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Diva dearest

Diva dearest

My Diva Dearest,

As I drive home, my mind is constantly
hoping you are asleep. I cannot withstand another moonlight argument. I
would rather not quicken my heart tonight; I just want to go to sleep
and wake up for work in the morning unnoticed – if possible.

Don’t bother about dinner; I already bought
myself some food. How can I forget to? I’ve been doing it for months
now. I remember the night you told me to get my own dinner. “I already
did my nails. How do you expect me to hold a knife?” you said. I really
didn’t care that you weren’t an excellent cook; it’s that you didn’t
even want to try. That is what bothered me. You sent the cook away, and
you still haven’t found the time to employ a new one. Contrary to what
you think, not everyone can survive on lime and water as you do. A
filling meal every now and then, whether you cooked or ordered it,
would be nice. But not to worry – tonight, I bought myself some food
like you said.

I hope you remembered to feed our son, that
poor boy. Last week, the nanny didn’t arrive on time. You said you
couldn’t wash his bum. “I can’t touch shit. It’s baby wipes or
nothing.” Those were your exact words. How long did it take to find the
wipes? Oh yeah! 30 minutes. After all, that’s not so long, is it? I
wonder what would have happened if there were no more wipes.

I better not forget my allergy medication
tonight. I cannot afford another congested chest. I will put it on my
to-do list: buy a new vacuum cleaner. That is the only way you know how
to clean, right? “Be grateful,” you say. At least you sweep. What are
machines for, anyway? But since the vacuum cleaner broke last week, you
haven’t swept. The dust is driving me crazy, and you know I’m allergic.
I have given you money to replace it but you still haven’t found the
time between gossiping and drinking. I will be in serious trouble if i
don’t find my pills, because I know you cannot walk to the drug store.

“My shoes aren’t made for walking” you
said. Those same shoes you broke my bank account to buy. You were ready
to let hell loose that day if I didn’t allow you get the shoes. “All
the divas have at least one pair of these red-soled heels,” you said.
You know I could never say no to you, though you conveniently didn’t
tell me then that the shoes weren’t made for walking. Of what use is a
pair of shoes you cannot walk in?

Never mind, I can have the steward get the
drugs on his way over tomorrow. That reminds me, I have decided that
this is the last time I will address this issue. When my friends come
over, the way you act has to change. I appreciate that you can be one
of the boys and hold your own with tequila shots but I disapprove of
the way you flirt with them. It embarrasses me. Honey, in case you
don’t know, they talk about it all the time, and they aren’t enticed,
they are appalled and the same goes for me.

My darling diva, your drinking ability is
no longer interesting; it has become old. Now all you do is drink and
pretend to be cleaning. Don’t worry about the chores. What do we have a
help for? I would prefer you got a job instead. I really am getting
tired of spending on those fancy jewels. You say you are into fashion –
is there no job opening for you somewhere fashionable? Or when you say
you’re into fashion, you mean all you do is buy fashion items. I enjoy
sharing my resources with you, but you never attempt to contribute. All
you do is acquire and amass. And with my hard-earned money.

It makes perfect sense now. When I married
you, I was attracted to your taste in fashion. Your poise was like no
one’s I had ever come across. You could do no wrong in my eyes. I
especially loved that you had eyes for the better things in life. What
I did not know was that you had no aspirations. All you wanted to do
was stay home and drink. You blame our son for your drinking. “He
ruined my body,” you say. “Alcohol is the only way I can fight the
depression.” At this rate, I’m sure we won’t have any other kids. Our
boy is a blessing and if you could just stop resenting him, maybe you
would see it too. That there are more important things in life than
your red-soled shoes and your diamond rings. There is love and if you
don’t have that, then you have nothing.

When you come home one day and see your
belongings neatly packed on the front porch and discover that your keys
can no longer open the locks, know that this means it is no longer all
about you.

With Love,

Your Husband

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ARTICLE OF FAITH:The gospel of the kingdom of God

ARTICLE OF FAITH:The gospel of the kingdom of God

The gospel preached
in the churches today is false. It is different from the one Jesus
preached. Today’s gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for our
sins. But since Jesus and his disciples preached the gospel before his
death, that cannot be the true gospel.

The gospel
preached today is Paul’s gospel, “the gospel of the grace of God.”
(Acts 20:24) That gospel says: “Rejoice: Jesus died for our sins.” (1
Cor 15:1-4) But Jesus and his disciples did not say anybody would die
for our sins. They preached a gospel which said: “Repent: the kingdom
of God is at hand.” (Mk 1:15)

Paul never heard
Jesus preach. Therefore, he displays unpardonable ignorance about
Jesus’ doctrine. Bereft of references to Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s
epistles focus exclusively on his crucifixion. (1 Cor 2:2) But the good
news of the true gospel is not about Jesus’ death and resurrection. It
is about the great reward God has prepared in heaven for the righteous
as consolation for the vicissitudes of life. (Mt 5:11-12)

Life or death

Paul says: “If
Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty.” (1 Cor 15:14)
However, Jesus does not make his resurrection central to the gospel. In
one of his stories, which Paul apparently knew nothing about, Abraham
says: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Lk 16:31) Even before
Calvary, Zacchaeus received the gospel and Jesus acknowledged his
salvation. (Lk 19:8-10)

The gospel is a
call to emulate the exemplary life of Jesus. Jesus came that we may
have abundant life. (Jn 10:10) Therefore, those who followed him
originally did so because of his life. But thanks to Paul, many who
follow Jesus now do so because of bogus claims about his death.

Jesus says: “Not
everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of
heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21)
Only those who do the will of God will inherit his kingdom, and not
those who believe Jesus died for their sins. (1 Cor 15:3)

Two different gospels

Christians must
reject Paul’s gospel and embrace only the gospel Jesus preached. John
warns: “Whoever does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have
God. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not
receive him.” (2 Jn 1:9-10)

The gospel of the
kingdom says eternal life is costly and not God’s gift. (Lk 14:25-33;
Rm 6:23) It is about calling sinners to repentance (Mt 9:13); and not
about the “grace of God that brings salvation.” (Tit 2:11) It is about
believers thirsting for righteousness (Mt 5:6); and not about God
justifying the ungodly. (Rm 4:5)

It is about hating
our life in this world (Jn 12:25); and not about becoming rich through
Jesus’ impoverishment. (2 Cor 8:9) It is about becoming God’s children
by doing God’s works (Mt 5:44-45); and not about faith without works.
(Eph 2:8-9)

In Jesus’ gospel,
atonement for sins is our responsibility; we choose to be saved. (Mt
16:24-25) But in Paul’s gospel, atonement is God’s responsibility; we
are predestined to salvation. (Rm 8:29-30) With Jesus, we carry our
crosses. (Mk 8:34) With Paul, Jesus carries it for everybody (Gal 6:14)

With Jesus,
forgiveness comes through repentance and the readiness to forgive
others. (Mt 6:14-15) With Paul, it comes through the redemptive blood
of Jesus by which all sinners have been forgiven all trespasses. (Col
1:14; 2:13)

With Jesus,
freedom from sin comes as we abide in his word of truth. (Jn 8:31-32)
But with Paul, Christians are automatically free from sin because we
died with Christ. (Rm 6:6-7)

Everlasting gospel

Some maintain
Paul’s gospel is a post-resurrection dispensational replacement for
Jesus’ gospel. However, Jesus said the gospel of the kingdom will be
preached as a witness to all nations until the very end. (Mt 24:14)
Jesus did not introduce Paul’s doctrine of blood-atonement on his
resurrection. His directive remained that “repentance and forgiveness
of sins” should be preached in his name.” (Lk 24:47)

In Acts, Peter
never preaches sacrifice, propitiation or blood-atonement. He never
associates Jesus’ death with the remission of sins. (Acts 2:37-38) He
said the righteousness of God comes by works. (Acts 10:34-35) However,
Paul insists God imputes righteousness discretionally apart from works.
(Rm 4:5-6)

In effect, Paul’s
gospel is false. It merely tests those who would embrace Jesus’ true
gospel. The true gospel empties the churches while the false gospel
fills them. The one offers a narrow gate and a difficult way that leads
to life; while the other offers a wide gate and a broad way that leads
to destruction. (Mt 7:13-14)

articleoffaith@234next.com

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FORENSIC FORCE: Now that I am president

FORENSIC FORCE: Now that I am president

Now that I am
president, I am thoroughly at a loss on what to do. For starters, how
can I possibly pick only 40 names out of over 300 that are lobbying to
be ministers? I dashed to Obudu to get some work done, but they all
followed me there. Madam wants her 35 percent; ‘Shambolic’ has some
names; the party is angling for a few portfolios; current ministers
want to be retained; yet every day, more CVs flood in.

To worsen matters,
the country is broke. I had no idea the rent of Aso Rock would be this
steep. True, I asked them to renew my tenancy, but did they have to
empty the treasury? I know that a substantial amount of ‘agency’ fees
‘flew-by-night’ to private pockets. No wonder, they are already talking
of an ‘exploratory team’ for 2015. They are all patting themselves in
the back, happy with my ‘overwhelming’ mandate. I wonder, between me
and them — who really won? They gave me the verdict, but took the
vaults — leaving me to run the country on zero.

Now that I am
president, what do I tell the 30 million youth who have no jobs and
have little prospects of finding any soon? There was a proposal that
the funds in the excess crude account be set aside to create jobs and
stimulate the economy. Before anything concrete could emerge, those
wolves, the governors descended on me with demands that we share the
money. Now the money has disappeared, there is nothing to show for it.
No wonder so many of them defied political logic and staged stunning
re-election shows. I hope Nigerians do not begin to ask too many
questions.

On the campaign
trail, I promised to revive the education sector when elected. Now that
the deed is done, how do I begin to crack this monstrous conundrum? Not
a single university in Nigeria is among the list of the first 5,000
universities in the world. I remember we approved the opening of about
nine new federal universities and ordered the release of N1.5 billion
to each. With what I now know of civil servants, I suspect that very
little of that amount will actually go to support the establishment of
the new universities. Even then, where will we find the qualified
people to teach in these schools and pay them competitive wages?

And talking of
wages, how do I explain to workers that though I approved the minimum
wage bill of N18,000, government cannot possibly pay them that amount
without sacking thousands? I am told that the entire oil income for
this year cannot pay workers’ salaries. Where are the funds to embark
on capital projects? This year’s budget commits N2.5 trillion to
recurrent expenditure, but we need to borrow money to finance even
that. I shudder to imagine what will happen if the price of oil falls
below $80 a barrel. Can’t we find money elsewhere to pay these huge
bills? That Aganga chap, what has he been doing?

Now that reminds me
of the promise I made to diversify our foreign exchange sources from
oil. But what does that really mean? Looking at things from this side,
where do I go? Is it to agriculture? But what have we put in place to
stimulate the agricultural sector and improve productivity? Do our
farmers have the capacity to produce food that will actually meet
international standards? We approved N200 billion for the sector, most
of which has been disbursed, but local food production has not gone up;
the sector has not created jobs, and we still import rice worth over $2
billion annually. And some of the beneficiaries of the fund were
prominent in my campaign…

And talking of
prominent personalities in my campaign, old man OBJ has proved rather
useless in the larger scale of things. He couldn’t even return his
daughter to the Senate, but now wants me to appoint her a minister or
ambassador. Meanwhile, I hope the details of the meeting between the
‘rascal’ and the ‘drunken fisherman’ never make it to public domain.
But did I offer too much? Can I really grant all the demands he made to
seal our pact?

In the meantime,
how do I tackle corruption, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, and
manage inflation? How do I improve power, education, health, public
infrastructure, revive industries, diversify the economy and unify the
country? When do I remove the subsidy on petroleum products, raise
taxes and increase VAT?

Now that I am president.

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Physician, heel thyself

Physician, heel thyself

Pittsburgh USA.
It was morning rounds in the hospital and the entire medical team stood
in the patient’s room. A test result was late, and the patient, a
friendly, middle-age man, jokingly asked his doctor whom he should yell
at.

Turning and pointing at the patient’s nurse, the doctor replied, “If you want to scream at anyone, scream at her.”

This vignette is
not a scene from the medical drama “House,” nor did it take place 30
years ago, when nurses were considered subservient to doctors. Rather,
it happened just a few months ago, at my hospital, to me.

As we walked out
of the patient’s room I asked the doctor if I could quote him in an
article. “Sure,” he answered. “It’s a time-honored tradition — blame
the nurse whenever anything goes wrong.”

I felt stunned
and insulted. But my own feelings are one thing; more important is the
problem such attitudes pose to patient health. They reinforce the
stereotype of nurses as little more than candy stripers, creating a
hostile and even dangerous environment in a setting where close
cooperation can make the difference between life and death. And while
many hospitals have anti-bullying policies on the books, too few see it
as a serious issue.

Today nurses are
highly trained professionals, and in the best situations we form a team
with the hospital’s doctors. If doctors are generals, nurses are a
combination of infantry and aides-de-camp.

After all,
patients are admitted to hospitals because they need round-the-clock
nursing care. We administer medications, prep patients for tests,
interpret medical jargon for family members and double-check treatment
decisions with the patient’s primary team. Nurses are also the
hospital’s front line: We sound the alert if a patient takes a serious
turn for the worse.

But while most
doctors clearly respect their colleagues on the nursing staff, every
nurse knows at least one, if not many, who don’t.

Indeed, every
nurse has a story like mine, and most of us have several. A nurse I
know, attempting to clarify an order, was told, “When you have ‘M.D.’
after your name, then you can talk to me.” A doctor dismissed another’s
complaint by simply saying, “I’m important.”

When a doctor
thoughtlessly dresses down a nurse in front of patients or their
families, it’s not just a personal affront, it’s an incredible
distraction, taking our minds away from our patients, focusing them
instead on how powerless we are.

That said, the
most damaging bullying is not flagrant and does not fit the stereotype
of a surgeon having a tantrum in the operating room. It is passive,
like not answering pages or phone calls, and tends toward the subtle:
condescension rather than outright abuse, and aggressive or sarcastic
remarks rather than straightforward insults.

And because
doctors are at the top of the food chain, the bad behavior of even a
few of them can set a corrosive tone for the whole organisation. Nurses
in turn bully other nurses, attending physicians bully
doctors-in-training, and experienced nurses sometimes bully the newest
doctors.

Such an
uncomfortable workplace can have a chilling effect on communication
among staff. A 2004 survey by the Institute for Safe Medication
Practices found that workplace bullying posed a critical problem for
patient safety: rather than bring their questions about medication
orders to a difficult doctor, almost half the health care personnel
surveyed said they would rather keep silent. Furthermore, 7 percent of
the respondents said that in the past year they had been involved in a
medication error in which intimidation was at least partly responsible.

The result, not surprisingly, is a rise in avoidable medical errors, the cause of perhaps 200,000 deaths a year.

Concerned about
the role of bullying in medical errors, the Joint Commission, the
primary accrediting body for American health care organisations, has
warned of a distressing decline in trust among hospital employees and,
with it, a decline in the quality of medical outcomes.

What can be done
to counter hospital bullying? For one thing, hospitals should adopt
standards of professional behavior and apply them uniformly, from the
housekeepers to nurses to the president of the hospital. And nurses and
other employees need to know they can report incidents confidentially.

Offending
parties, whether doctors or nurses, would be required to undergo
civility training, and particularly intransigent doctors might even
have their hospital privileges — that is, their right to admit patients
— revoked.

But to be truly
effective, such change can’t be simply imposed bureaucratically. It has
to start at the top. Because hospitals tend to be extremely
hierarchical, even well meaning doctors tend to respond much better to
suggestions and criticisms from people they consider their equals or
superiors. I’ve noticed that doctors otherwise prone to bullying will
tend to become models of civility when other doctors are around.

In other words,
alongside uniform, well-enforced rules, doctors themselves need to set
a new tone in the hospital corridors, policing their colleagues and
letting new doctors know what kind of behavior is expected of them.

This shouldn’t be
hard: Most doctors are kind, well-intentioned professionals, and I
rarely have a problem talking openly with them. But unless we can
change the overall tone of the workplace, doctors like the one who
insulted me in front of my patient will continue to act with impunity.

I wish I could
say otherwise, but after being publicly slapped down, I will think
twice before speaking up around him again. Whether that was his
intention, or whether he was just being thoughtlessly callous, it’s
definitely not in my patients’ best interest.

(Theresa Brown,
an oncology nurse, is a contributor to The Times’ Well blog and the
author of “Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything
in Between.”)

© 2011 The New York Times

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At last, a wealth fund for Nigeria

At last, a wealth fund for Nigeria

The passing of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority Bill into law by the Senate opens a new vista in the country’s quest to achieve transparency in revenue management. After several years of pillaging of the country’s resources and with little to show for the huge accruals over the years, the passage of the Bill gives a flicker of hope.

Indeed, Nigeria is behind in the setting up of the fund as the list of 36 countries with wealth funds will show. Kuwait, an OPEC member like Nigeria set up its own fund in 1953. Nigeria and Angola are the only OPEC member countries that do not have a thriving fund. As Africa’ topmost oil producer and the seventh largest in the world, this is inexcusable.

Given the contention that has followed the operation of the Excess Crude Account (ECA), setting up the Sovereign Wealth Fund may be a more creative way to tackle the profligacy and indiscipline that has trailed the management of the Nigerian economy since independence. The ECA has been depleted and government continues to make withdrawals without accountability.

However, with the SWF, this may change as the Bill provides for how the revenue is generated, and how the funds so generated are allocated to the three main investment options namely the Future Generation Funds, the Infrastructure Fund and the Stabilisation Fund.

The Future Generation Fund is the portion kept aside for the unborn generation so that something is left for their future use, while the primary function of the Infrastructure Fund is investing in critical sectors of the economy. This should also attract investment from other sovereign wealth funds. The purpose of the Stabilisation Fund is to provide a buffer during lean years.

While we await the president’s assent to the Bill, a number of key issues have to be considered in appointing the fund’s management team. For one, given the critical state of the country, a sensitive institution such as this should not be seen as an avenue for political patronage. Investment decisions should be devoid of those sentiments that detract from the national interest and so management of the fund should be by individuals and professionals with proven record of competence and integrity.

While care may be taken to reflect the geo-political mix of the country, this consideration should however not override competence. The search for capable Nigerians should be expanded to the Diaspora.

It is also important that the country subscribe to the highest global standard in the management of the fund.

Transparency is key. The country must adopt the Santiago Principles, which form the global benchmark for sovereign wealth funds. The principle monitors three important areas – legal framework, institutional framework and governance framework, and investment policies and risk management.

No aspect of the fund’s investment should be shrouded in secrecy so that Nigerians can follow-up on how its processes work. Compliance with the regulatory and disclosure requirements, as well as risk management of the funds so invested will save the country embarrassment that has dogged other public agencies and intervention efforts in the past.

One way to do this may be to give periodic state-of-the-fund briefings, detailing investment destinations and on what instruments. This would minimise abuse.

Some Nigerians may be justified in viewing this new effort with skepticism. What will make the difference and win the cynics over will be the sincerity and openness with which this fund is run.
Nigerians are watching.

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EXCUSE ME: Of Lagos heat and random insomnia

EXCUSE ME: Of Lagos heat and random insomnia

Lagos heat makes
you feel like waterleaf left in the sun for hours. Elections are over,
NEPA has resumed toying with power supply and you can no longer sleep,
as the air becomes as hot as a blacksmith’s bellows. At night when the
generator hiccups to silence and the whirling fan blades slowly let the
heat slap you, the counting of sheep to keep insomnia away begins. You
tend to figure out the fragility of the filament of unlighted bulbs.
Because your sleeping clothes now feel like nylon glued to your skin,
you toss and turn in a grand ball dance with relentless mosquitoes.
When you cannot read or watch the news and your BB has glowed out, you
begin to dwell on the aftermath of recent occurrences, both far and
near in zigzag formation: thoughts like Obama, Osama and trauma.

Your thoughts are
random because you are the audience to the Orchestra of the Anopheles.
If the current administration solves the power problem, comatose
industries will wake up while you sleep at night, the unemployment rate
will be halved, the crime surge will dwindle and Lagos’ heat will not
be anything to write home about. But you will stop before you drive
yourself insane with daydreaming at night. If what Bush couldn’t do in
eight years, Obama did in 40 minutes, how come we can’t have such good
luck in the power sector? Like, what kleptomaniac generals and thieving
politicians couldn’t do in 51 years, a shoeless boy who became a
president will do in six months? The heat is getting to you, driving
you to lofty insanity.

If a country really
gets what it deserves, yours deserves some good luck. You look to a
positive future because the impossible is beginning to happen around
the world, and something positive might happen to Nigeria too, like
constant power supply to slake the Lagos heat. The word Lagos makes you
wonder how much Osama paid to the omoniles and area boys when he bought
that land in Abbottabad. And if the building was already there, how
much commission did the real estate agent make — because a Lagos agent
would have made a killing, literally. One hundred years rent in advance
with 50 percent agency/legal fee — cash please.

But your mind has
moved on to other things, like at what point did Obama tell Michelle
about Operation Geronimo? And what was her reaction — did she pick up
the phone, call her best friend and go, “Girrrrllll, you won’t believe
what my husband is up to… let’s meet for coffee and I will gist you,”
like some people you know would have done? Or was she caught by
surprise like the rest of the world, which you know could earn Obama a
good couch in the doghouse — president of America, her foot.

Your mind will
return home to your own president and his wife. Like what does
President Jonathan’s wardrobe look like now? What is the afterlife of
those various traditional outfits he wore during his campaign? Will he
auction them at some point to raise money for charitable organisations
so they can afford 7KVA generators and diesel? Is it President Jonathan
who will solve our power problem and finally put it to rest like Obama
did Osama? And by the way, what pet project will the first lady come up
with? Every Nigerian first lady has to have one, because they can’t
just sit at home all day complaining about NEPA. You would love to see
the Dame do something for the rural women who rallied round her,
something memorable like re-awakening Maryam Babangida’s Better Life
for Rural Women. Your leaders should continue from where others
stopped, that is how developed countries do it. Bush chased Osama and
Obama caught Osama — see how logical that is. Building on what is
already ‘on ground’ saves money and time. Your first lady should think
of how easy and time saving it would be for a woman to wake on Sunday
morning and discover that her face has already been smoothened by
layers of foundation and all she has to do is add a little pancake here
and there.

Talking about
facial beautification, now that Akala is no longer the governor of Oyo
State, how does that affect the cosmetic market and the price of Tura
cream and Shirley? The heat is gnawing at your senses now and the
mosquitoes are on their fifth concerto with blood filled throats.
Sleep, like the supply of constant power, is still a pipe dream.

In search of a mental cool spot, you find yourself in Obudu Cattle
Ranch and that makes you wonder why President Jonathan chose Obudu as
his after election cooling spot? Is Obudu going to be our Camp David in
the next eight years? Instead of counting sheep, you are now counting a
thousand cattle in the dewy hills of Obudu. Gradually you glide into a
dreamland, that peaceful corner that gives you hope for your country in
the face of hopelessness. Obudu morning dew, like an opened deep
freezer when there is full light, welcomes you and the Lagos heat
becomes bearable even though your eyes are wide open to welcome a new
dawn.

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Much ado about a unity government

Much ado about a unity government

As the Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Goodluck
Jonathan, work to give shape to the next federal administration, one of
the issues that have occupied public discourse is the possible
participation of politicians from other parties in the new government.

This would not
necessarily disguise the massive lead that the PDP has over the other
political groupings in the country as shown by the last election.
Matter of fact, it is to be desired that the president will not limit
his appointments to only people from his party, as the country sorely
needs the best in manpower that it can get at this point in its
development. It is apparent that a large number of these skilled people
would not be members of the PDP, despite the large size of its umbrella.

But the arguments
of those advocating a government inclusive of opposition politicians,
often grandly called a government of national unity, are that it will
foster a sense of togetherness among politicians and reduce the
propensity to make mischief. After all, as an American president
succinctly explained this arrangement, it is better to keep your
opponents in your tent and have them pissing out than have them outside
pissing in.

Of course, more
critical Nigerians are likely to see the call for a unity government by
some politicians as little more than a self-serving move to ensure they
enjoy the benefits that can be acquired by holding public office. This
situation is reinforced by the fact that some of the political parties
actively worked for Mr Jonathan’s victory at the polls – either by
choosing not to present candidates against him and campaigning
energetically for his election. They will expect the president to
recognise their efforts and reward some of their members with public
appointments – that is, after all, part of the political game.

There is, however,
a sense that Nigerian politicians have a warped idea of what a unity
government really should be and, despite the shrillness of its
leadership from time to time, the Action Congress of Nigeria appears to
have its heart in the right place in its loud opposition to membership
of any such government being put together by Mr Jonathan.

Unity governments
are ideally put together in times of national crisis – to make sure all
political voices speak as one against identified threats, be they local
or international. There could also be such a government in a situation
where the ruling party does not have sufficient numbers to drive its
policies through and may, thus, be forced to operate within a
coalition, as is happening in the United Kingdom at present and in
India.

Even then, this type of government is often associated more with parliamentary systems than with presidential ones.

In any case, the
victory of Mr Jonathan and his vice president Namadi Sambo is emphatic
enough that they could govern without recourse to any other political
parties. As it happens, the PDP also enjoys a comfortable majority in
the National Assembly and should be able to get its programmes through
the legislature. So why does the PDP feel it must involve politicians
from other parties in governance when it is quite likely that it cannot
satisfy the appetite for high office among its own members?

Then there are the
other considerations that drive the argument for unity government:
there are the pleas for so-called African magnanimity; there is also a
sense of the need to assuage guilt. In 2007, buffeted by cries of
stolen mandates amidst a contested election, the late president Umaru
Yar’Adua felt driven to bring in politicians from other parties,
especially the main opposition party at the time, the All Nigeria
Peoples Party (ANPP). Although the presidential candidate of that
party, Muhammadu Buhari, kicked against it, other leaders in the ANPP
overruled him and embraced Mr Yar’Adua’s offer.

On paper, a
national unity government should strengthen the polity. But it has the
perverse effect of weakening opposition, which is a critical part of a
democracy. As one politician rightly said, if politicians want a
government of one party, why do they contest elections on different
platforms in the first instance? Parties in hock to ruling parties
might lose their identity and vibrancy – and stand the risk of being
tarred with the brush of failure should the main party fail to deliver.

The PDP should bring in talented individuals from other parties if
it must. But, really, the party’s politicians should govern on their
own so that Nigerians can judge the party on the basis of their
competence and should they be found wanting, vote in another set of
politicians from another party, the next time around.

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Watery grave, murky law

Watery grave, murky law

After Osama bin Laden’s corpse was slipped into the North
Arabian Sea, the White House’s chief counterterrorism adviser declared that the
United States had buried him “in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and
practices.” According to a senior military official, the body was washed,
shrouded and dispatched with a funeral prayer.

Despite its best efforts, the U.S. government still has much to
learn about the intricacies of Muslim funerary law. Its strictures are more
nuanced, and perhaps also more flexible, than it imagined.

According to the Quran, the origins of burial stretch back to
the dawn of humanity. Cain, full of remorse after killing his brother, was
inspired by a ground-scratching raven to hide the naked corpse in the earth.
Islamic law insists on this ritual as the ideal one.

But medieval jurists did recognise that travellers and
merchants sometimes died at sea. Shafii, the founder of a Sunni school of law,
recommended that ships either keep the body on board until they could reach
land or sandwich it between two wooden slabs and tow it with a rope.

Other jurists prescribed different actions, depending on the
circumstances. If the ship was far from shore and the body began to decompose,
then it was permissible to deposit it in the sea, weighted with metal or stone
so that it would sink to the bottom. Jurists hoped that sailors, while lowering
the deceased, would turn his face toward Mecca. Releasing the corpse in a
floating coffin was also an option, if there was a good chance that it would
wash up on the shores of a Muslim country, where the body would receive last
rites on land.

In general, however, Shariah permits burial at sea only in
extraordinary circumstances. So some interpreters of Islamic law have rushed to
denounce what was done with bin Laden’s body. But the implication that bin
Laden deserved an ordinary Muslim burial doesn’t necessarily comply with that
law. Islamic jurists have always made important exceptions to burial rites,
depending on how the deceased lived and died.

Largely because of the exigencies of war, those who died on the
battlefield were traditionally not entitled to standard rites. In accordance
with Shariah, their corpses may be deposited in communal graves. There is no
need for prayers, or for washing or shrouding their bodies; immediately upon
death martyrs’ bodies are miraculously regenerated, and they receive silken
robes in paradise.

Medieval jurists also made exceptions for highway robbers,
violent rebels and unrepentant apostates, who were on occasion dismembered and
decapitated, their remains left on display. Shafii argued that just rulers
ought to treat the bodies of executed rebels respectfully and that they could
administer last rites. But many jurists disagreed, arguing that they were
undeserving of such honors.

These exceptions matter because bin Laden’s religious status is
a matter of contention among Muslims. On one end of the spectrum are Muslims
who consider him an outsider to Islam: if not quite an apostate, a terrorist
whose right to an official Muslim prayer is debatable at best. (In 2005 the
Islamic Commission of Spain essentially excommunicated Bin Laden, arguing that
he should not be treated as a Muslim.) They must find it as perplexing as I do
that the U.S. government granted the man it identified not as a Muslim, but as
a “mass murderer of Muslims,” the dubious honor of a quasi-Islamic funeral.

On the other end are Muslims who believe that bin Laden is now
enjoying the blessings of martyrdom. From a theological perspective, it matters
little to them how Americans on the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson disposed of
the corpse.

Which is all to say that bin Laden’s burial was doctrinally
irrelevant to some Muslims, and confusing to others. Most of the rest feel
uneasy. Perhaps the United States could not have avoided that. But a deeper
understanding of the history of Islam’s sacred law could have prevented us from
seeming so at sea.

(Leor Halevi, an
associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University, is the author of
“Muhammad’s Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society).”

© 2011 The New York Times

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DANFO CHRONICLES: Cursed are the peacemakers

DANFO CHRONICLES: Cursed are the peacemakers

People generally
avoid fights, especially in public transport. The idea of becoming a
spectacle, throwing lame punches while others watch in glee, makes most
people break out in sweat. But conductors are not like that.

They are, as a
rule, a quarrelsome lot though rarely do their rows come to blows. In
danfos, threats are usually thrown around like confetti, and on many
occasions I have seen shirts removed in readiness for combat – as two
gladiators prepare to slug it out – only for the contest to end in a no
show. Somehow, these things fizzle out without a punch.

Conductors have
come to seem like shadow boxers who enjoy the idea of a roforofo fight
more than the fight itself. They have an uncanny ability of knowing
when a hustle will require muscle, and they frequently withdraw from
the fray before that. But in the interim, you get to see a lot of
spectacle, a lot of noisy entertainment – if you like that sort of
thing. It reminds me of Shakespeare’s theory of life as a tale told by
an idiot: “full of sound and fury”, signifying nothing. Or in the
inimitable words of Fela, “na shakara.”

Once in a while,
however, you get the real deal. There is still “sound and fury” all
right, but there is also what the police might call an “attempt to
cause grievous bodily harm”. Such was the case that day at the Ojota
bus stop when our conductor took on the conductor of another bus that
rammed into us while we were slowing to a stop.

Now that I write
this, I realise how very rare are the moments when I have heard a
conductor’s name called aloud, either by the driver or anyone else. It
was always some crazy pseudonym or the generic, “ogbeniyi”, this
fellow. Immediately the accident happened, our conductor jumped down
and approached the other bus whose conductor was also spoiling for a
fight.

“I hope you know that the biggest fool has nothing on you, you and that your useless driver,” he said.

The other
conductor, a little older and a little fatter, removed his shirt and
announced to the gathering that, “it will never be good for anyone who
attempts to separate this fight. His generation till kingdom come shall
contain only imbeciles and never do wells. Cursed shall be the mouth
that says ‘stop’ and cursed shall be the hands that attempt to separate
us. This is a fight to the death and let death only be the referee.”

The crowd was taken
aback by the curse, and by the vehemence with which the man pronounced
the words, looking from one side of the gathering to the other while
rolling up his trouser legs. Our conductor added a postscript: “All of
you have heard. Anyone whose life is damaged should come between me and
this fool; anyone who is a bastard should intervene in this fight.”

By now, the buses
had emptied and some had gone on their way. Yet the crowd of onlookers
continued to grow. It was a real brawl, a roforofo fight; the two
conductors threw wild punches with few actually connecting, all the
while cursing like prostitutes.

The crowd cheered
every punch, even those that missed their targets, and every time
someone tried to intervene, he or she was quickly told of the curse
hanging over all peacemakers, and advised to desist.

This went on for a
long while and it soon began to get boring, as the steam seemed to have
gone out of the combatants. They clung to each other and wouldn’t let
go, breathing heavily. Suddenly, one of them, I think it was our
conductor, said, “But what kind of people are you? Are you people going
to watch us until we kill ourselves?”

The fatter conductor turned to us and begged, “Please separate us o. All curses have been withdrawn now and forever, I beg!”

The crowd burst into laughter and someone moved to end the drama.

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Nigerian sports heading for the rocks

Nigerian sports heading for the rocks

My interest in
genuine, functional and effective grassroots sports development, that
will provide a credible pyramid of athlete development, which in turn,
will guarantee the platform on which the values, skills and discipline
of sports can be used to prepare millions of Nigerian children, for
future leadership roles, will not be compromised by the special grace
of God.

As an informed
sports administrator, an educated/licensed coach and a father of
children, my conscience will not allow me be at peace if I sit on the
fence and watch sports in this great nation head for the rocks.

I have always
prayed to be part of the solution to problems confronting this
generation, especially in the area of sports. That is one of the
reasons why we started the Save Nigerian Sports Initiative, a few
months ago. We also initiated the WWW.FIFA2018WORLDCUP foundation, a
long term programme, designed to ensure that the FIFA World Cup trophy,
is won by Nigeria in 2018. It is not unlikely that we will be seen as
jokers but it does not really matter to us.

I have said again
and again in this column that we prefer to operate as the bush fire and
not as the charcoal fire. Those who are experienced and knowledgeable
are aware of the fact that the charcoal fire has more a lasting effect
than the bush fire. But because the charcoal fire starts burning
silently and slowly from the inside, unlike the bush fire that attracts
a lot of attention as soon as it starts, but soon fizzles out, the
unwise seem not to respect the power of the charcoal fire. But time
will tell.

It is time however
for us in Nigeria to accept the fact that we cannot continue to deceive
ourselves or allow some nondescripts individuals to keep on deceiving
us that sports is developing in this nation. Development, we are made
to understand is the process of changing and becoming larger, stronger
and more impressive, successful or advanced. It is also the art of
causing something or somebody to change positively and consistently. It
may therefore be appropriate, to imply that sports development is the
process of making sports in all its ramifications, become larger,
stronger, more impressive, successful and advanced. Sports development
is not all about age-falsification, cheating and winning-at-all-cost.

Unforgivable disservice

Nigerians, who are
genuinely involved in grassroots sports development at the
international level, know that Nigeria has become the laughing stock
when issues relating to sports development are discussed at
conferences. Our colleagues from Europe and other parts of the world
ridicule us by asking why and how we perform so well in age-grade
competitions but fail at the adult or senior cadre. The answer is
simple. We cheat.

The shameful and
painful aspect of this crime is that a lot of sports-loving Nigerians
are now absolutely indifferent to it since all they want to see or hear
happen, is that our team – football or athletics, has won.

While I agree with
those who have described such victories, like that recorded by the
so-called U-20 national football team in South Africa, as pyrrhic, I
make bold to add that it is poisonous and will not do all those
involved in such a crime any good.

I cannot belong to
an organization that has about 120 schools – from the nursery to the
University levels, where age grade sporting activities take place and
thousands of the students in these schools have the God-given
potentials to become great future stars, and shut my mouth or pretend
that all is well with the administration of age-grade sporting
activities in this great nation.

Never! It will not
only amount to a travesty, it will be an unforgivable disservice to
humanity. I will not be part of the goon squad, who are intentionally
depriving Nigerian children the opportunity to express themselves; the
opportunity to be prepared to serve this great nation and the
opportunity to become future champions.

Whereas sports is
used in other parts of the world to give millions of children the
opportunity to experience the thrills and excitement inherent in
sports; whereas it is being used to teach them about trust, respect and
self-confidence; whereas it is being used to teach them how to stay
safe, keep healthy and in some ways, stay alive; it is sad and indeed
mysterious, that the same cannot be confidently attributed to the ways
sports is being administered, managed and utilized in Nigeria.

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