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A Tribute to Pascal Utomi, My Departed Son

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Pascal Utomi

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Many years ago, I read a book titled Effective Leadership and the Ambivalence of Human Interest authored by Innocent I. Asouzu, a Catholic priest, professor and lecturer at the University of Calabar.

Among other remarks, Asouzu in that volume underlined that in the process of forming our opinions and judgments, we acquire the world not necessarily the way the world is but quite often the way it presents itself to us through diverse intermediaries.

The above thought came flooding a few moments after my son Pascal Onyinyechukukwu on Saturday, November 6, 2021, at about 11.30 pm in excruciating pains screamed thus; my back is paining me! My back is hurting!! My back aches!!! And he afterwards descended but slowly to a state of unconsciousness.

To help arrest the troubling but unfamiliar reality, we navigated from one hospital to another and were ably supported by good spirited neighbours and the praying community of Saint Michael Catholic Church, Ketu, Lagos.

This ‘exercise’ lasted from Saturday, November 6 till at about 3.00 pm on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, when he was to the consternation and frustration of all present confirmed dead by a team of medical personnel.

To be candid, the pronouncement by the medical team was not by any means in consonance with but was deeply contrary to the expectation of many who had faithfully hoped and fervently prayed for his recovery and wished that Pascal Utomi, our light and bundle of joy came back to life.

The reason for this line of thinking was obvious and understandable.

Like every parent and as a mere mortal, I have always hoped that one day, as nature demands, Pascal Onyinyechukwu Utomi, my dear child/son, our precious gold, our priceless enigma and diamond, will write a tribute in my honour.

I must indeed confess that never have I calculated, envisaged or dreamt that the responsibility of writing a tribute in my son’s honour will ever come to me, not to talk of coming so soon and at a time when we (family) were still enjoying the fullness of his goodness and ambience of creative and purposeful childhood.

But with days gone without him, it has become evident, particularly when viewed carnally that we are now victims of blasted hope and the dark shadow of deep pains orchestrated by the sudden departure has settled upon all that have had one or two encounters with my son.

Now, there is another myth about Pascal that still goes around. Without any shadow of the doubt, he lived but for only 13years and 10 months, yet, a reflection on his diary of activities instils a sense of pride in us the parents, his sister, his classmates, the entire Christian community where he worshipped and the nation as a whole.

Beginning with the last, he never relented in his nation-building quest. He wished, prayed and was desirous of seeing a better Nigeria. To achieve this motive, Pascal made listening to the news a point of duty in order to help me (his father) generate points/topics for my weekly interventions.

Though science/technology inclined when it comes to your studies, that notwithstanding, you have in the past three years made it a point of duty to go through my pieces/columns and to ensure that the tenses were correct and content development-focused.

He performed this proofreading/editing responsibility and effortlessly. He wanted to see Nigeria become a nation where peace, equal opportunity and justice reign supreme.

Aside from giving my media practice a boost, Pascal was exceptional in his studies. He was fired by an unalloyed desire to conquer the world of science and technology.

There is another thing that is closely related to the above attribute, and it has to do with his relationship with God, his creator.

I recall now with a mixture of satisfaction and nostalgia that right before the health crisis on that faithful Saturday night, he had already prepared for the Sunday Mass (service) but unfortunately, could not make it.

He never allowed anything to stand between him and the service to God. He was not only diligent but faithful. He was consumed by the tripartite responsibility, namely; to God his maker, to his studies and humanity.

To us his parents, he did something crucial!

Like Dennis Kimbro noted in his masterpiece titled What Makes the Great Great, Pascal taught us (his parents) that the course of history can only be changed by men and women willing to dare. He made us, his parents, understand that life is a breath-taking adventure—but it is also a struggle… That courage requires ambition, audacity, and an unflagging will to succeed. It demands a drive to be different. It means scraping and escaping the barnacles of old ideas. That it takes a spirit that welcomes nonconformity, filled with zeal, exuberance, and an ardour for the uncertain.

Indeed, in my burning desire and zest to succeed, I have read many inspirational and self-help-type books, and these books taught me that I should work hard so as to earn the right to retire young and enjoy “free time”, but I must confess that your own lecture, lessons and teachings were more apt, effective and efficient than all the motivational books put together.

You succulently taught me that by following my strongest desires and seeking my greatest goals, I will create an environment filled with joy.

You personally embedded in us the new awareness that courage is the result of not giving up, of carrying on despite problems of time, place or circumstance. Courage begets the determination to succeed in a particular area of life despite a mountain of apparently insurmountable obstacles.

As we continue to celebrate your sterling qualities, praise your selfless, exemplary life full of service, I must state unequivocally that no sacrifice made will be considered too much and no respect extended to your personality, even in death will be considered misdirected or viewed as wasted. We (your immediate family) promise to replicate/instil your commendable attributes to the yet unborn generation, as well as tell of your goodness to the world.

Finally, like Martin Luther King Junior once noted, ‘yes! I am personally the victim of the different dreams of the blasted hope but in spite of that, I still have a dream because you know I can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps go on to inspire others. Likewise, today, I say that despite your departure, I still have a dream and have a son called Pascal OnyinyeChukwu Utomi.

In all, we have no other alternatives except to put our trust in God. Rest on my dear Pascal. We love you but God your creator/maker loves you perfectly.

Adieu Son.

Jerome-Mario Utomi, Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), wrote from Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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Teeth Cleaning for Children and its Significance

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Teeth Cleaning for Children

Teeth cleaning is really substantial, so for children as for adults. Tooth plaque and bacteria can be removed by brushing teeth and avoiding the illnesses of gums and decay of teeth. People should brush their teeth in the morning and in the evening just before falling asleep, that is twice a day.

Parents should teach their children to clean their teeth early in the morning and make teeth cleaning an indispensable part of the list of their daily must-do activities so that this habit will stay with them when they become adults.

From what age, children should start off brushing their teeth?

Commence teeth brushing once the first tooth appears, in general beyond seven months of age. First and foremost, start to apply a mild wet cloth, as well as parents, can try cleaning the teeth using water and a mild toothbrush. Teeth are extremely significant for adults and, notably, for children. Teeth aid babies in speaking and eating, so it is significant to take care of them properly from the first months of life onward. Many children do not allow cleaning their teeth as it is an unpleasant activity for them. In this case, parents are advised to try to entertain the kid with the games on smartphones, for this a vivid instance can be the casino gaming like 22Bet Nigeria. So, as the parents adore much to play, they are able to grab the attention of children by these games and clean their teeth in the meanwhile.

The pickup of the right brush and toothpaste for kids

Children under 18 months only make use of only water during tooth brushing.

From 18 months to 6 years old, apply a toothbrush with a tiny head and mild stubble. Check out the fluoride quantity on the pack of toothpaste, it should be with a low.

Teach your kid the right brushing of teeth

Cheer your children up to be engaged in the process of tooth brushing with pleasure. Support them to adopt this skill and entitle them to brush their teeth on their own. After the age of 8, kids develop the perfect motor ability required for cleaning the tooth. Nevertheless, control over the children is mandatory until parents are assured that the kids are able to succeed in this activity and many others by themselves.

After cleaning, cheer your child up to spit out the toothpaste, rather than to swallow it with water.

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Feature/OPED

Making 2023 General Elections a Rewarding One

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2023 General Elections

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The central interest of this piece is not to spot leadership faults in Nigeria or proffer solutions to what the present administration is not doing well to salvage the socio-economic well-being of the poor masses. Rather, the present piece is out to perform two separate but related functions.

First, as the nation races towards 2023 general elections, the piece x-rays the volume/strength with which foreign observers have in the past two decades raised strong voices against uncivil antics particularly the thorny transparency challenge that characterized concluded elections in Nigeria and the organized resentment it brought to the nation at the global stage/ exposed the nation to the pangs of sociopolitical challenges that prevent her from enthroning true democracy that ensures a corruption-free society.

Secondly, it is primed and positioned to find both practical and pragmatic ways Nigerians and particularly the present administration can use the forthcoming 2023 general election to correct the nation’s leadership challenge which is gravitating towards becoming a culture.

Aside from the fact that we cannot solve our socio-political challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it, the 2023 electoral project will among other things demand finding nations that have met the electoral challenges that we currently face, how they had tackled it and how successful they had become. We must admit and adopt both structural and mental changes, approaches that impose more discipline than is conventional.

Indeed, we are challenged to develop the world perspective in performing the traditional but universal responsibility which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on us, as no individual or nation can live alone and our geographical oneness has to a large extent come into being through modern man scientific ingenuity.

Again, with the amendment of the electoral Act that presently accommodates the electronic transmission of results, one can say that as a nation, we have made some political/electoral gains.

However, to help achieve electoral perfection in the country, there exists also, a study report which provides a link between the factors that impede credible election in Nigeria as well as made far-reaching measures that could pave way for development and orderliness in the nation’s political sphere.

The report was put together by the Centre for Value in Leadership (CVL), Lagos in partnership with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), and supported by MacArthur Foundation. It has as title; Ethics and Standards in Electoral Process in Nigeria (guiding tools/principles).

Going by the content of the report, an election is said to be credible when it is organized in an atmosphere of peace, devoid of rancour and acrimony. The outcome of such an election must be acceptable to a majority of the electorate and it must be acceptable within the international community.

If elections are to be free and fair, laws designed in that regard must not just exist; they must be operational and be enforced. And the power of freedom of choice conferred on the electorates must be absolute and not questionable.

But contrary to these provisions, since the re-emergence of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, our country has conducted different elections. These elections have many common features and few things differentiate them.

For instance, the elections were all conducted periodically as expected. They were closely monitored by domestic and international observers, and they aroused varied contestations from Nigerian politicians and voters and they were marred by varying degrees of malpractice.

The implication of this finding is that the electoral process in Nigeria is rendered vulnerable to abuse, through massive rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices by political parties- especially by those in power as they seek to manipulate the system to serve their partisan interest.

Elections, which are a critical part of the democratic process, therefore, lose their intrinsic value and become mere means of manipulation to get to power.

This, the study noted, derogates the sanctity of elections as an institutional mechanism for conferring political power on citizens in a democratic dispensation.

As a way forward, it underlined four basic conditions necessary to create an enabling environment for holding free and fair elections. These include; an honest, competent and non-partisan body to administer the election, the knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power, a developed system of political parties and teams of candidates presented to the electorates as alternative choices. And an independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes.

For transparency and accountability during and after the election, INEC should; be free from any form of financial encumbrance, funding of INEC should henceforth come from the first-line charge. The commission should also be removed from the list of Federal bodies. And, the procedure for the appointment and removal of the INEC chairman and members of the board should be reviewed.

To perform its role effectively as the final arbiter of electoral dispute, and curb the excesses of the politicians, the court must possess both juridical expertise as well as political independence. There should be adequate time between resolution of conflicts and swearing-in of elected officials; section 134 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 should be reviewed such that election tribunal cases are expedited. And finally, the court must resist the political or financial pressure and adhere strictly to the underlying legal grounds in their consideration of injunctions.

Aside from adopting or enforcing provisions requiring aspiring candidates to have been a member of a political party to address a high prevalence of defections before elections which dilutes political party growth and development, political parties should act as a bridge between people and the government and help integrate citizens into the political system. Also, they should inform citizens about politics through socialization and mobilization of voters to ensure that the decisions are made by the people.

While the report stressed that any discussion on democracy without the right to receive and impart information is empty. It, however, regretted that journalism in Nigeria with regard to its constitutional roles is not scientific; adding that Nigerian politicians have always used the media in an unwholesome manner.

To exit this state of affairs, the report urged practitioners to help build enlightened electorates as public enlightenment is a prerequisite for free and fair elections.

The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, private and state-owned media outlets should strictly enforce, and adhere to regulations on media neutrality and take steps against hate messaging and misinformation in the media. The media should uphold the ethos of providing accurate and factual information to the citizens at all times.

While this is ongoing, the Nigerian Police Force should be guided by,  and conform to the appropriate principles,  rules, codes of ethics, and laws governing police duties especially in relation to crowd control and use of firearms. They should maintain impartiality and eschew partisanship or discrimination between the ruling and non-ruling, big or small.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Money, Society, Development and Economics

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By Nneka Okumazie

For some people, all they will ever become is what money can make them.

For them, the power of everything money can do makes everything about money.

They often measure to money and measure for money. They talk for it and ensure it is what is seen about them.

Many of these people have money above all culture in some of the countries the people there have described as unbearable.

In most of these countries, the same reason government does not work is the same thing outsiders are about, bringing the country to a contiguous halt.

Government is all about who can grab for self and interests, around power, resources and money.

This same reason is why many organized crimes exist and several kinds of harmful practices across the private sector.

Money will never develop any country. Though some continue to say money is what is lacking.

Money will never change anything about anyone because if there are real changes at any point, money may have enhanced it but was never cause.

Things that look like changes that money made does not change; they are just more of how money keeps itself important.

For many things done because there was money to do it, they are many times purposeless. There are also others that should be been important, but because money was more important in that project, it also became purposeless.

If in some developing country, someone lives in a nice apartment or drives a cool vehicle, making that individual seem important, the importance of the individual is to whom, and what purpose does it serve, and for what it serves, what does it change, affect or improve?

The comfort that is lived in many of these places is a false peak.

It keeps them there and there is rarely much else to find meaning for.

Money continues to dictate how to be seen to have it, going around in circles, absent of progress, but ensuring participants are unaware.

Money, for what it can, makes people become a sunset. Money stays important using people as tools to itself.

[Ecclesiastes 6:7, All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.]

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