MY SPEECH AT A MEETING OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS


WELCOME ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF CENTRE FOR PEACE ACROSS BORDERS (CePAB), UCHE WISDOM DURUEKE, AT THE CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS MEETING ON “MAKING 2015 GENERAL ELECTIONS VIOLENCE FREE AND CREDIBLE” HELD AT CePAB OFFICE, IKENEGBU LAYOUT, OWERRI, IMO STATE ON 17TH JANUARY 2015

Protocols:

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this very important meeting. The meeting is important because in about twenty-four days the 2015 general elections will start. On 14th February 2014, Nigerians will step out in their numbers to cast their votes for the candidates of their choice. The star election of the day is the presidential election.

CePAB has convened this meeting for two purposes, namely: to kick- start its “Vote Wisely Campaign” and to create an opportunity for civil society organizations in Imo State to articulate civil society response to the emerging challenge of conducting violence free and credible 2015 general elections. In this meeting, it is expected that as civil society organizations, we will critically and in an impartial manner address contentious issues that might affect the credibility of the forthcoming general elections or trigger crisis such as the issue of distribution of the permanent voters’ cards, the need for politicians to launder or mind their language and engage in issue based campaigns, etc.

We should not just be preparing for election observation activities. We should get very active in pre-election activities. It is part of our calling to proactively empower the voiceless and to help transform society. If you have been monitoring the on-going politicking in the country, you would have noticed the increasing ‘do or die’ stance of our politicians and political parties. We should not sit back and watch the politicians heat up the polity in a way that we are all tensed up. As civil society organizations, it has become urgent and imperative that we step out to enlighten our people that Nigeria is more important than any political party or politician.

This is the time to get into our communities and our neighbourhoods to say to them that the 2015 general elections will likely be peaceful and credible. We have to encourage Nigerians to participate actively in the general elections. Apathy and fear will mar the general elections. Let us start community outreaches to urge our people to get to INEC to collect their permanent voters’ cards, to reject electoral violence and malpractices, to come out on election days to exercise their franchise and to defend their mandate within the confines of the law.

Part of our strategy of promoting violence free and credible 2015 general elections is to redirect the attention and interest of Nigerians to what the candidates and their political parties are saying they will do for us and how they will get them done and to tell them to be alert to options and alternatives candidates and political parties may be offering and why. Also, that they should verify the scorecards that those in power will be releasing as their success stories. If we can get Nigerians interested in issues, the elections will be free and fair.

As civil society organizations, we are expected to be non-partisan. We should not allow, for instance, where we come from to becloud our commitment to society. Presently, the incumbents are presenting their score cards. Are we willing and ready to examine them and raise relevant issues beneficial to the society? On the other hand, the opposing candidates are telling us what they will do. Are we willing and ready to examine them too and ask: how? We should not sit back and watch the candidates and their political parties roll out what they claim to have done and what they will do without critical examination by us. The electorate need to be empowered to make the right choices. We stand in a good position, as civil society groups, to get the candidates, their political parties and the electorate focus on issues of good governance, development and peace and not damaging propaganda and character assassination. I reiterate that our country is bigger than any politician or political party. We should not allow it to be threatened or shaken by the politicians. I sincerely believe that we owe this country the duty of care to promote its peace and togetherness.

I think that part of our duty is to reach out to the candidates and their political parties and urge them to address issues and present facts for their claims. Currently, in this country, as a people, we are eagerly waiting for the monstrous issues of corruption, insecurity, poverty, unemployment and poor health care delivery to be solved. Since the campaigns started in earnest, have you tried to find what solutions the candidates and the political parties are offering us? I am yet to read any concrete solution to any than general promises. We do not need general promises. We need concrete, practical and realistic promises with the component of how to realize them. For instance, will taxes be increased or what?

Ironically, what we have now are more of disparaging and inflammatory campaigns; there are no real campaigns. On the social media, supporters of candidates and political party members are very busy promoting hate. They are even bombing and burning properties belonging to opponent parties. As civil society groups, we should resolve to say ‘No’ to the increasing wave of hate speeches circulating in the social media. We should not read them and keep quiet. We should start denouncing them.

However, many of us are ignorant that we are involved in making hate speech. Permit me to say that it is hate speech when you disparage a candidate or a political party on basis of ethnicity or religion or make statements that are hostile or invite your readers or hearers to discriminate against a candidate or a political party. I add that when you slant or skew facts to portray a candidate or political party in bad image it is hate speech. It is also hate speech when you recklessly attack the person of a candidate rather than his ideology or policy. We should assess candidates and political parties based on their records and programmes.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us remind ourselves that this period in our national history is not one for inflammatory or inciting messages. The civil society organizations should distinguish themselves by being on the part of peaceful and credible elections devoid of primordial or clannish considerations and cleavages. As an organization, for the general elections, we will publish dedicated phone numbers, twitter and facebook accounts for the general elections. You can join us and share information on our website, twitter or facebook and send messages to the designated numbers to be published soon.

Now for those who will be observing the general elections, I charge you all to be engaged to consider the assignment as part of your contribution to consolidating our democracy and building the nation. It therefore calls for neutrality and objectivity. You should not only be neutral but must also be unbiased. You should conduct yourselves ethically and professionally in the discharge of your responsibilities.

Thanks for coming. I wish us meaningful discussions. GOD bless you.

FOUR ADDITIONAL EBOLA PATIENTS IN NIGERIA DISCHARGED – Nigeria’s Health Ministry Announced


The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has said that four additional confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease, who have been managed successfully and are now disease free, have been discharged.

Those discharged are two male medical doctors and one female nurse. The three participated in the treatment of the index case while the fourth person was a female patient at the time the index case was on admission.

This brings to five, the total number of patients diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease who have now been discharged from hospital.

(The post above is culled from the facebook of Channels TV, Nigeria. You can read this report in http://www.channelstv.com.)

Nigeria is witnessing the grace of GOD Almighty. I believe there is GOD and not ashamed to so declare. Otherwise, how can one explain these recoveries amidst our poor health facilities? Also, have you imagined what would have happened, if Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American, who imported the Ebola disease into Nigeria had attended the Calabar Conference he came for. During the conference, he would have interacted with other participants and mingled with several others persons, including the hotel staff. It could have been horror in Nigeria. I believe that GOD Almighty delivered Nigeria!

FOUR ADDITIONAL EBOLA PATIENTS DISCHARGED – Nigeria’s Health Minister Announced


The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has said that four additional confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease, who have been managed successfully and are now disease free, have been discharged.

Those discharged are two male medical doctors and one female nurse. The three participated in the treatment of the index case while the fourth person was a female patient at the time the index case was on admission.

This brings to five, the total number of patients diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease who have now been discharged from hospital.

(The post above was culled from the facebook of Channels TV, Nigeria. You can read this report in http://www.channelstv.com.)

Nigeria is witnessing the grace of GOD Almighty. I believe there is GOD and not ashamed to so declare. How can one explain these recoveries? Have you, also, imagined what would have happened, if Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American, who imported the disease into Nigeria had attended the Conference in Calabar, where he would interacted and mingled with several persons, including the hotel staff. There is GOD! HE delivered Nigeria from the horror that would have occurred.

OUR DEMOCRACY AND LEADERSHIP CRAZE


It is disheartening to read that the Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Martin Elechi, in conjunction with the State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have declared the removed Speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Mr. Chukwuma Nwazunku, as the Speaker of the State House of Assembly. The Governor has declared that his government and the State Chapter of the PDP would continue to recognize the removed Speaker as the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and that their “decision is not negotiable” as “there would be no going back on that effect.” This reminds of the military era in Nigeria.

The State Governor was quoted as saying that: “The issue that led to the said impeachment was not good enough to justify any attempt of impeachment.” Can someone inform the Governor that his position is subjective on the matter. The House of Assembly has constitutional power to remove a Speaker, if it considers his or her wrong by their procedures. The Governor should have known that the House of Assembly has the right to decide, as the Governor could remove any of his appointees. Also, if the removed Speaker feels that his removal is illegal and unconstitutional, he should challenge it in Court or lobby his colleagues to rescind it. This is how democracy works.

I need to add here that the Governor has the constitutional right, like other citizens, to express an opinion on the matter, but not to judge the decision of the House of Assembly, give a verdict and enforce his decision as the issue of removal of a Speaker is an internal affairs of the State House of Assembly. The removed Speaker can only challenge his removal in Court, if the procedure leading to his removal was contrary to the laid down procedure. Therefore, it  should be said succinctly that the approach adopted by the Governor and the State Chapter of the PDP is illegal and unconstitutional. The approach is an undue interference with the functions of the State House of Assembly.

I hereby urge the Attorney-General of Ebonyi State to accordingly advise the Governor. Also, I call on the National Secretariat of the PDP to call both the Governor and its State Chapter to order as their decision is embarrassing. It is an affront to legislstive independence of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly.

FIGHTING EBOLA VIRUS IN NIGERIA


The. Ebola virus survives in a “reservoir” host – an animal or insect that carries the virus at no cost to itself – and is passed on to other animals or humans through contact with the bodily fluids, secretions or organs of the host animal. Also, it is transmitted “through direct contact, where broken skin or mucous membranes come into contact with the blood or secretions of the infected person” and indirectly “through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions” according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention . It is important to state that the following “sneezing, coughing, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea facilitate transmission to other victims.” It is worse than HIV/AIDS virus.  So, there’s need to be very careful.

I commend the Arik Airlines for suspending its flights to Ebola infected countries of West Africa, despite the obvious losses it will suffer. I salute the management and the owners of the airlines for being sensitive to the urgent need to protect lives of persons in Nigeria from Ebola virus. I consider this decision of Arik Airlines as a demonstration of patriotism and respect for right to life rolled into one. I urge other airlines and all transport operators to the Ebola infected countries, to follow the footsteps of Arik Airlines in the interest of the country and persons in it.

In the Arik Airlines press release announcing its suspension of flights to the Ebola infected countries, it also stated this: “At the early stages of the contagion’s development across West Africa, the Gambian government took the proactive decision to stop airlines (including Arik Air) from bringing inbound passengers from Monrovia, Conakry (Guinea) and Freetown into Banjul.” I was moved by this statenent. Gambia is not as rich or as powerful as Nigeria, but the country’s leadership (in this case) acknowledged its first duty to the citizens: protecting lives. I salute the Gambian government for this bold and couragrous step. This is a case that requires critical and sincere balancing of right to life and to that of movement, no doubt. I believe that the right to life weighs more. Freedom of movement is meant only for the living. If the Federal Government of Nigeria had acted similarly, the panic and confusion in the country presently might not have arisen as the Liberian, Sawyer, who died of the virus in Lagos could not have entered Nigeria.

A grave issue of public health, like the Ebola virus crisis, is worse than terrorism and ought to be tackled with all urgency and seriousness by every responsive and responsible government. So, I call on the Federal Government to act decisively now on the matter. The urgent alert approach is good, but there is need for more proactive actions. I demand that ASky Airline be banned from operating in or to Nigeria for refusing or failing to release its passengers manifest for tracking timeously the passengers that were with its flight with Sawyer, who, on Friday, died of the Ebola virus. This is reckless and insulting to the country, and requires adequate punishment.

May GOD Almighty protect Nigeria. Amen!

“CHILDREN ARE NOT SHUTTLECOCKS”


A High Court Judge in India had in a custody matter granted both parents restricted access to the child of the marriage. The Judge had directed that the father of the child should take custody of the child for four days in a week while the mother would take custody of the child for the remaining three days in the week. Interestingly, both parents are dissatisfied with the order of the High Court. The matter is now before the Supreme Court of India. I need to add that the father of the child took custody of the child for about a month, contrary to the High Court order. The Supreme Court of India, per the Chief Justice of India, in apparent displeasure with the High Court decision told the warring parents: “Your child is not a shuttlecock to be tossed between the father and mother.” The Supreme Court went on to state that: “This order has to be corrected and the child can’t be put to pain like this.”

This is one matter that ought to be well studied as it is breaking new grounds in the realm of child custody law. The decision in the matter is likely going to bring forth the principle of ‘a child is not a shuttlecock.’ This is a principle that should be advanced in matters of child custody. Yes, it may be argued that it comes within the established principle of “the best interest of the child.” By the statement of the Supreme Court of India, it means that in a custody matter, the trial Court should be equally concerned with or consciously weigh the psychological effects of the custody orders to be made on the child or children of a marriage, even if not canvassed by the parties. This is good for child’s rights protection. It will amount to judicial abuse if the order custody of a child will inflict the child pains, as in the India case.

Though the consideration of the psychological effect of a custody order on a child has been there, but it is not so much proactively developed in our country. We are more interested in or consider more the social life and economic power of the parents in deciding how the pendulum swings in custody matter. In the instant case, the psychological effect of the child changing environment twice every week is considered highly. In our country, if both parents have good cars and decent apartments, the fact that the child will shuttle between two different environment in a week might not be the huge issue. This consideration of what pains will be inflicted on a child should influence the consideration of other important factors like social life of each parent, economic  wellbeing, religious belief, etc.

I contend that the time has come for a proactive and activist approach to child custody matters in the custody. There is now need for a new thinking of what constitutes a psychological factor in child custody matter. Who between the parent does the child prefer to stay with and why, should be the prime questions to be considered. For the peace of the child is important. Parental love and good interest in a child’s well-being, to me, outweigh silver and gold to the child.

It is incontrovertible that a child needs peace of mind to develop and advance in life in order to realize his or her potentials in life. Too, a stable home is more likely to nurture a stable child who will grow into a good citizen. Children need to be protected by parents and society. In them lies the future of humanity.

HAS OUR DEMOCRACY GONE CRAZY?


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                 (PICTURE OF THE CHIBOK GIRLS BEING HELD BY BOKO HARAM)

We seem to be in the season of impeachment in Nigeria. The pro-impeachment group has been pontificating on the rationale for the impeachment moves. While the anti-impeachment group has been fervently crying and struggling to demonstrate how undemocratic the impeachment moves are. I am neither for nor against impeachment, once it is just and carried out in strict compliance with the due process of the country’s Constitution? One may ask, is there an unjust impeachment? Yes, there is an unjust impeachment. However, that is a matter of someday discussion. I see the fever of impeachment spreading in our country. So, I ask: who is the next to be served with impeachment notice? The executive arm seems to be losing its comfort zone. No one can predict who will be the next to be served impeachment notice or impeached. Now law makers are proceeding on their annual vacations, they may return with surprises. Who knows? Some interests could to induce or stir them to impeach persons we think are more secured. By the situation presently, our law makers, sincerely, are having fun because the executive arm seems jittery. The time we are in, therefore, is like penalty shoot out time. A period you can say: any thing can happen! Yes, the law makers can spring any political surprise. They need firm assurances for desired tickets for 2015 general elections and more money to bankroll their elections, so they are vulnerable and can be manipulated and used to achieve inimical political goals or designs.

It is important to note that the Governors facing impeachment threats presently or being impeached are members of the main opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). One is wondering if the wind will start blowing in the directions of or against the members of the executive arm of government elected on the platform of the other political parties? You cannot say. The power of money is enormous. In our country, money talks and walks. Our political class is pathologically corrupt and unashamed personalities.

Presently, my fear is that we may soon get into the season of ‘you try to impeach me, I will try to pinch you.’ The crisis brewing in Nasarawa State as a result of the impeachment notice served on the Governor is a good example. May I ask, if the above season comes: Will the arguments of pro-impeachment and anti-impeachment groups change? Will they shift positions? These are hard balls in our country. Our democracy is seriously challenged because its drivers are politically drunk and reckless. They are infatuated about acquiring power, but careless about the responsibilities and challenges that go with power. As they get into public office, they forget public good. Instead, they get deeply enmeshed in corruption, abuse of office and parochial pursuits.

Tuesday will mark one hundred days the girls of Chibok Secondary School (picture above) were abducted by Boko Haram. Till date, our government has not been able to rescue them. The continued abduction of the girls by Boko Haram is a denial of their fundamental human rights. The first duty of government, across the globe, is to protect lives and properties. I, therefore, call on the Borno State Government and the Federal Government to get the Chibok girls released without further delay. Who wants to be elected?