruistic colonialist sometimes is attacked very unconsciously by unconscious Nigerian voices like Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation. He must have wronged the beautiful conscience of Nigeria!

You scroll over to another news. A third-year-governor is being praised for constructing the road that leads to the state government house and names it after the president. This is it again. The altruistic colonialist master had civilized Nigeria with a Psuedo-Altruist mentality. Nigeria praises people especially politicians who in a dramatic way had Psuedo-Altruistically done a single project in 8 years of power. You remember Fela talks about corrupt chief Obafemi Awolowo being exonerated in Fela: This Bitch Of A Life by Carlos Moore. You shake your head as if to say in Fela’s musical Pidgin-English nawa o.

You are in the eponymous University of Chief Obafemi Awolowo so you’d best shut up. Hahaha. The girl beside you streaks her eyeballs out at you scornfully. You don’t care.

You just at this juncture have to conclude. Nigerian societies cannot coexist unless they shave off the Pseudo-Altruistic mentality or simply break up. Yes. You will title your article Dear Mr. Altruistic Colonialist or Nigeria Of A Shattered Foundation. Good.

You’re pressed. You gather your properties quickly and dash to the exit point. The security woman at the entrance tagged OUT doesn’t check your card. Your pack your materials into your bag and you discover you have mistakenly packed Crompton, E. Oh!

You join a queue filing inside. A hot drop of urine kisses your underneath short as you try to show your library card to the security man.

Som O. Adedayo
Email: [email protected]

DSO Nigeria: Beyond Devil’s Advocates By Hamid Hendrix

Freedom without responsibility continues to pose a great challenge to the realization of the full potentials of our democratic dispensation and it is rather unfortunate that foremost beneficiaries of such liberty are too often also the major culprits. Though measures have been taken to curb the excesses of abusers of civil liberties it is obvious that the more needs to be done to safeguard public interest.

One area where this menace continues to rear its ugly head is in the rowdy ranks of human rights advocacy groups which were once credited with facilitating the successful liberation of several African nations from the scourge of oppressive military regimes but are now becoming misfits in democratic settings due to loss of focus and desperation to remain relevant.

Rather than shifting their attention from the initial agenda of campaigning for democracy to the equally relevant aspects of ensuring free and fair elections and dividends of democracy, several of the advocacy groups have been overtaken by pecuniary impulses that turned them into rentable rabble-rousers, willingly lending themselves to the begrudged and disgruntled elements. Such groups end up mired in miscellaneous advocacy of discordant diatribes as they drift into charlatanism under the counterfeit canopy of human rights advocacy.

A typical example of such mischievous misadventures masquerading as human rights advocates is the recent statement issued by Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) claiming that “under the President’s nose a minister allegedly mismanaged N2 billion from the National Broadcasting Commission for digitisation of broadcasting but till now both the minister of information and DG of NBC are walking the corridors of power free.”

This single sentence of spurious speculation casting unsubstantiated aspersions on the unblemished reputation of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Malam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and attempting to discredit the highly–rated successful switch over to digital broadcasting (DS0) in Nigeria was purported to be an exercise in human rights advocacy ! Incredulously, this fabricated defamation was an isolated insertion lacking relevance or corroboration in a libellous list of politically-motivated wild allegations against the person and administration of President Muhammadu Buhari contrived by one Emmanuel Onwubiko, coordinator of the so-called human rights group.

It is manifestly outlandish to portray the deliberate misrepresentation of the nationally acclaimed resuscitation and diligent implementation of the previously paralysed DSO project and callous assassination of the character of the two government functionaries responsible for such an achievement as a human rights infringement, just as it is absurd to smear the hitch-free scheduled switch over to digital broadcasting across the country with the brush of “mismanagement” of a bogus two billion naira. These malicious distortions of verifiable facts amount to gross violations of the principle of public accountability, which is a fundamental right of citizens in a democracy.

To set the records straight, it is worth recalling that the DSO was formally launched in Jos, Plateau State, in April 2016, followed by the FCT, Ilorin, Kaduna, Enugu and Osogbo while the process of installation of equipment for the roll out in Gombe and Delta states have reached advanced stages. The NBC expects to achieve DSO roll out in 12 states soon. This impressive performance was the outcome of zealous commitment of Minister Lai Mohammed and NBC DG Modibbo Kawu to break the four-year jinx that stalled the project prior to the debut of the Buhari Administration’s change agenda.

For HURIWA to single out this glorious chapter in the remarkable record of progress in the nation’s broadcast industry for a vicious vendetta is a pathetic pointer to the ulterior motives that have hijacked the group and falsified its declared mission. In fact, a cursory review of its recent outings reveals a revolting surrender to the most ridiculous and irrational advocacies imaginable, such as campaigning against the ban on production of the much abused codeine cough syrups because it has “led to great financial misfortunes for over 30 legitimate pharmaceutical companies,” urging the Federal Government “not to stop expectant women and nursing mothers from participating in National Youth Service Corps (NYSC),” appealing to “ the government of the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on Nigeria” and dismissing the terrorist classification of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB “ as a charade and a plot to initiate violent crackdown on the members of this substantially unarmed and peaceful group”.

Even the EFCC has dismissed the occasional anti-corruption posturing of HURIWA as “ethnic and political agenda by some mischief makers masquerading as human rights writers” in one of its rebuttals of the pseudo human rights advocacy group’s capricious campaigns. This was also endorsed by Emmanuel Otairu of the Centre for International and Strategy Studies, Abuja whose article titled “HURIWA As IPOB’s NGO Arm” in The Nation edition of September 18, 2017 concluded that it was “ a tool for extortion, paid activism, ethnic propaganda mouthpiece and most recently a terror organization’s NGO arm”. The steadily expanding coverage of the DSO in Nigeria under the diligent implementation of Information Minister Lai Mohammed and DG NBC Ishaq Modibbo Kawu has surely switched off anomalous advocacy groups like HURIWA along with analogue noise.

-HAMID HENDRIX is a communications writer in Abuja

Fayose: In The End, A High-Powered Nothing By Garba Shehu

The people of the politically significant State of Ekiti have spoken against their Governor, outgoing governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, who told them that the governorship election they just had was a referendum on President Muhammadu Buhari. He said candidates Kayode Fayemi and Olusola Eleka were pawns and that he and President Buhari were the actual contestants.

In what observers said was the most intense, and a most angry campaign, the people gave their verdict: Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the one-time governor, declared persona-non-grata is now persona-grata again. President Buhari has won this referendum. The people of the State have sent a clear message. The politics of brinksmanship, assaults, insults, abuses and Robin Hoodism disguised as stomach infrastructure has been rejected in favour of politics of inclusion, development, responsibility and good governance.

President Buhari’s war against corruption and insecurity; the message of agric revolution and infrastructure development and fidelity in resource allocation and management have struck a chord with Ekiti voters, who had been lied to and deceived by Governor Fayose. While the opposition continued to rant at him, President Buhari’s uprightness, coupled with incorruptibility and personal integrity, unmatched by any politician in the country has again stood the test of time.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) win in Ekiti means that the Party has control over 25 out of the 36 states of the Federation. The party thus becomes the only one in power in the six states of the South-West geopolitical zone.

Besides reinforcing the APC’s position as the only standing pole in the political landscape, it is a credit to the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, against whom all manner of ethnic and religious opposition is being mounted by former President Obasanjo and some of the Asiwaju’s sworn enemies in the sub-region.

With this, the political landscape of the South-West has been transformed. APC’s regional strength has been strengthened and the Asiwaju will be respected even better. Without losing patience and decorum, the Asiwaju has proved that rivals must reconcile and come to terms or lose everything.

This win is equally a huge boost to the APC and its new leadership under Chairman Adams Oshiomole, who got their first baptism of fire in Ekiti. It is, importantly, a big boost to the second term ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari.

For the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which came second in the election in a state that they held sway, it is a loss politically and psychologically. The result of the election has proved that PDP is irreparably broken and dismantled. They have nothing to offer to the country and its people. The message from Ekiti is that no state in Nigeria will vote PDP. Never again.

As for Mr. Fayose and his morbid brand of politics, it is now his time to reconcile himself to the imminent political extinction he faces, his political career sealed for good. Newspapers have mistaken him for a gadfly who creates discomfort for the government at the centre to make it better, but Fayose is a street-type thug. He never fits the role of a gadfly because he thrives on bitter enmity. Opposition does not mean a negative view of everything. Neither does it translate into a licence to abuse your superiors.

The winner of the election, Governor Fayemi’s trajectory from a persona-non-grata to a persona-grata again has given a wave of cheer to APC members all over the country. It has given a fresh hope that fake news, lies and propaganda run only short distances, because they have short legs.

An old proverb says you can’t beat something with nothing. After all the noise, theatricals and drama, Fayose’s fall came with a thud, not a bang: a high-powered nothing.

Shehu is the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media Publicity

Nurturing Care: What Children Need To Thrive By Ogechi Ekeanyanwu

At the recently held 71st ongoing World Health Assembly which held in Geneva, Switzerland, a framework on nurturing care for early childhood development was launched.

The framework, a joint effort by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, World Bank and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), proffers ways to help very young children live and “thrive to transform health and human potential”.

The framework says investing in early childhood development can boost a country’s prosperity, promote inclusive economic growth, expand equitable opportunity and end extreme poverty.

“For every $1 spent on early childhood development interventions, the return on investment can be as high as $13,” the foreword to the framework reads.

If children thrive – meeting all their milestones, including cognitive goals, they are very likely to become productive members of a society. Their development directly affects issues like employability and innovation that contributes to economic development.

While early childhood development covers children’s cognitive, physical, language, motor, and social and emotional development between conception and age eight, the nurturing care framework focuses on the period from pregnancy to age three.

This is because children at this age are at the most critical stage when the brain grows faster – 80% of a baby’s brain is formed by this age.

According to the framework, when a child gets to two years, “neuronal connections have been made in response to interactions with the environment, and especially interactions with caregivers,”.

And while a child’s brain development follows historical genetics patterns, earliest experiences makes the difference in how the child experiences and interprets the world

What nurturing care framework says youngest children need

Security And Safety

Children need to grow up in a secure and loving environment, with the right nutrition and stimulation from their parents and caregivers.

Also, young children, especially toddlers experience extreme fear when people abandon them, threaten to, and punish them; almost always inordinately, because of realistic expectations from caregivers. So, young children need to feel safe, they need to feel loved. They need to have trusted, reliable and informed caregivers who understand the needs of children in their early years.

Because kids from extremely poor and low-income homes face serious risks, there has social assistance and policies to mitigate risks.

Also, youngest children – babies to toddlers – need nurturing care, and this can start from pregnancy.

Stimulation

Singing and talking to children, especially when at the tail of the second trimester, helps babies, experience a loving parental connection. Plus, from birth, a baby can recognise the mother’s voice. Babies also need gentle touch, pleasant and soothing words, storytelling, being read to and being played with. There is now scientific evidence proving that caregiver-child interactions are highly beneficial for early childhood development and have long-term effects.

Nutrition

Breastfeeding and skin to skin connection, amplifies the mother and child bonding a child needs to thrive and feel loved. When a mother is supported by baby’s father and/or supportive companion(s), exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is facilitated. But a mother’s well being and her nutritional intake are essential to baby before and after birth.

Pregnant women need to have sufficient micronutrients including iron. When the babies are eventually birthed, breast milk has proven to be the best for babies; and from six months onwards, complementary feeding that are diverse and contain all the micronutrients should be included for rapid brain growth

Emmanuel Macron And The Fundamentals Of The African Condition By Ademola Araoye

The visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Nigeria last week was historic. It was also unique in many ways. The historic mission was defined by the breadth of the youthful French President’s substantive engagements and the unusual informal character of his interaction with society. That interaction at the Afrika Shrine, was, given the nature of things, effectively hijacked by the universe of hoity-toity cultural elites to the detriment, one suspects, of the hoi polloi real constituency of the legendary Afrobeat maestro. The contrived peculiar informality, a reflection of the intense intended symbolisms integral to the Macron’s messaging, were designed to defy the tight traditions of officialdom and the strictures of diplomatic protocols associated with summit visits. These departures from conventional protocols were also necessitated by and aimed at facilitating new approaches to the projection of the critical permanent and non-negotiable substantive strategic thrust of French African policy, from which directly flowed presidential salesman Macron’s visit. In the context of tectonic shifts in the global and African strategic landscape in the last two decades, the main and inalienable pivot of France’s policy in Africa is to consolidate its historic hegemonic status as the first power in Africa. France’s enunciated strategic objectives in Africa has traditionally been manifest in political and economic control of large parts of the continent, the management of the African security challenges, often also contrived, and domination of the social and cultural spaces. These all as constituent dimensions of the long term French political agenda. As a national ego massage, France has often arrogated to itself the usurpation of the voice of Africa and prided itself on this self-serving and self-imposed burden. It is therefore canonical in French strategic policy that any credible movement towards true integration of Africa across the political, economic, security and cultural realms is a threat not only to France’s permanent and inalienable strategic objectives in the continent, but also its understanding of national self in the global arena. Hostage Africa is a permanent adjunct element in bolstering the elite status of France in the hierarchical global order. At a more existential level, Africa is France’s inalienable beef steak. France takes more from than it gives to Africa. Whatever convenient and distorted narratives and rationalizations are proffered to the contrary.

The principle of the inalienability of Africa from the strategic calculus of France’s location in the global system in the longue dure was reaffirmed in a most recent review of African policy by the French establishment. This followed recent setbacks and outright costly failures in Africa, including in Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic and, more recently, in Gabon. Deriving from this irreducible foundational principle of action, France’s policy in Africa expresses its permanent defection from the fundamental objectives of any internally mobilized distillation, articulation and concretization of the communal interests of the peoples of Africa by African people for African people. That ultimate Africa driven afro-centric vision that contrasts Franco-centric notions of African interests is thus only attainable by the radical deconstruction of the structures, negations of the protocols and pivots of the current pervasive derelict bankruptcy, to be followed by constructive reconstruction through consolidation of the totality of the fractious African social, cultural, economic and spaces. These laudable legitimate goals of African people pose long-term challenges to an Africa centered partnership as the foundation of new Franco-African relations.

Against these fundamentals, Macron’s visit, its comprehensive substantive focus: political, economic, security and social and cultural, may only realistically be located as part of the on-going reforms of modalities of policy articulation. These reforms, underpinned by lessons codified from its recent failures,  are to counterbalance the emerging attempts, feeble though, at Africa’s articulation of common continental reconstructive structures and protocols. The latest of these reconstructions being the proposed Africa Continental Free Trade Area. In the current dispensation with Africa divided along colonial frontiers and large swathes of socio-economic and political spaces effectively controlled by France, such radical reconstruction of the continental economic space must await radical attitudinal and policy reorientation of France. Such radical realignments may turn out to be a wait for Godot. This is notwithstanding the rhetorical political assent to an integrated expansive continent wide economic space by quite a number of states, including those under the thump of France. Also, the interventions of exogenous forces in Africa, particularly the Chinese, especially in the commanding heights of economies across the continent, has an added urgency to the imperative to generate new impetus for France’s deeply intrusive policy in Africa. France must then fashion the mix of appropriate instruments to achieve its policy objectives.

Conceptually, strategic policy instruments are basically two. Persuasion and Coercion to achieve social, cultural and economic penetration. These are the two polar ends of the instruments available in potential interaction of interacting forces or parties. The two also provide the framework to define the modalities of engagements in the interactive plane, especially in diplomacy. The carrot and stick in the familiar cliche. Strategy is relational in defining approaches to the attainment of end objectives in the context of means available. In fact, it is the translation of available means into concrete policy goals. The situational, relational and contextual are critical elements of the conjuncture of factors to take into account. In between available resources and end goals are a whole gamut of intervening variables that impact the effective concretization of policy objectives. In this appreciation of the essentials of strategic interaction, any orchestrated plan through the mix of elements of persuasion and or coercion to subjugate or degrade to the point of irrelevance and or loss of integrity of autonomous action, including in advancing the physical, psychical and material well being of a community, people or race, state, nation, with or without the consent of the targeted group, constitutes a war. Soft power is often to bend the will of the targeted community often through compromising its policy through co-option of the dominant elites. Massive and organized use of coercion and physical violence such as full blown military campaigns associated with conventional understanding of war to achieve hostile intentions are the last desperate instruments of the offending power to force the capitulation of the target population. The ultimate strategic objective of war is to eliminate or degrade or completely neutralize the overall capacity, including the autonomous will of the target population, to even begin to contemplate or forge an overarching and timeless vision of its sense of self, determine the direction of its development, including the autonomous pursuit of its well-being and the self definition of its identity.

The political system and the underpinnings of the national political, social and economy of the target community or entity is compromised. The economy is sabotaged or under control of the hostile power, the authentic identity deformed through a process of contrived voluntary self repudiation, community spirituality distorted with massive internal defections and willing migration to the impositions of the potent gods of the conquering overlords. The spiritual realm, as Africa continues to experience, is a potent platform for the subjugation of a people. It is the most efficient of conventional soft power. In the context of Africa’s subservient relationship with the external order, soft power is a more potent instrument of war. It does not shed blood. It elicits willing capitulation and in the final analysis, it is cost effective. Also, it recruits local proxies whose continued well-being is a function of continued subservience to the hegemonic power. In the language of prisoners dilemma, it can be sold as a win/win permutation in superfluous contexts such as the strategic interaction between France and large parts of Africa, including Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the message of the youthful French President on the centrality of African leadership in economic development, security and culture is thus intended for both Africans and the newly emerged developmental partners of Africa, such as the Chinese. Speaking at an exclusive session hosted by the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in Lagos on Wednesday last week, the French leader was said to have canvassed a new partnership, highlighting the critical role of entrepreneurship in driving Africa’s renaissance, and emphasizing the importance of the private sector. His seminal admonition is that the continent’s future was and should be in Africa’s hands. Well said. In this he also focused on the pivotal role of young people in advancing Africa into the future. Some, in the euphoric stupor of the moment, have hastily and contentiously credited the French President with offering a bold and new vision of his country’s relationship with Africa. Every French President in recent memory has sought to infuse new dynamism the direction of Franco-Africa relations. But the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The evolved contemporaneous challenge of French policy in Africa is that the hitherto seamless auto-articulation and imposition of the centrality of a Franco-centric worldview, orientation and  policy by entrenched minions in the many vulnerable obscure and backwater capitals in Africa has been in crisis since the last decade of the last century. The transition of the truly misguided generation of Sedar Senghor, Houphouet Boigny, Omar Bongo and Mobutu Sese Seko who were weaned on the innate superiority of France and its culture unfolded in significant crises of French policy in its pre-carrre. Meanwhile, the evolution of the global and Africa’s strategic landscape elicited significant controversies on the validity of the assumptions underpinning policy across the board and thus undermined or rendered obsolete  the continued legitimacy of policy, policy instruments and the vitality of policy itself. France has been caught in the multiple attitudinal lags in relation to its African policy emanating from these structural realignments.

The evolution of the strategic landscape was ushered in by the end of the Cold War, the dissipation of Apartheid through the victory of revolutionary and progressive forces in West Africa (Cape Verdes and Guinea Bissau) West Central Africa (Angola) Southern Africa (Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa). These have been complemented by the continuing fragilizing of Nigeria, the largest aggregation of black humanity in a single socio-political space, along political, economic and social realms. The challenge has been exacerbated  by an attendant intellectual recession in the policy sphere. In francophone Africa,  elevated Africanist sentiments founded on an expansive nationalist consciousness expressed in radical attitudinal transformations of the youth in the post Cold War era has gained ground.  This has been compounded by the transition of old and unquestioning geriatric leadership as critical part of the volatile mix. These together present new opportunities as well as challenges for French strategic policy in Africa. That is the intricate canvass Emmanuel Macron has to navigate.

France is sensitive to these developments. Macron’s charm offensive in increasingly prostrate Nigeria, a heart and soul winning policy evangelism, is predicated on the demands of these new realities. This side of policy articulation reflects a more humanistic approach, a soft power engagement, to complement and balance the more realist, sinister or coercive character of France’s unwavering determination to keep Africa under its charge. Under the old realist dispensation, France sought the breakup of a potentially vibrant Nigeria to remove the threat to its hegemonic dominance of the totality sub-regional strategic space. Times have changed for a Nigeria, bogged down in internal afflictions and inflictions, and sadly confused about its place in the global scheme of things. Accordingly, Macron’s smooth venture in Nigeria is in pursuit of a new approach to a seriously degraded adversary to an old preeminent preoccupation in Africa that is fundamentally in conflict with the long term legitimate aspiration with the peoples of Africa for holistic emancipation. The envisioned emancipation of Africa would radically alter the global strategic landscape, including repudiating the actuality of subservient partnerships that is normative in Africa’s relationship with the external order and their associated external others. France would be the loser in this permutation. It must therefore fashion a strategic response to the evolved challenges of the millennium. This must be cost effective. It must be a proactive measure to forestall the potential turpitude of an eventual awakening of a global continental consciousness for full integration.

Accordingly, President Macron’s engagement in Nigeria has sought deep penetration into the circle of social and cultural elite, partnerships with the barons of the national economy and focus on youth. His declarations in relation to the management of the regional security space is the most illustrative of equivocal double speak and diplomatese. France is the first power in West Africa. It is a credential that it cherishes. Every attempt by Nigeria to provide leadership, when it still had a modicum of credible capacity for force projection in the sub-region, has been sabotaged by France or made more difficult. France would yield no space for African leadership on security. The ECOMOG campaign in Liberia was instructive. Yet in even in post war Liberia as recently as the last election, President George Weah was sponsored by francophone Africa acting in lieu of France. This included Cote d’Ivoire, Benin Republic, Gabon and Congo Brazzaville, among others in what may easily be termed a conspiratorial gang up to reintegrate Liberia into France’s orbit of control. During the Liberian conflict promoted by Houphouet Boigny and under Charles Taylor, France held the puppet strings. Weah himself leveraged affinities and personal connection to France cultivated during his professional football career. His immediate and first international official trip on assumption of office was to Paris to pay obeisance. On the Boko Haram menace, the Multi National Joint Task Force for the Lake Chad Basin was cobbled together not by Nigeria. It was instigated by France. The attempt of Nigeria to appoint the Force Commander for the campaign in multi-national campaign in Mali was robustly rejected by France. It is instructive that one of the first foreign capitals visited by newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari was Paris. On the economic front, if the centrality of African leadership is imperative for economic progress, perhaps it is time to abrogate the CFA zone in West Africa and accelerate the movement towards the common currency for ECOWAS region. Also, in the least, let the anachronistic and moribund Conseil d’Entente only recently revived by Alhassan Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire wind up. This would be to enable West Africa to develop integrated structures required for coherent community wide developmental plans. Under these terms, partnership with France would acquire salience for the aspirations of Africans for holistic emancipation.

On the cultural plane, it is reassuring if not totally surprising that the French President chose the Afrika Shrine for his reenactment of a nostalgic rendezvous with a Lagos past. It is a fitting tribute to Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Enigmatic Abami Eda has been of great interest to official France as a revolutionary and cultural icon. I am uncertain if the same energy and attention were devoted to the Makosa king Manu Dibango or even Hugh Masakela: the other two legs of Africa’s tripodal giants of jazz. In a France that has over the centuries provided homes and asylum to a long line of front line historic creative figures, such interest in Fela would be consistent with the national character of France. Given the burden of Fela to highlight the untenable “shuffer, shuffer” conditions of downtrodden masses in the baptized idiocy of the Nigerian universe, the obscenity of Nigeria officialdom, the upended ethics and values in a galaxy of transfixed zombies, the pervasive hypocritical character of the national spiritual firmament, the President of the Masses came to be the authentic voice of the voiceless oppressed. These apart from the incredible musicality and vibrancy of his renditions. In shouldering his burden, Fela exposed the suffocating stench of the strangulating underbelly of the so called giant of Africa. French officialdom would appear to have drawn full millage from this litany of Nigerian woeful reality. It came in handy in French propaganda to discredit the leadership aspiration of the country. The sub text of the collaboration of the French in some of the video production on Fela would seem to have exploited his work to undermine the claims of Nigeria to leadership of the continent. These observations could however be the queasy sentiment of a mind attuned to the opportunistic shenanigans in games that nations play.

Meanwhile, at home, the establishment of a new structure, a Presidential Council for Africa, highlighted as inscribed in the campaign of President Emmanuel Macron, demonstrates the seriousness the President attaches to his plans for Africa. The mandate of the Presidential Council is to work toward the renewal of the partnership between France and the African continent. It aims to give a new face to relations between Africa and France through its joint composition bringing together African and French personalities of France in civil society. Charged with bringing new clarity at the political level to the President of the Republic on Africa, the CPA houses together a dozen personalities from civil society in France. These persons were chosen for their investments in relations between Africa and France in the areas of entrepreneurship, health, sports and culture. French speaking though members are not necessarily originally from francophone Africa. The appointees to the Council have proven record of actions in favour of development in Africa and their will to be engaged in a partnership of shared opportunities between France and Africa.  The mandate of the CPA is:

  • to bring clarity to the state of play in the relations between France and Africa;
  • formulate concrete actionable proposals in relevant areas relations between France and Africa such as entrepreneurship, sustainable development and education;
  • Bring to the attention of the President of the Republic African perceptions of France’s policies in Africa, in particular the perceptions of African youth; and
  • Develop linkages with African civil society and to take their concerns into consideration.

The new youthful black storm troopers on behalf of French hegemony in Africa include; Sarah Toumi, franco-tunisienne, 30 years, Karim Sy, franco-libano-malien, 49, Karim Nomaza Nongqunga Coupez, South-African, 36, Vanessa Moungar, franco-tchadienne, 33, Yvonne Mburu, Kenyan, 35, Jeremy Hajdenberg, French, 43,  Liz Gomis, French, 36,  Yves-Justice Djimi, French, 36, Diane Binder, French, 37, Jules-Armand Aniambossou, franco-béninois, 55, Jean-Marc Adjovi-Boco, franco-béninois, 54, Sarah Toumi, franco-tunisienne, 30.

Macron is indeed determined. What is not certain is the congruence of his objectives with fundamental structural ad strategic policy alignments needed to be true partners in advancing the legitimate afro-centric aspirations of Africa for holistic emancipation led by Africans, and not France.

A Patriot’s Mesmerizing Ripples By Idowu Omisore

I have been privileged to travel to a couple of countries, some in real life and others in my dreams. Out of the 195 countries in the world today, I seriously doubt if there is another country, aside from Nigeria, whose government and citizens urgently need to arise to do things differently. This piece is not about the sad appraisal we received about the country as having the highest number of the poorest people in the world, displacing India, as recently reported by Brookings Institution. Who doesn’t know the enormity of this disturbingly ridiculous statistics? How can a very rich country have very poor citizens? I’ve always felt that Nigeria is more of a conundrum than a country. No thanks to the enormous scale of corruption! Corruption and its egregious effects are ubiquitous. Being the world’s most populous black nation, we have our peculiar share of problems just like every other country. Patriotism is at its lowest ebb, frighteningly among the youths who should be the ones fervently seeking to change the narrative. The highly skilled amongst them are seeking to travel overseas for opportunities they believe are nonexistent here. Who then will build this nation? For the most part, those at the helm of affairs are too focused on how they will elongate their stay in office than on how the quality of life of the electorate will be markedly improved.

When it comes to nation-building, this writer does not believe the ‘government’ alone should be blamed. Citizens, individually, have a role to play to resolve our teeming problems. True patriots are scarce, as such; it is always refreshing when one comes across one especially amongst the young. Patriots hardly give up on their country and constantly look for ways to make a difference and solve problems instead of just complaining. Such a one is Kehinde Khadijat Kadiri (KKK), the Executive Director of The Grassroots Aid Initiative (TGAI), a nongovernmental organization that has been touching lives, reducing poverty and putting smiles on the faces of people at the grassroots since its establishment. I’ve known KKK for about 16 years now. We met at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos and got on very well. What I didn’t know about her is her deep resolve to ferociously tackle poverty at the grassroots and increase their living standards. After her postgraduate education in Ghana and Malaysia, she came back to the country and making contributions in the academia. Aside from teaching, KKK began to instill patriotism in her students who presently form the bulk of her team. She carefully blended her photography skills with her humanitarian pursuits, taking shots and posting on social media platforms pictures of scenes and situations begging for attention in rural areas. Her team’s posts and advocacy messages have been attracting funds locally and internationally for its interventions. TGAI Team has been engaged in projects that touch the lives of people in rural areas. It is noteworthy that women have benefited greatly from the NGO’s outreaches. It started off with a malaria sensitization programme and the complete renovation of an elderly woman’s dilapidated house in Ago-Oja village, Kwara State. I picked interest in the transformation she and her team brought to bear. ‘Mama Ikirun’ was over the moon when her refurbished house was handed over to her.

In October 2017, TGAI Team successfully executed #buildingdreams project. Scholarships were presented to indigent pupils in Moro Local Government. The scholarship covered school fees, school uniforms, school bags, socks, exercise books, pencils, erasers, rulers, mathematical sets, sharpeners, crayons, textbooks, e.t.c. The peak of the scholarship drive was the lifetime scholarship given to a set of twins (Habeebah and Habeeb). Last year December, the life-changing team made the yuletide memorable for the widows and children in Ara Village, Kwara State, Nigeria. Items and edibles shared to about 500 people under the #100widowsandkids project include yam tubers, bags of rice, packs of sugar, cartons of tomato puree, packs of sphagetti, cartions of groundnut oil, bathing soaps, bags of semovita, washing soaps, bags of garri, bags of salt, cartons of noodles, packs of kiddies’ drinks, bags of clothes, exercise books and other donated items.

Upon discovering that Asileke Village, Oyo State in the southwestern part of the country, had no clean and safe source of water, TGAI started posting pictures of the plight of the people. Funds poured in, although it took a while, and today, a water borehole system has been provided for the community. TGAI Team was recently at the Jalala Junior Secondary School, within the precincts of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), with a parade of seasoned speakers on drug abuse. During the course of the event, scholarships were given to 12 students. Aside from the laudable projects, the high level of accountability demonstrated by KKK is worth emulating.

I know all these efforts might look less phenomenal to someone out there particularly because KKK and her team have not yet made an impact nationally or won award(s) from an international body. What matters more for this writer is that we have still have young Nigerians who have not given up on their country and who are striving to make a difference wherever they find themselves, causing mesmerizing ripples. Equally important is the need to encourage these young patriots to do more and that is what this piece is all about.

KKK may not yet be in the transcendent class of Mother Theresa, Mary Slessor and many other men and women that have transformed the world through humanitarian activities, but she undeniably possesses the same traits with them. Like Martin Luther King, she has a dream…that one day the young and old at the grassroots will rise above poverty, having access to necessities: food, water, housing, education, health facilities and opportunities to reach their full potential. The Grassroots Aid Initiative (TGAI), formerly known as The Healthbuilders Initiative, is ever committed to the holistic development of people in the rural areas.

Bottom-line: each of us can make a difference. We can bring down the level of poverty. We can help the needy within our space. Even with the little resources you have, you can still take out something for charity. Poverty has deadly offspring notably, hunger, avoidable deaths, crime, terrorism and colossal waste of human potential. The government needs to rethink its poverty alleviation strategies and maximize the huge resources it has been entrusted with. The elections are around the corner, another time for all Nigerians within the voting age to either reinforce the status quo or bring in new leaders they can trust. With all the human and mineral resources we have been endowed with as a nation, Nigeria and poverty ought to be like two parallel lines that can never meet.

Idowu Omisore writes from Lagos.

Takeaways From Thailand Cave Rescue Episode By Tayo Ogunbiyi

On June 23, 12 young footballers aged between 11 and 16 and their 25-year-old coach ventured into the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand after completing a session of football practice and became trapped when heavy rains flooded the cave. The boys and their coach who are all members of a local association football team were reported missing a few hours later and search operations began immediately.

However, attempts to find them were hindered by rising water levels within the cave system and no contact was made with them for about 11 days. The rescue effort expanded into a massive operation amid concerted global public interest. After great efforts that involved delicate maneuvering through narrow cave passages and mucky waters, British divers discovered the missing footballers and their coach to be alive.

They were found to be on an elevated rock about 3.2 kilometers (2.0 mi) from the cave mouth. As much as finding them was exciting news, rescuing them alive was always going to be a tough task. The options available were limited. One of which was to teach the boys and their coach basic dive techniques to enable their early rescue or wait for the floodwaters to subside at the end of the monsoon season.

After days of pumping water from the cave system and a respite from rain, four of the boys were rescued on 8 July. Rescue teams hastened to get everyone out before the monsoon was predicted to resume on 11 July, bringing a potential 52 mm (2.0 in) of rainfall. By 10 July 2018, all of the boys and their coach had been rescued from the cave.

Over 1,000 people were involved in the rescue operation, including Thai Navy SEALs, volunteers and technical assistance teams from multiple countries. Such was the diversity of the rescue effort that many have termed it a United Nations coalition. The delicate nature of the operation made a rescue chief at one point dubbed it ‘Operation Mission Impossible’. Conditions were so dangerous that a retired Thai Navy SEAL, 38 year old Saman Kunan died on July 5 while trying to lay out oxygen tanks underwater in a tunnel.

No wonder wild jubilation erupted across the world upon news of a successful rescue operation. Cable new images of volunteers handing out free apples to journalists in celebration of the boys’ safe return brought great joy to the hearts of keen followers of the event across the world. President Donald Trump of the United States describes the operation as a “beautiful moment” in human history while German Chancellor, Angela Merkel described it as a “a wonderful message” to a hurting world. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, equally expressed her delight at the “amazing” success of the rescue effort.

On their part, the SEALs, who were central to the rescue effort revealed on their Facebook page that:”We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. But what is sure is that all the boys and their coach are now out of the cave”. Also, while congratulating the boys, their coach as well as the rescue team for the success of the operation, Federation of International Football Association, FIFA, the body that governs the running of football all over the world, offers to convey the boys and their coach to Moscow to watch the final game of the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Presently, the 12 boys and their coach, who are said to be in stable medical condition, are quarantined in a local medical facility where they are being properly observed by medics. Now that the rescue operation is over, it is pertinent to draw a few lessons from this highly intriguing episode. The first and, perhaps, most vital deduction is what can be achieved in the world when mankind is united, irrespective of language, tribal, cultural and other such differences.

Though the recue team that embarked on the dangerous and deadly mission was multinational in composition, it had only one mission: to save the boys and their coach alive. To achieve this, their language and cultural barriers never really mattered. What really mattered was their primary mission of rescuing the boys. Indeed, there was such a global agreement on the urgency of the rescue mission that American entrepreneur, Elon Musk, had to fly to Thailand with a mini submarine and an offer to help in any way he could. The lesson herein is that there is no global crisis that cannot be surmounted when the mankind is united to confront it.

One other equally fascinating lesson that could be taken in from the incidence is the amazing courage and bravery of the boys and their coach to stay alive in the face of such life threatening condition. Also tied to this is the courage of the rescue team to dare the odds, even at the risk of their own lives. What a wonderful message of gallantry and perseverance! Incredibly strong is, probably, the best way to describe the boys’ hazardous staying power and eventual escape passage. In an increasingly tough world where socio-economic conditions are becoming quite harsh, the boys have taught us a vital lesson in perseverance and relentless survival instinct. In-spite of the obvious dilemma they were in, the boys never gave in to neither gloom nor self-pity. It was, indeed, amazing to see them in a flickering video smiling and giving the victory sign when they were found 10 days after they were declared missing.

The high sense of responsibility demonstrated by their 25 year old coach, who was trapped in the cave for 18 days with the boys, is equally admirable. In a letter he sent to parents of the kids after they were found to be alive, the coach promised to protect and look after them even at the risk of his own life. Not only this, he apologized to the parents for whatever trauma they might have gone through in view of the incidence. This is a huge lesson for political leaders, especially in Africa.

Back home in Nigeria, one very considerable message that we need to really take home from the whole incidence is the need to attach huge value to human lives. Watching the highly delicate and complicated strategy put up by the Thailand government to rescue the kids and their coach couldn’t but made one think what could have happened if the event had taken place in motherland.

So much blood is being spilled in the land that it seems no longer a big deal to us as a people. Sadly, we seem to be getting used to a stereotyped form of response to bloodletting. First, different people pay visits to sights of gruesome murderous acts, commensurate with those involved, promise heavens and earth until there is another incidence when the whole circle is repeated all over again. The Thailand cave episode is a veritable template for us on the need to review our attitude to the sanctity of human life. The truth is that without the people, there can be no nation.

Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

Oshiomhole: A ‘Coronation’ Foretold! By SOC Okenwa

Former President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and ex-Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a small man of big ideas. He is intrepid, determined in whatever he sets out to achieve and resolute in achieving same. As the NLC President Oshiomhole brought labour grievances to the fore-front of national politics refusing to compromise in what he believed was right in terms of better wages for workers or decrying their worsening living conditions in a nation where the minimum wage remains till this day a shame and scandal compared to best practices elsewhere around the world. Through sheer hardwork and commitment to the best ideals he managed to lead the Congress with rigour coming out unscathed in the years he presided over its affairs.

Blessed with a combination of brain and brawn Oshiomhole has the grit required to succeed in almost every venture he chose to accomplish. Perhaps his major staying power remains his lion-heartedness and capacity to stand for the truth without blinking an eye.

We remember how this khaki-wearing short man with huge ego waged ‘war’ after ‘war’ against the richest family in Edo State — Igbinedion. At one point in their battle for superiority or supremacy the then Edo state Governor had threathened publicly to run the Igbinedion patriarch, Gabriel Osawaru, out of town if he failed to respect the constituted authorty in the state known as the “heart-beat of the nation’. Gabriel Igbinedion was used to defying the state authority (even playing the Oba abroad!) in the past but with Oshiomhole at the helm such acts of haughtiness were never allowed to stand unchallenged. Between money and power the latter often prevails in any struggle for influence.

Some detractors looked down on him because of his size but he had demonstrated severally that it was not size that mattered but strenght of character; not height that mattered but the heart to soldier on amids odds and challenges. Brimming with confidence the ex-Governor is proud of his overseas academic accomplishments. And achievements in Benin city in particular and Edo State in general when he served as Chief Executive for eight eventful years.

He succeeded in transforming the mid-western state in general and the hitherto neglected “developing village” in particular in his years at the Dennis Osadabey government house in Benin city. Before his triumphant gubernatorial arrival on the stage Benin city was dubbed a town where witchcraft was rife but he worked hard to break the taboo of underdevelopment creating an enabling environment for Edo sons and daughters to see the need to invest resources at home. Roads were constructed or rebuilt, schools were built or renovated, hospitals were built, people were empowered and Benin city was transformed into a modern city worth its cultural and academic greatness!

I remember vividly encountering him at work years back as I visited home. Driving towards Mission Road by Dawson Road junction I had noticed a small crowd milling around a diminutive man in khaki uniform inspecting a road rehabilitation in progress. I parked the car and alighted sensing that the Comrade must be there since some security personnel were at hand to control the cheering supporters. Coming close I saw the man — surrounded by taller well-dressed men and women —as he was taking notes and giving directives to the foreign contractor executing the project. Again driving towards Ikpoba Hill by Ramat Park days later to keep an appointment with the immigration service I overtook the executive car of the former executive Governor moving slowly with little or no security and siren!

As one made academically in Benin City I still see the ancient city as my second home. What happens there interests me more than whatever happens in my ancestral home of Ihiala in Anambra state.
Last weekend the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) held its two-day national convention at the Eagles Square in Abuja. One of the official positions that was supposed to be contested for was that of the national party chairmanship. The former Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former Governor of Edo State, was literally forced to accept the fact that he was no longer needed as Chairman given the hardened positions of the Tinubuists who had all along insisted on change of leadership. At the convention there was a ‘consensus’ candidate, Adams Oshiomhole, who emerged expectedly as the new party Chairman.

Long before the convention took place Oshiomhole was ‘elected’ by the top hierarchy of the ruling party including the President himself. So it was not unexpected that the Comrade from Edo State would carry the day. Weeks and days prior to the convention a couple of ‘opponents’ aspiring for the chairmanship post had started withdrawing from the race one after the other — having seen obviously the clear handwriting of power forces on the wall! Comrade Adams was therefore ‘coronated’ at the Eagles Square to the surprise of no one!

And now that the ‘coronation’ long foretold had taken place officially with the swearing-in held last Monday the APC apparatchiks would be looking up for a new era with a strong man of moral force in charge of political proceedings at 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja. Oshiomhole’s choice could go a long way in strenghtening the electoral fortunes of the ruling party ahead of the crucial general elections slated for early next year. But while his selection was good for the struggling party in power how he goes about resolving the problems of leadership and followership trailing the party that unseated the PDP and the then incumbent President Jonathan three odd years ago remains to be seen.

The presidenrtial poll of February 2019 announces itself in the horizon as a make or mar electoral ‘war’ given the strong opposition from different quarters — opposition to both Buharism and inherent failures in the system. Talk about the ebbing anti-graft war, the issues of insecurity, economic acrobatic dance, violation of human rights, de-marketing of our nation, increasing unemployment, instigating of disunity among the people as well as the acute hunger and poverty in the land.

Comrade Oshiomhole has got a hard task ahead of him. And we know he appreciates what awaits him in a party unable to manage itself and share among members the ‘spoils’ of office! The former Chairman Oyegun was shown the way out because of his divisive politics and apparent incompetence. His inability to reconcile various factions and differences and foster unity in the party must have been his greatest undoing. But with Adams in command APC could still find its political rhythm and confound its many critics. The descent to fascism must be halted and empty sloganeering avoided!

While Comrade Oshiomhole could be said to have succeeded in Edo state as Governor for eight memorable years there is a lot of difference between executive power and the powers of party chairmanship. Between Abuja and Benin city, therefore, there is a whole lot of differences in terms of federal presence, infrastructural development and fiscal revenue. While the Edo state capîtal city is proud of her cultural heritage dating back centuries the federal capital territory could boast of its glamour, modernity and presence of the federal executive, legislative and judicial authorities. Benin city could as well brandish its academic and traditional greatness with historic monuments. Oshiomhole must have since appreciated since relocating to Abuja the two different worlds as he navigates the uncharted waters of politics Nigeriana.
Indeed, all things being equal, Oshiomhole could make a good Chairman given his political pedigree. Yet, there is bound to be challenges. While we wish him hard luck as he engages the opposition within and without the ruling party the renegades and other outside forces working hard to see President Buhari eased out of office next February would be watching very closely his moves and decisions; how he plays the politics of survival for the ruling party. Positioning or re-positioning the APC coalition for more power conquest countrywide would not be a tea party but many are convinced that  Oshiomhole has what it takes to make it happen.

Comrade Oshiomhole’s earnest quest for national recognition and higher service must have paid dividends with his recent ‘promotion’. He would expectedly deploy his sharp tongue, experience and no-nonsense attitude towards a better and winning ruling party but with the general elections months away he would have a tough task challenging the odds and conquering same! While his bluntless and fearlessness could be an advantage his stewardship in Edo state spoke volume of his determination to make a difference in the lives of the poor masses.

The newly-minted APC national Chairman was not loved by every Edo son and daughter during his mini-revolution in Edo state. His critics (including some of his disgruntled former aides) had accused him of high-handedness, arrogance and Solomonic demonstration of omniscience! Rather than diminish his stature however the criticisms seemed to have emboldened him to seek for higher responsibility at the centre. He made name for himself in Edo state as an excellent Governor but as party Chairman he is bound to control more forces and yield to certain rigid decisions.

Conclusively we can offer an unsolicited advice to the new Chairman: for you to succeed in your new position of powr and influence you must be wary of the antics of a failed Governor like Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the meddlesome godfather like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

SOC Okenwa
[email protected]

The Media As The Final Hope Of Wrongly Accused Suspects Paraded By The Nigerian Police By Banjo Damilola

Those that were arrested with him got released but he did not have the money so he remained in custody. He was paraded, shabbily prosecuted and for the warped judicial system we have, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He ended up in Kirikiri Prison before LEDAP, an advocacy NGO, got an appeal court to upturn the earlier judgment and acquit him, after 16 long years. His childhood, gone! His youthful years, wasted! All because he could not pay the bail ransom.

I grew up watching crime fighters, a television programme that shows people who had been arrested by the police for different alleged criminal offenses. For some of these people, what they purportedly stole were so ridiculous; Tin Tomatoes, Instant Noodles and similar food items.

Every Saturday, my brothers and I would watch as these people are being paraded and we would always pass comments. “This one is even lazy. He stole noodles. Ordinary noodles”. We would even joked that they should be tried by Sharia Law which meant that their hands should be amputated so that they would not steal again. Innocently, we had concluded that those suspects were indeed criminals. How could they not be? The police had caught them and they were showing them on the television. They must be criminals!

Three years ago, I became part of those who fed similar content to people in their various homes, including impressionable children like I was some years back. June 2016, I was sent to cover a police press briefing at the command in Ikeja. It was my first assignment covering police press briefing. The police had made some arrests and wanted to show off. On that day, it was an alleged notorious kidnap kingpin, Felix, who had been caught. Felix and supposed members of his kidnapping gang had been evading arrest which meant their eventual arrest seem a thing to celebrate and used as Public Relations for the dented image of the Nigeria Police.

I was at the suspect parade exercise and the green horn I was latched on to the event. I mean, bad news sells and this was as bad as it could get in reporting crimes in the city of Lagos. It was ‘good’ story for me as a young journalist and I didn’t think of it as PR for the police. I was simply happy to write the story of this notorious kidnapper who had just been arrested and would be “sent to court after investigation was concluded”, according to the then Lagos state Commissioner of Police.

What happened to Felix’ case? I did not follow up to know. I was new at the job and I’ve just been introduced to one of the ways to get content for my medium. I didn’t know I was supposed to follow up on the case, so I didn’t bother.

However, with the years came experience. I became wiser and more circumspect of this illegal activity. I follow up on the paraded suspects as much as I could. When Evans the alleged kidnapper was paraded, I followed up and still following up. But it took a sad story of a young boy whose life was destroyed by the police to come to the awakening that the Nigerian Police cannot be trusted and specifically, that not all those paraded as criminals are indeed criminals. Some of them are just poor people who could not pay for bail— which is supposed to be free.

Last year, I did a story of an eighteen year old boy who was arrested by the police on his way from football field and went from football enthusiast to a murderer. His parents could not pay the ransom they were demanding for his bail. Those that were arrested with him got released but he did not have the money so he remained in custody. He was paraded, shabbily prosecuted and for the warped judicial system we have, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He ended up in Kirikiri Prison before LEDAP, an advocacy NGO, got an appeal court to up turn the earlier judgment and acquit him, after 16 long years. His childhood, gone! His youthful years, wasted! All because he could not pay the bail ransom.

One thing has become obvious, this ignoble act of the police keeps festering because the media have become an enabler in legitimizing and stamping mere suspects as criminals. The press are always quick to blast the affirmative headlines? ‘Police nabs two notorious cultists in Ikorodu’, the headlines would scream after these parades.

During these parades, the CP is left to feel like an island of knowledge. The questions are regulated by ‘crime reporters’. As a newbie in the fold, you’re told questions not to ask so you don’t ‘embarrass’ yourself but in actual sense what they want to avoid is the newbie asking questions that would put the CP in bad light or make him actually think of his actions as the leader of a group entrusted with the safety of a state.

I was once called a ‘baby journalist’ by an old reporter who felt I have not blended well because I asked the question that the veteran ‘crime reporters’ would ordinarily not ask. I had used a video of the question on my platform and it went viral because it was the question that the people would love for the CP to answer.

The pockets of press associations on different beats are many of the time, the organs used to surpass press freedom. As new journalist to a beat, the association would not readily accept you in. They don’t want an outsider poking into their business. Crime reporters are the worse! We— journalists— talk about them in hush voices and in quiet fora where we know no one would judge us.

Recently, I was in a training that had reporters from across the country and the comments about crime reporters was nothing but awful. Second to them are those at the National Assembly, safe for one or two reporters who would not conform, these ones are not even considered  ‘bonafide’ National Assembly correspondents because they would report things the association have been paid to kill. I covered the judiciary for a while and it was the same thing. The association never allowed me in… Bunch of story killers, they are!

In a society like Nigeria where the judiciary is encumbered with so many technicalities and delay, the media is the last hope of the masses. The media should be the place where the masses know that their matters would be brought to the fore and by that instance gain the needed attention but if we keep pushing the narratives of the oppressors, where lies the hope of Jimoh, a 26 year old transport worker who was labeled a criminal and shown to the world as one?

If we must report the charade called ‘suspect parade’ then as journalists, we must tell all the stories. In fact, we should elevate the story of those suspects who would not keep quiet even when their integrity has been soiled by men of the Nigerian Police. We should put our cameras on them and let the world hear them defend themselves against the CP’s accusations. We should follow up on their stories; were they charged to court or held at ransom to be set free? Were they diligently prosecuted and their case thrown out because the IPO would not show up in court. Were they found guilty or acquitted of the offenses they were paraded for? And when we gather these information, do we just say “eeeyah, poor man” and move on or we also report the events after the illegal parade?

The media need to act with the interest of the masses at heart because that is public interest.

Banjo writes from Lagos and can be reached on Twitter; @RealBanjo or email: [email protected] 

Harvest Time At EFCC? By Uche Ugboajah

If you are an avid social media follower, one of the sneering comments from those suspected to have been engaged to hound the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, a police commissioner, is one that portrays him as incapable of expressing himself. Although Magu would be the first to admit that he does not really enjoy facing the camera, the truth however is that he is lucid enough.

Even then, the EFCC chairman is a police officer, an excellent one at that. He is not a movie star! As a police officer he is trained in the art of bursting financial crimes. Those who have crossed his path, especially his colleagues and of course some thieving former governors—be they in the Senate or out of political office—can attest to his incredible ability in sniffing out a crime from afar. He is that good!

Perhaps, out of usual cynicism or orchestrated mischief, those decidedly against the fight against corruption in the land pretend not to see how effective Magu has become in his position as head of the anti-corruption agency, EFCC. Indeed, we had to wait for foreign nationals and international organizations to nudge us into the reality that we have in our hands a rare jewel leading the fight against graft from the front at EFCC.

Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, came around and applauded Magu as a “dogged fighter” who is doing a fantastic job and who in the last three years had recovered more money for the country than at any other time; Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president is effusive in his praise for the good work Magu is doing; George Opon Weah, the newly inaugurated president of Liberia, is negotiating with Nigeria to have EFCC to help his country to establish and mentor their own anti-corruption agency in the way Magu is doing wonders; the Commonwealth Africa Anti-corruption Agency has equally taken note of the exploits of the EFCC under Magu and therefore chose him to lead this very important group on the continent; and at the last African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, African leaders unanimously chose President Buhari to lead the line in the fight against corruption on the continent. Those close to the President gleaned that President Buhari openly admitted that his Addis Ababa honour came from the good performance of the EFCC chairman!

Is it not an indictment on the Senate that the man they claim on two occasions was unsuitable for the office of the EFCC chairman continues to draw accolades from home and abroad? Is the Senate really representing the Nigerian citizenry who on daily basis continue to see Ibrahim Magu as the new champion of the masses? Yes, it has to be because the poor, the hard-working and the ordinary citizen, bear the full brunt of the thievery going on in our country in the name of politics. And anyone who is seen to be fighting the dangerous battle of confronting the looters of our common patrimony like the EFCC chairman easily passes as a man of the people. Let allegedly corrupt politicians, especially in the Senate continue to whine; let them continue to sponsor counter-narratives against Magu, Nigerians are already seeing results of his dangerous assignment.

Make no mistakes about this, it is not only in the Senate that the daggers are out for the EFCC chairman. Even among President Buhari’s appointees, there are many who out of petty jealousy, rivalry and the frustrations of their own failure are questioning what this Magu has done to attract all the public support and endorsement. They are even wont to accuse the media of unnecessarily bloating Magu up without any verifiable achievements. What other achievements do these people want bigger than the fact that there seems to be a sense of normative shift in the conduct of public affairs in our country today?

There is equally a sense of action and consequences in the handling of public finance in our country now. The days when public officials treat and handle public funds as prebends are at least for now, gone. There is now this fear that the big eagle eye of the EFCC is watching and public servants and even private business people now know that they must conduct themselves in transparent and less opaque manner in all their financial transactions or risk being arrested and prosecuted. As a country reeling from the debilitating effects of past wanton looting of the economy, this is a significant milestone.

And talking about tangible and verifiable achievements, EFCC under Magu has earned all the praises being heaped on it. Over N738.9 billion of looted funds has been recovered in the last three years; 605 convictions have been secured; Magu recently completed a magnificent office complex for the EFCC, an architectural masterpiece which, Mrs. Farida Waziri, a former chairman, considered a big “shock”. And talking about convictions, cynics have questioned the quality of the convictions alleging that only pickpockets and petty fraudsters get convicted.

Although, it is not the duty of the EFCC to pass judgment but that of the courts, in the last month the EFCC has successfully prosecuted two former governors, Rev. Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, of Taraba and Plateau States respectively. The good Reverend is now serving a jail term of 14 years and his colleague, until his conviction, a serving senator of the Federal Republic, was jailed for 14 years. Interestingly, both Nyame and Dariye are of the ruling APC. Does that send any signal? Of course, those accusing Magu of going after only members of the opposition will not like that fact! Lest we forget, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike, and Mohammed Dakingari, former accountant general of Kebbi State, had earlier been convicted and sentenced to one month and 70 years, respectively.

In the weeks ahead, more convictions or acquittals may just come to us like the thief in the night just as Nyame’s and Dariye’s did. This is so because some of the corrupt cases involving high profile politicians have been slated for judgment. This might be a huge harvest time for the EFCC and the Nigerian people. Although President Buhari and indeed activists like Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Professor Akin Oyebode, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Femi Falana, Jiti Ogunye and civil society organizations have called out the judiciary to take its rightful place in the fight to save this country from the vice-like grip of corruption, I am told that there is nothing the judge can do when the prosecution cannot argue a strong case. And the prosecution can equally do nothing with a poorly investigated case.

It is interesting to know that Magu personally investigated the cases of the two convicted former governors, Nyame and Dariye. He also investigated many of their other colleagues hiding away within the sanctuary of the Senate. Once again, I am told he is a crack detective, highly respected in the profession abroad. Some people in the Senate already have this strategic information and have allegedly sworn that Magu can only be confirmed as substantive chairman of the EFCC over their dead bodies, to use that weather-beaten cliché. You now know why!

*Ugboajah, a public policy analyst, wrote from Abuja.