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Conflicts/Insecurity in Africa and Achike Chudi’s Solution

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Achike Chudi

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It was at a recent gathering organised by one of the Catholic churches in Lagos aimed at creating new awareness to assist parishioners to keep abreast with the fuelling factors and possible steps that will cushion the socioeconomic impact of nagging insecurity in the country.

The gathering had as a theme Heightening Insecurity in the Country: Exploring Ways to Mitigate Hardship, with Achike Chudi, a public affairs commentator and Vice President Joint Action Front (JAF) as the keynote speaker.

On that day, at that time and in that place, while Achike examined the multiple layers of formal and informal political leadership in post-colonial Africa, the primary holders, controllers and distributors of power and resources in a particular institution and/or territory, he argued that contemporary African leaders operate in an environment constrained by colonial legacies and instability and submitted that leadership in Nigeria/Africa as a continent is characteristically neo-patrimonial, featuring presidentialism, clientelism, the use of state resources and the centralization of power.

Separate from providing sustainable roadmaps/solutions to the nagging challenge of conflict/insecurity in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, there are in fact more inherent reasons why we must not allow Achike’s latest intervention to go with political winds.

First, he started by stating without doubt that the problem of the Nigerian nation is rooted in our past, just as the foundation of every state is in the education of its youth and the beauty of a building traced to the construction of its foundation that will stand the test of time.

He used carefully prepared power points, properly framed arguments, vivid evidence and emotional match with the audience, to demonstrate that the way in which a government or institution at an international or societal level addresses conflict between individuals, groups or nations can determine whether the parties to the conflict will resort to violence.

He argued that State weakness can create the conditions for violent conflict, noting that political institutions that are unable to manage differing group interests peacefully, to provide adequate guarantees of group protection, or to accommodate growing demands for political participation, can fracture societies. There is a degree of consensus that there is a U-shaped relationship between levels of democracy and the likelihood of violent conflict, he concluded.

On the causes of conflict and insecurity, Achike has this to say; “there is no single cause of conflict. Rather, conflict is context-specific, multi-causal and multidimensional and can result from a combination of the following factors. Political and institutional factors: weak state institutions, elite power struggles and political exclusion, breakdown in social contract and corruption, identity politics.

“Socioeconomic factors: inequality, exclusion and marginalization, absence or weakening of social cohesion, poverty. Resource and environmental factors: greed, scarcity of national resources often due to population growth leading to environmental insecurity, unjust resource exploitation.”

Each of these factors he argued may constitute a cause, dynamic and/or impact of conflict. New issues will arise during the conflict which perpetuates the conflict. Identifying and understanding the interactions between various causes, dimensions, correlates and dynamics of conflict – and the particular contexts in which conflict arises, is essential in determining potential areas of intervention; and designing appropriate approaches and methods for conflict prevention, resolution and transformation

While mature democracies are able to manage tensions peacefully through democratic inclusion, stark autocracies are able to repress violence and manage conflict through force. The most vulnerable states are those in a political transition. Uncertainty and collective fears of the future, stemming from state weakness, clientelism and indiscriminate repression may result in the emergence of armed responses by marginalized groups and nationalist, ethnic or other populist ideologies.

Is democratization the best way to promote peace?

He again argues that the world would probably be safer if there were more mature democracies but, in the transition to democracy, countries become more aggressive and war-prone. The international community should be realistic about the dangers of encouraging democratization where the conditions are unripe. The risk of violence increases if democratic institutions are not in place when mass electoral politics are introduced.

Away from the usefulness of democracy to what causes ethnic conflict, and why does it escalate? He responded thus; intense ethnic conflict is usually caused by collective fears for the future. It presents a framework for understanding the origins and management of ethnic conflict and recommends how the international community can intervene more effectively.

Three key factors contribute to the development of ethnic conflict: Information failure, when individuals or groups misrepresent or misinterpret information about other groups; Problems of credible commitment, when one group cannot credibly reassure another that it will not renege on or exploit a mutual agreement; and Security dilemmas when one or more disputing parties has an incentive to use pre-emptive force. When these factors take hold, groups become apprehensive, the state weakens, and conflict becomes more likely.

The domination of access to state structures and resources by any one leader, group or political party to the exclusion of others exacerbates social divisions. It may provide incentives for excluded leaders to mobilise groups to protest and engage in violent rebellion. In contrast, inclusive elite bargains that seek to address social fragmentation and integrate a broad coalition of key elites can reduce the chances of violent rebellion.

Continuing, he said; a social contract is a framework of rules that govern state-society relations and the distribution of resources, rights and responsibilities in an organised society. How a government spends public revenue, regardless of whether it comes from taxes or from natural resources, is significant.

If it spends it equitably on social welfare and satisfying basic needs, conflict is less likely to occur if these resources are spent judiciously than when appropriated for corrupt or fractional purposes. Corruption undermines public trust in government, deters domestic and foreign investment, exacerbates inequalities in wealth and increases socio-economic grievances.

Equally, the inability of states to provide basic services, including justice and security, to all its citizens reduces state legitimacy and trust in state institutions, weakening or breaking the social contract.

Still, on the factor promoting insecurity/conflict, he told the bewildered gathering that in some cases, ruling groups may resort to violence to prolong their rule and maintain opportunities for corruption. This can in turn provoke violent rebellion by marginalized groups. In other situations, research has found that “buying off” opposition groups and belligerents may facilitate transitions to peace – The North and the importation of belligerents in anticipation of the 2015 elections

Moving away from elite power struggles and political exclusion, Achike raised another point relevant to the present security temperatures in the country and Africa.

In his words, colonialism and liberation struggles in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have left various legacies, including divisive and militarized politics and fierce struggles for power and land. Post-liberation leaders in some countries have sustained these dynamics, retaining power through neo-patrimonial networks, state capture, militarization and coercion.

Studies have shown that in some cases, they have promoted ideologies of ‘Us versus Them’, excluding and marginalising other groups. The domination of access to state structures and resources by any one leader, group or political party to the exclusion of others exacerbates social divisions. It may provide incentives for excluded leaders to mobilise groups to protest and engage in violent rebellion. In contrast, inclusive elite bargains that seek to address social fragmentation and integrate a broad coalition of key elites can reduce the chances of violent rebellion.

Sub-Saharan Africa, he said is the world’s most conflict-intensive region. But why have some African states experienced civil war, while others have managed to maintain political stability? This paper argues that the ability of post-colonial states in Sub-Saharan Africa to maintain political stability depends on the ability of the ruling political parties to overcome the historical legacy of social fragmentation.

On the way forward, he observed that creating inclusive elite bargains can bring stability while exclusionary elite bargains give rise to trajectories of civil war, promotion of inclusive political settlements. Most importantly, the nation must facilitate the further goals of (i) addressing causes of conflict and building resolution mechanisms; (ii) developing state survival functions; and (iii) responding to public expectations. Support across all four of these interrelated areas is necessary to help create a positive peace- and state-building dynamic, he concluded.

What does all this say to us in Nigeria? The answer in my view is in the womb of time.

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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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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