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Good leadership is key to transformation.

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When a nation has the right leaders, the nation stands a brighter chance of getting it right.

That’s why a good leader appreciates the importance of putting national interest above personal gains. When a leader fails to show requisite political will to make the lives of the people better, sooner or later suspicions and distrust sets in.

If uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, unsecured are the feet that walk the ground. Nigerians have been unsecured for many years.

For decades, Nigeria has suffered the disease that comes with bad leadership. Unsure of the future, everyone struggles for his or her own food, job, house, light, road, security, and life- the government seems far away, lost in its own dance of democracy.

Leadership has been so bad in this country that a little less of what is bad is seen as a big break into the domain of good leadership. But is it? Are we on track? Are we there yet?

Since the inception of democracy, Nigerians have continued to have leaders who have failed to live up to the values and ideals of the Nigerian dream. Each time a leader comes with a vision (if any), vested interests come with a mission; the stronger of the two always wins.

Nigerians, we must fight the good cause- the people’s cause where the need for true transformation and true change are needed the most.

We must fight poverty and unemployment. We must fight waste and corruption. We must fight ourselves, uprooting what is ignoble and virulent from inside us.

This is no time to play ethnic, religious, or party politics. This is no time to protect personal egos while the nation bleeds. This is no time to win arguments while national unity, peace, and progress loses.

Regardless of the party or candidate you voted for, or supported, or prayed for, Nigeria as a nation won the elections. Nigeria never lost because democracy triumphed, at least as reported by local and international observers.

It’s high time we all became Nigerians, not just Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Ishan, Egun, Fulani, or whatever Ethnic group or tribe we belong to. It’s high time we held our leaders responsible and accountable, to the balls.

Let’s play ball.

This article was first published on Nigerian Youth Platform.

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World Press Freedom Day: A Stroll With Milliscent Maduagwu by Ebeneza Wikina

Source: Milliscent Maduagwu

Source: Milliscent Maduagwu

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. This was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

According to the United Nations’ website, World Press Freedom Day presents an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; pay tribute to journalists who have lost their
lives in the line of duty.

In collaboration with a UN Volunteer Ebeneza Wikina, a young and visionary Nigerian at Write Paragraphs, we bring to you his stroll with Milliscent Maduagwu, a young Nigerian journalist. Enjoy the interview, and don’t forget to drop a comment, and share! Happy World Press Freedom Day!

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It’s not really easy to get an ‘On Air Personality’ for a ‘down to earth’ interview, because just like their name suggests; they’re always ‘on air’ and hard to reach.. But somehow I was lucky to break the barriers and got one of Nigeria’s finest OAPs to have a stroll with me. She’s currently working with NigeriaInfo(92.3 Fm) Port harcourt. I was also lucky to get her autograph too (smiles).. well here is what we discussed;

Ebenezar: thank you very much for your time, I feel honoured having this stroll with you. First question; Is being an ‘On Air Personality’ your Childhood dream? Is this what you’ve always wanted to be?

Milliscent: Well, yes and no. No because I never had a particular course or profession I wanted to study, I really believed I could do anything I set my mind to. Then yes, being the fact that deeply I always wanted something that mattered, to be in the eye of the storm, to make a change, a difference, to help and we all know that the media is one of
the tools,but it never struck me at first…

Ebenezar: What was growing up like for you? Was it fun all the way?

Milliscent: LOL(laughs). . . it’s just like saying someone had the perfect childhood, I think not. It was a mixture of pleasant and the unpleasant. I remember always wanting to have my way (which I still do every now and again) but sometimes I met bulwarks from either of my parents, and my siblings. Now the latter, literally a thorn in the flesh I had to put up with a lot of things from my elder brothers coming from a family of 5 kids being the 1st girl and number 4 on the list. I had to conform to a lot of punishments, lol, and yeah some perks from having boys before me no one dared get on my other side.

Ebenezar: what is your favourite genre of music?

Milliscent: Hmmm music… No particular one. I love all kinds it all depends on my mood.

Ebenezar: The Midday dialogue; the radio show you co-host with Joy Eberebe gives the audience the oppurtunity to call in and air their views on different issues. What do you think are the benefits of Freedom of Speech to a country?

Milliscent: Freedom of speech is amazing. Imagine being dumb, not being able to speak or be heard because of fear or government restraint, incarceration. There’s nothing like what I’d call the freedom of the tongue, especially in a democratic setting as ours, where the people’s votes count. Free speech is an indispensable tool of self-governance in a democratic society. It enables people to obtain information from a diversity of sources, make decisions, and communicate those decisions to the government. Beyond the political purpose of free speech, is a “marketplace of ideas.” Rather than having the government establish and dictate the truth, freedom of speech enables the truth to emerge from diverse opinions. In the words of Justice Louis Brandeis “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.”

To continue with this interesting interview, simply click here

Political Paralysis and Socio-Economic Underdevelopment as Federalism in Nigeria Refuses to Evolve by Senator Ihenyen

It was just after having lunch today I got a Facebook notification of a tag by Chima Williams Iheme. A learned friend and colleague, Chima had just published an insightful article on Facebook. Titled How a redefinition of the Nigerian federalism could help jump-start its economy: a quick reminder to all delegates to the ongoing national conference‘, it was a great piece on the topical issue of federalism in Nigeria. To be sure, I also strongly believe in true federalism. It provides a great opportunity for the socio-economic and political liberation of Nigerians. Nigeria is ripe for a New Federalism that devolves power to the states, and local governments.

I was going to drop this piece as a comment on Facebook. But I eventually decided to post it here as an article as I journey back to Yaba from Allen after a busy day. In this exposition, I will try to throw some light on the concept of federalism itself, and how it naturally evolves with time as the nation develops. Whenever question of federalism is raised in national debates, a lot of people think federalism is static, or should be. I will try to show how federalism has been changing even in the United States. In this way, you may begin to realise that the problem with Nigerian federalism is that it has refused to evolve for decades now.

Federalism sprouts from the ‘Federalists’, the idea that governmental powers are shared between the central governing authority, and other political units, such as states. Over centuries, even in the United States from where we borrowed our current federal system, federalism has been taking different forms. Some scholars have described these forms as including dual federalism, cooperative federalism, creative federalism, fiscal federalism, and new federalism, etc.

It is true that we borrowed the federal system from the United States (US). And as an “imported” concept, we appear to have been doing a bad job with it. That may be because that’s exactly how the Nigerian government wants it to be operated: a powerful Federal government vs weak and dependent State governments. The problem with federalism in Nigeria is that it has refused to evolve as the nation evolves. It has been static, and sometimes anti-progressive and backward. Sometimes, anachronistic.

In American history, federalism has constantly shifted and changed form over the years. First, we must appreciate that in a federal form of government, both the federal and state governments derive their powers from the people. History teaches us that before the colonies from Britain attained independence in America, the early Federalists favoured a strong national government. They strongly supported the arrangement whereby the powers allocated to the central government in the Constitution was more, making the states less powerful. With a powerful central government, the Federalists also approved a bicameral legislature. This was to ensure that the direct power to rule was out of the
common man’s hands. Why? The Federalists didn’t consider the common man fit to govern the country. Nigeria had practised this type of federalism under the 1960 Constitution. But since the unitary system of government was introduced by the first military administration in Nigeria, successive administrations have been crawling towards true federalism. Secondly, when the FG appear to be shying away from practising true federalism, it may also be that no administration wants to be remembered for being responsible for “breaking Nigeria”. The Civil War had sent warning signs to the Federal government on possible dangers of devolving powers to regions. Yet this is one reality that Nigerians tend to forget in a hurry. To put it bluntly, the FG is scared. That’s why any proposed resource control, state police, etc sends jitters to the FG. Sadly, this stand compromises the limitless potentials that true federalism could unleash in a country battling with poverty.

In the US, as time passed, the federalists’ views have had to change. They now embrace a more revolutionary federalism, the kind that promotes freedom, and equal opportunities. To ensure that all federating units remain together, the rule of law, separation of powers and protection of minority rights and individual rights generally, became sacred. These progressive principles are largely lacking in Nigeria. And it largely informs the state of political tension in the country. As a matter of fact, all the three major ethnic groups have at certain points in Nigerian history threatened to break away or secede from the unhealthy Federation.

From a Nigerian perspective, I will quickly brush through three of these forms. Dual Federalism involves the principle that the federal government and the state government share power but the Federal Government is more powerful. This is essentially how most Federations operate, including the US. The governmental levels are separate but with equal powers to achieve a balance. Some ways in which this balance was achieved was by what is known as the concurrent powers. In these powers, the powers are shared between the state and federal government.

It is notable however that as the US evolved from a union of states in form to a nation-state in substance over the years, its federal system also evolved. Thus, the division of powers into exclusive and concurrent powers naturally became less distinctive. This was because there was a common vision: to create a powerful nation where every American citizen had equal rights and opportunities for self-empowerment, and national advancement. In Nigeria, most politicians are divided by the unhealthy politics of party, religion and ethnicity, but of course, united in corruption. This ensures that the common vision as entrenched in the Constitution is neglected.

Later in the history of the United States, Dual Federalism necessarily evolved into Cooperative Federalism. Cooperative federalism involved a governmental arrangement whereby all the levels of government work together to solve problems that are common to them. Interestingly, in history, cooperative federalism was most popular in the 1930’s. This was necessary following the Great Depression. It was practised for another 40 years, lasting up until the 1970’s. Being a time of national crises, no government of any responsible country would afford to be engaging in power struggles when both the central and state government, including local government, faced common problems. Here, government at all levels work together to create programmes that were implemented nationwide. In Nigeria today for instance, we are facing serious national security issues, particularly terrorism. How has the Federal government worked closely with the state governments to ensure a total fight against terrorism especially in terms of prevention? Has the Federal government created a unified action plan, especially with inputs from the state governments in the north-eastern part of Nigeria? Apart from terrorism, there are other serious national issues that commonly affects the entire nation, but we don’t see the three levels of government working together. The Child Rights Act is one good example. Sadly, we have seen majority of our northern state governments resist the Act by not domesticating it in their states mainly to protect religious practices, and customs of the people. Of course under the 1999 Constitution of the FRN (as amended), they are lawfully right. But this is at the price of child rights violation, child slavery, poor access to quality education, gender inequality, and massive poverty in these northern states. The time that we are now as a nation-state requires a great measure of cooperation among all levels of governments. This is no time to play politics, and ride on the ass called the law. Working together is key.

Apart from cooperative federalism, we also have what is now described as the New Federalism. It evolved from the US after the election that brought Ronald Reagan to power in the 1980s. Here, more powers are given to the state. This is meant to make the states more powerful in areas that directly affected the people such as agriculture, education, health etc, while the central government took care of national security, currency, international affairs etc, to create a balance in the Federation. In the US for instance, under Reagan’s government, grants that were been given to the states were blocked. This is what we call Federal Allocations to states in Nigeria. Under the New Federalism, the state governments were entitled to decide what they wanted to spend their money on. Also, this structure brought about great devolution of powers to other political units. This has been described as “Devolution Revolution”.

Lastly, we also have what is called Creative Federalism. It gave more powers to the central government by allowing it directly provide for the needs of the people. In effect, the state governments were weakened since they were being bypassed by the central government. Therefore, creative federalism bring about direct interference in the welfare of the inhabitants of states nationwide. The US applied this type of federalism under Lydon Johnson, and the Nigerian presidency under various administrations continue to also apply it too. For instance, all the poverty alleviation programmes of the Federal government in Nigeria are products of creative federalism. Often times, the presidency constitutes various Presidential Tasks Forces on matters that directly interfere in state government’s businesses. Although the Nigerian people do benefit from some of such programmes, it ends up weakening the other levels of government. Little wonder most Nigerians do not even know what their Local Government Chairman is called, or know his programmes, if any, for the local government area. To keep the state and local governments content with such interferences, the Federal government used federal allocations to stop them from asking questions. In Nigeria today, state and local governments do not question the Federal government on the details of how it makes and spends money from the national treasury. The Federal allocations would do, I guess.

From my brief exposition, I hope we can begin to appreciate that federalism in form is not the same as federalism in substance. Sadly, in form and substance, Nigerian federalism is unhealthy. It is not progressive. We need to embrace a more democratic federalism (yes, democratic federalism) that can unleash the potentials of all the constituent parts of the Nigerian Federation. It is only in this way that we can all begin to witness real economic growth and development, not just growth. This is the promise of the New Federalism.

Unfortunately, the ongoing National Conference may not provide the trusted avenue for the needed drastic change in our federal structure. As far as its resolutions would be subjected to the take of the National Assembly, it is bound to join the other web-infested communiques from past Conferences of similar nature. It is the political will that we have always lacked in the affairs of this potentially great nation, not the ideas or solutions.

We must however realise that Nigeria as a nation-state is not where it was in 1960. It is not also in the 80s. We are inside the second decade of the 21st century. The more the government hold the Nigerian people back by making us experience recurring political paralysis, and socio-economic underdevelopment for the myopic purpose of maintaining the current lopsided structure, the more it risks worsening disunity across the Federation. Our very poor Human Development Index (HDI) showing the poor living standards that which most Nigerians live with says it all. Potentials remain largely untapped. There are no equal opportunities, and no rule of law. The government will need to take the future of this nation-state more seriously. We are not taking our future seriously. In thinking about the greatness of the next generation, we will also be securing our own greatness.

We All Have the Right to Self-Determination: the Speech on Tolerance, and Rule of Law by Alh. Nurudeen Lemu

Alh. Nurudeen Lemu, a delegate from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. As a delegate, and as a people representing people of faith in God from the Islamic perspective, one thing we believe is that God will protect the community that stands for justice even if they are not Muslims and God will not protect the community that goes contrary to justice even if they call themselves Muslims.

God is not a religious bigot. He is not a male chauvinist. He is not an ethnocentric tribalist. God is not the oppressor of anyone. God is with those who care; those who want for others those things they want for themselves.

One tendency for people who claim to follow a religion is to slide into the position of believing that we are better than the others. We overestimate our virtues and underestimate the goodness in others. The tendency is for us to
become spiritually arrogant; to forget that others are people like us.

There is always a tension between representing our religious communities or our ethnic communities and our loyalty to the virtues and values and teachings of our religion even those lofty ideals of our ethnic groups.

It is our prayer that delegates will try and ensure that the spiritual strength we have in us will keep us from not getting angry and not allowing our bitterness from others to make us sail from justice. It is in this vein and as a delegate from the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, we condemn the murder of all Christians, we condemn the murder of all Muslims. Not because they are Christians or Muslims, but because they are human beings – creatures of God.

There is no compulsion in religion. We all own Nigeria. We all belong here. And we all have the right to self-determination. We should respect that right and do unto others what we will do unto ourselves. There are many other countries that have ethnic and religious diversity far greater than what we have here in Nigeria. But something that distinguishes us from them, be it Singapore, United States, they have been able to respect the rule of law so that any bigot, any nepotic individual who tramples on the right of anyone especially that of the minority, the rule of law will catch up. Satan will only find a hole if there is a crack in that rule of law.

Every ethnic group is an oppressed minority somewhere. Every group is a religious and ethnic minority somewhere. Every majority or settler is an indigene somewhere. In one way, we are all settlers; we just don’t remember where we came from or why we came.

But ultimately, we are all visitors to this planet, from God we come and to Him we return. As Muslim delegates, we come in brotherhood, as brothers and friends to solve our common problems and not as adversaries.

We come against the exploitation of religion and religious sentiments. We come against stereotyping, stigmatizing and dehumanizing of each other. We come against the use of religion as a political decoy and as a distraction from the critical things that bedevil our nation.

I pray that at the end of this conference, we will all grow in our humanity and respect for each
other.

Being the transcript of a speech by Alh. Nurudeen Lemu, a National Conference delegate from the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in the ongoing confab. Alh. Lemu is from Niger State. His speech was greeted with a standing ovation by delegates. Unity founded on tolerance, particularly the rule of law in Nigeria has been lacking.

Transcript Source: Naira Land

Image: http://www.news247.com.ng

Bride Prices and Numerous Marriage Ceremonies and How They Affect the Realisation of the Full Potentials of the Nigerian Youth: A Need for Societal Change or Reform by Chima Williams Iheme

Bride Prices Image from Ynaija.com

Bride Prices Image from Ynaija.com

There is no need to bore you with the definition of marriage because I assume we all know what it is. My task in this paper is to rather draw attention to a few issues that might be of concern to some youth as it relates to marriage – an important institution in every society.

It is common knowledge that the Nigerian youth are faced with multifarious challenges which start to obviously manifest from their early stages of life. Owing to the lack of sufficient basic infrastructures, individual progress is slower compared to some countries in the world. Here is a hypothetical example – an average Nigerian child would graduate from high school at the age of 18 years. He or she may take an average of two years to scale through UTME and other related requirements before gaining admission into a higher institution, and may spend six years on an average to complete university studies due to ASUU’s repeated strikes and other related issues. He/she graduates at 27 and takes an average of two years from graduation to complete the compulsory NYSC. It then further takes him an additional three years to get a job. So he starts to work at 32, and of course a job that pays him N100.000 or above is well celebrated and he may be counted as lucky.

Then comes the main point of this paper – bride prices and marriage ceremonies. Although these two practices that are tied to the celebration of marriages differ from one state to another in Nigeria, a common denominator could however be found, to lend credence to this discussion. The following facts would hardly be disputed: marriage is of two kinds in Nigeria, namely, marriage under customary law and marriage under the Marriage Act, what is known as English marriage. The latter is often accompanied with church blessings and wedding feasts.

In Nigeria, marriage, especially under customary law is very important and often requires the attention and consent of many members or stakeholders of both families. Bride price is paid, a lot of quantity of wine is provided, food stuffs in large quantities are submitted, an amount of money is requested to settle one thing or another, and these are finally capped with a traditional feast, called “Igba nkwu” in the case of the Igbos. In fact, a list of items of what to purchase is handed to the groom and one or two members of the bride’s family would assume the duty to ensure that items on the list are completely provided and handed in. Sometimes these appointees that ensure that the items on the list are completely provided go about it as though they are bailiffs enforcing a court judgment; and this many times injure the feelings of the groom and his family which may linger on forever. From personal observations and interviews, it may cost about half a million naira or more to satisfy the imposed requirements before getting married under customary law. It is compulsory, so to speak, to marry under the custom or else the couple may not be recognised as married in their respective communities and their parents might be ‘booed’ or even prevented from participating in subsequent traditional ceremonies or joining certain traditional groups by their heads and ‘elders’ as having done the unacceptable. Now because marriage couples do not get marriage certificates under customary law marriage and usually would have to face the problem of proof of marriage outside their communities, coupled with the undesirable effects of customary law marriage with respect to devolution of property, couples who have married under custom are further forced to marry under the Act or engage in church blessings. Mind you however, that a church blessing which does not comply with the Marriage Act’s stipulations is not a recognised marriage under the Nigerian law. Here also, they are not spared from expenses. Having wedded in the registry or church, they are expected to throw a wedding feast, where the general public most times is invited to come to eat and drink. It is inconceivable that after a particular church blessing, a couple wouldn’t host a wedding feast. This is because many invited and uninvited guests are in attendance mainly because of the feast (popularly called “reception”) and not that they are so interested in the couple’s union. You will confirm this by the type of gifts many attendees present to the couple in exchange for the couple’s customised gifts: inferior wall clocks, cheap plates and flasks, plastic cups and trays, empty brown envelopes, to mention but a few. From observations and interviews from some married persons, the cost of organising a wedding feast after church blessing or Act marriage is about a million naira, to be modest.

Here comes the problem. The youth are faced with late school graduation; they are faced with the challenge of unemployment for a long time after school. When they pick up a job at the average age of 32, at N100,000 per month (if at all they find), they probably may save for so long before they are able to come up with over a million naira that would enable them get married. On average, most people would work and save for 3 years and above before contemplating to get married at the average age of 35. Due to high cost of living, because one provides almost all his basic needs of life, coupled with the responsibility to contribute to what you could call family solidarity support, little or nothing is saved, and the little is never enough for marriage ceremonies. This makes some youth to either take loans from family and friends or engage in ‘fast runs’ in order to raise the necessary sum required to get married. After wedding, many get so indebted and cannot attempt any meaningful venture that could yield profits, because for a long time, they will be servicing debts that arose from weddings.

But why should getting married be made so financially burdensome as to make young men to borrow large sums? Why should people be made to unwillingly borrow money to feed crowds of people and afterwards get so indebted? Instead, people should be borrowing money to fund their education or start a business, and not to get married feeding the general public in the name of customary and ‘church’ marriage ceremonies. If you stretch this further, you may realise that this is one of the reasons banks are not willing to lend money to unmarried youth to start up businesses without almost impossible collaterals because they fear that the borrowed sum might be diverted to satisfy marriage issues which of course don’t yield profits and defeats the purpose of borrowing in the first place.

There are consequences of getting married late especially where there is no social benefit system to take care of each citizen. This is particularly those who do not have viable means of getting the basics of life due to the untimely loss of their bread winners. When people are forced to marry late due to these imposed financial burdens, they bear children late and may not be in good positions both in finance and health to adequately raise their children and cater for their needs when those children are in their 20’s and obviously need money for education and overall advancement in life. This is more serious when it is considered that the average life expectancy in Nigeria according to the 2011 World Bank study is 51 years, meaning that an average person who got married at 35 may only be with his children for a period of 16yrs. Why then should we not attempt to increase this number of years to (16+X) years by lifting the financial burdens that impede the possibility of getting married earlier? There are a lot of compelling reasons to do so:

    (a) the current concepts of marriage with the attendant ceremonies were not fixed by those who are currently living but by ancestors whose society differed significantly with ours today.
    (b) the current monetary cost of getting married is unrealistic and incompatible with the present Nigerian economy where there is high youth unemployment.
    (c) manhood and maturity to marry are wrongly measured by one’s ability to provide for these costs, but then it is forgotten that the real cause of impecuniousness of most youth is due to the overall poor economy and high unemployment rate. A person with an idea may not be able to galvanise them into proceeds if he cannot raise sufficient credit to test-run his ideas, since no one can ordinarily create something out of nothing.
    (d) as a result of the foregoing points, many children do not tap from the youthful energies of their parents and this is worse in their 20s. Of course, these things repeat themselves from one generation to another and keep us at the nadir of collective progress.
    (e) there is no extraordinary benefit that is gained by celebrating two systems of marriage with all the imposed costs. Would it be less of a marriage if these expenses are given a low haircut to fit with our economic realities?
    (f) it should become socially acceptable for people to marry under one system so as to save cost. This further means that customary marriage should begin to bear some formalistic features like creating a registry that could issue parties with a marriage certificate so as to ease the burden of proof on a person claiming to be married under custom. As it stands now, one would have to call witnesses all the time to prove the existence of a customary law marriage and this is unrealistic for the youth who travel far and wide beyond their immediate communities.
    (g) In this era that the equality of male and female genders is more seriously emphasized, the concept of bride price ought to have outlived its usefulness because ‘price tag’ suggests sale/purchase and such has become disgusting in reference to the female folk. And for those who may want to argue that bride price is symbolic, how come the price is sometimes fixed considering the educational achievement of the bride, meaning that the bride price for a university graduate is higher than that of a primary school leaver. Is that not discrimination on the basis of education? The different prices that depend on the bride’s educational achievement as practiced in some customs further reveals the economic motive behind the collection of bride prices, as some families see it as a time to partially recoup the educational expenses of a female child. This is wrong! And I challenge ladies who seek gender equality to seriously take this up in any lawful way that they can.

My position is that high bride prices and marriage ceremonies have become a huge pain in the neck both on short and long terms to the Nigerian youth. Even though, appreciably, these practices have become social norms and individuals are afraid to depart from them for fear of being discriminated in one way or another, the time has come to take bold steps towards untying these knots that have impeded youth’s progresses. Of course many of us do acknowledge that it is currently a problem especially when our weak economy and high unemployment rates are considered. I’m therefore proposing that the youth who are the bearers of this burden should not continue to condone it. Any custom that imposes high and unrealistic burden on those who inherited it should be revised to meet with current realities. A forceful awareness at all levels needs to be created to change the mentality of many Nigerians so that the important recipe to be required for a marriage union becomes whether both parties LOVE each other and are willing to spend their lives together. It shouldn’t be whether they love each other as well as ready to satisfy the monetary cost which of course is in millions of naira.

Finally, the mere fact that a particular practice is “ome n’ala” – an Igbo expression for social norm, does not mean that it cannot be changed or revised. We have changed so many of these norms in the past because at any time a custom outlives its usefulness, it is the duty of the current generation to revise or change it. The duty to revise or change a repressive custom does not lie on those who first introduced it but are no longer alive, but on those who are alive and are the bearers of its harshness. The thought of getting married by youth ought to inspire happiness not fears due to the huge financial implications. This is not just a story because we are all familiar with these issues as almost every youth I have interacted with raised this issue of high cost, which has prompted this write-up. The time to review these practices is now, and now is the time to do something about it.

Chima Williams Iheme is a Nigerian trained lawyer. He’s currently a PhD candidate at the Central European University, Budapest/New York, in the field of International Business Law, – with more emphasis on Secured Transactions Laws of Canada, United States and Nigeria. Apart from Business Studies, he’s also keenly interested in the empowerment and development of the Nigerian Youth. Facebook Connect: Williams Iheme

World Day of Social Justice: A Stroll With Jessica Minhas by Ebeneza Wikina

February 20 of every year is World Day of Social Justice. It is a special day set aside to bring the world’s attention to issues of social justice in our society today. In various countries across the world, including Nigeria, social injustice is actually rising.

With our collaboration with UN Volunteer Ebeneza Wikina, a young and visionary Nigerian at Write Paragraphs, we bring to you his stroll with Jesseca Minhas. Against the background of social injustice, Jesseca Minhas grew up to become a jewel in her neighbourhood, and a voice for social justice in the globe.

Enjoy the interview, and don’t forget to drop a comment, and share! Happy World Social Justice Day!

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up in a thousand fold in the future.” ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

jessica5F8143E4-4A1D-413F-9F42-A48F74E965B3Image Credit: Jessica Minhas
Jessica grew up in an environment no parent will wish for their child.
One filled with addiction, racism, and curse words, and these in turn had so much negative effect on her mind that at a point she even began to think she was black–no thanks to how Grand Pa treated her. Now all this can set-up a child for a sad, depressed, inferiority complex-filled adulthood right? Well, that’s the twist in today’s story. Just as gold passes through the heat of the mine to become pure, Jess grew above the limitations of her childhood into an
adulthood filled with hope, love, and beauty. Jessica is a speaker, activist, TV Host and producer specializing on culture and media’s impact on women. Her work has taken her around the globe exploring issues such as human trafficking, child labour, medical tourism, youth advocacy, and much more.

Also former Miss Florida USA and 4th Runner-up for Miss USA in 2003; Jessica told me about her passion for volunteering and fighting for justice; and also explained how she grew from the very many ugly things said to her as a child to winning beauty pageants. Here’s my stroll with Jess;

Ebenezar: So let’s start from where it all began. What point in your life did you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I want to become a social Justice activist, and a humanitarian”?

Jessica: You know, growing up in a house where all you see is abuse and addiction day in, and day out, can make you really start to question life, humanity and, “What does all of this mean?” For me, I felt so silenced and broken that I started from a pretty early age trying to help others live better lives because it gave me hope in the midst of my circumstance. So I was constantly volunteering to; one, get out of my house; and two, to see that life could get better. So I think the first time I actually did something in line with my future calling as an “activist” was when I was in middle school and I convinced my best friend, Lindsey Knight, to make wreaths and decorated pine cones for the neighborhood nursing home. We spent a few weeks every day after school with hot glue guns making this pathetic Christmas ornaments and then went to the
nursing home after school where I tried to slowly make my way through Christmas Carols key by key on the piano, and Lindsey sang with the elderly. It was quite a pitiful show but it reminded me that even the talents we think we are miserable at can be a part of making an impact in the lives of others.

Ebenezar: Awww, that was cute. The UN says we advance social justice when we remove the barriers people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, and the likes. My question is, why do you think we still have these barriers in this 21st Century Internet age? Despite all the civilization.

Jessica: Yeah, that’s a great question. I am sure we have all wondered why there’s so much hate, and how it’s possible for humans to treat each other the way we do. I think the first thing that comes to mind is one of the first stories in the Bible, where God kills an animal to cover Adam’s shame. So this idea that shame is the strongest human emotion next to love, I think dictates the way we interact with one another. Our behavior and choices are likely always coming from a place of love or of fear and shame. I think having conversations around the difficult topics like war and inter-religious conflict will, and have already, continue to break down the barriers between us by creating understanding and working towards peace together.

To continue with this interesting and inspiring interview, simply click here

Golden Minds Nigeria National Conference & 10th Anniversary 2014

Our 2nd National Conference is here! The National Conference is tagged, Heartbeat Conference 2014, and the theme is A Decade of Golden Minds Nigeria: Challenges, Opportunities and Possibilities. Our First National Conference was held in Lagos, where we hosted the then Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili (ably represented) on the luncheon of our national magazine, Jingle.

This Conference will be a special one for two reasons: First, Golden Minds Nigeria will be marking its 10th Anniversary as a body of youths for positive change in Nigeria! The body was founded on July 16, 2004.

Also, our great country, Nigeria, is 100 years old, after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 by Lord Lugard.

These two occasions are very significant to us, and we are going to be commemorating these landmarks at our National Conference to be held in Benin, Edo State, the Heartbeat of the Nation, where Golden Minds was founded in the University of Benin 10 years ago!

Venue: Benin City, Edo State
Date: Saturday July 19 (10:00am-4:00pm) – Sunday July 20, 2014 Thanksgiving Service and Departure (8:00am-10:00am)
Registration Fee: N2,500 (Members), N5,000 (Leaders)

To participate in this historic Conference, pay your registration fee to the Financial Officer of the Conference Committee, Barr. Ijeoma Malasowe. His account details are:

Account Name: Malasowe Ijeoma
Account No: 2003631469
Bank: Zenith Bank

After paying into the account above, you’re required to fill the form below for proper registration and confirmation of your bank deposit:

Feeding and accommodation will be taken care of by Golden Minds Nigeria during the event. You don’t want to miss this National Conference for anything!

Categories: Golden Updates
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