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Okowa, CEPEJ and Traditional Institution’s Role in Building Sustainable Peace

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CEPEJ Traditional Institution's Role

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

If there is any event in recent time in Nigeria that further underscores the well-established believe that traditional institution holds the key to success or failure of peace and security in Nigeria as they operate at the root of the society and interact with people in their daily activities, it is the visit by the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), civil society and non-governmental organization, on Tuesday, September 21, 2021, to the palace of the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III to celebrate him for his contribution towards concretizing peace by sensitizing the masses on the need for peaceful coexistence.

During the visit, it was reported that CEPEJ Director, Comrade Mulade Sheriff, stressed the need to continuously build and support peaceful coexistence in Nigeria, most especially with neighbours in the Warri area of Delta State, in line with the 2021 theme of the World Peace Day Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World.

CEPEJ took the initiative to key into the International Day of Peace as observed around the world on September 21, pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration in 1981 to strengthen the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours, non-violence and cease-fire.

Certainly, the CEPEJ boss, aside from expressing a world view, the Warri monarch on his part, said what has been on the minds of Nigerians. As he, going by media reports, underlined the imperatives for sustainable peace and development based on the truth and resolution of wrongs and injustices in the land, and therefore, called on NGOs to intensify their peace crusade in Nigeria and Africa.

Why this visit and comment from the Olu of Warri deserves our praise is that many have in the past viewed as fiction the call by well-meaning Nigerians on the traditional institution to rise up to the occasion of peace and security promotion in their domain.

Previously, some have asked questions such as; who are the traditional rulers? What are their roles and functions? What are their roles in maintaining peace and harmony?

But in projecting these slanted views, there are silent points that they failed to remember. These points are in fact the actual reasons that qualify CEPEJ visit to the monarch as strategic and in consonance with the position canvassed in the first paragraph that traditional rulers hold the key to the success or failure of peace and security in Nigeria as they operate at the root of the society and interact with people in their daily activities.

Let’s cast a glance at the reasons.

Without a doubt, the most important achievement of the visit by the CEPEJ team is the group’s use of the opportunity provided by the visit to advocate for a society characterized by equity, justice, fair play and inclusiveness.

More specifically in my view, why this effort should be appreciated is that it is now a barefaced truth that the whole gamut of restiveness of youths, whether in the south-east, south-south, north or south-west, and resurgent demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stems from mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivation.

I believed and still believe that the likes of Nnamdi Kanu would instantly fizzle away and their cause dies naturally if Nigeria is restructured to ensure more inclusiveness.

But agitations for the death of Nigeria cannot go away when nepotism and sectionalism continue to be evident in the manner of political patronage and distribution of our common patrimony as currently obtained.

Still, on the importance of traditional institutions to building sustainable peace in the country, a research report among other observations noted that; despite the predictions in the 1960s that traditional rulers’ position would disappear, they have persisted and flourished in Nigeria.

In trying to resolve this puzzle, Suleiman Danladi Hamza, Sivamurugan Pandian, Razlini Mohd Ramli, also observed in their survey report that the traditional leaders possess basic knowledge and skills of the customs, traditions, and values of their people and the indigenous patterns of conflict resolution that place them in the better position to play a role in mitigating violence and ensuring peaceful co-existence of the people in Africa.

Another case study of indigenous conflict resolution in Ghana and Botswana observes that ‘the values embedded in the traditional institution and cultural processes have a positive impact on the arbitration of conflicts to the extent that people favour the traditional pattern of conflict resolution than the courts.

This is because the traditional conflict resolution is based on the customs, traditions, and values which are more comprehended, accustomed, and accepted by the people. It concluded that the indigenous patterns of conflict resolution pave a way for peace and harmony to prevail in society.

In many respects, Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, shares the same view with the CEPEJ team at this year’s International Peace Day, as he also called for devoted effort to strengthening the ideals of peace through observing 24 hours of non-violence and ceasefire.

Represented by his Chief of Staff, Barr Festus Agas, the Governor underscored the essence of meaningful peace-building platforms, aimed at political and social stability, as captured in his SMART Agenda.

“We must seek to understand that around the world, we are all more alike than different. We must seek common grounds, understand and value the differences we find in the cultures that we experience.

“We must promote economic and social stability. At the core of peaceful rela­tions, we must respect all human rights to the belief that all humans are valuable. No one ethnic group is better than the other,” Mr Okowa said.

As the nation continues to search for peace, two things stand out.

Foremost, the thoughtless killings in the north east, north-west and south-east particularly the recent gruesome assassination of Dr Chike Akunyili, the widower of Professor Dora Akunyili, by yet to be identified person(s) has made enthronement of security and peace in the country our collective responsibility.

Secondly, we must understand very well the nature of community, the freedom of the individual for the community. We must teach the world the value of forgiveness. As a nation, we must openly admit that no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!

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 or 08032725374.

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Engage, Advocate, Inspire and Empower – Using Photography as a Driver of Sustainability

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Photography Driver of Sustainability

Let’s answer the million-dollar question – Why is photography important?

Because it speaks, it communicates, it educates and it cultivates change. I am often asked this question and my answer remains the same always.

Photography is not just a tool for artistic expression or documentation, it is a lot more than that. Photography has the power to raise awareness, to change the narrative thus inspiring people to take action, for instance, my work around ‘Water Life’ from 2018 addressed the plight of water access and its impact not only on society but also on women in rural regions, especially so in Ethiopia but also across Africa.

In reality, it is a tool to spread education not only inside our own regions and countries but also beyond our borders to be able to draw attention, start a conversation and bring people together.

So for me, photography does not really fit in any one description box, but rather it moulds into something that you want to project out to the world.

Similar to the art of Cinema, photography can be used to entertain, educate, ask questions, and throw light on our history or all of the above. It is really what you make out of it and that’s why it is vital for our society, educational institutions and governments today to encourage and empower photographers and to truly appreciate the art of photography.

Power of the Image – Forming Perceptions, Driving Change

As the founder and director of the Addis Foto Fest (AFF), the first international photography festival in East Africa hosted since 2010 in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I can vouch for the fact that photography has the potential to become a force that drives change.

Of course, great power comes with great responsibility and that is exactly what budding photographers today need to be made aware of.

Competitions such as ‘Moments that Matter’ reflect light on the pressing issues that we as a species and as a planet are facing together and these grave issues need to be conveyed to as many people as possible without making them despondent. That’s where the theme of sustainability fits in so well to showcase this ever-going cycle of today and tomorrow and its direct co-relation with each other.

Everything that we do today shapes our future for tomorrow, this is the encapsulating theme that photographers need to bear in mind whilst sending their submissions.

We live in this day and age of rapid consumption and according to Statista’s 2021 report on ‘Mobile Usage’, there are currently 6.4 billion smartphone users worldwide. As unbelievable as this figure is, one can only imagine the number of images consumed by each of these people, and images have the inherent ability to form perceptions and perspectives.

Hence, it is even more vital today to use this technology of smartphones and social media to direct messages of progress towards people to drive that sentiment that leads them to take action and make meaningful changes.

Canon’s initiative on empowering photographers to capture moments in the sustainability spectrum through categories that speak about economic, human, environmental and social progress is truly the pressing priority for all of us.

However, the beauty of the competition lies in the spirit of sustainability that rekindles the flame of hope in our hearts and gives us a reason to look forward to the future. It is this challenge that participating photographers need to understand and convey in their images, to show us the problem but also to shed light on its solutions.

As a practising advocate of change through photography, I am extremely keen to see the submissions that come through allowing us to look at the world through someone else’s eye, to experience their vision and see what change others are aspiring to create not only in their own country but for the whole wide world.

Take, for instance, my very own continent of Africa where more often than not, the portrayal of poverty or other issues is depicted through photography which often lacks the balanced perspective in which also it is an indigenous view and not only through the foreign gaze or visual arts.

But today, this narrative is changing as we see a new generation of photographers who overcome great challenges to be the visual storytellers of a changing Africa in which they offer a new perspective that offers our humanity and humility. This is the power of an image and through this medium to show the world the enormous amount of talent, culture, capabilities as well as the scope for a better future and this other side of Africa that is often hidden or lost in pictures.

Photography as a Means of Advocacy – Help to Heal

In a world as diverse and complex as ours, there are various issues that need to be brought to the surface to evoke a conversation leading us to solutions. This responsibility needs to be collectively shared not just by creative industries but all industries out there, even those that are impacting the narrative of our communities, nations and continents. Even in the global discourse as it relates to our environment and planet, the power of the image and our connections through technologies offer us many opportunities for change. One person may be able to plant a tree but together we can plant an entire forest and that is the power of helping and empowerment…in helping others we also help and heal ourselves.

This is the main reason why my work outside of being in museums or fine art has been a reflection of advocacy…. advocating the need to make a change. As globalization has taken centre stage in the last few decades, we must realize this responsibility that we all now share – to really empower each other as people and then to empower our planet to prosper.

Finding solutions together is key to unlocking the potential for tomorrow. Photography is an excellent instrument to advocate the cause that you believe in, for me personally I have been passionate about environmental issues which are depicted through my images. Photographers participating in ‘Moments that Matter’ must look at engaging their art forms to advocate and inspire others thus leveraging their visual language to become the hope for tomorrow.

No Pain, No Gain – Pursue Your Passion to Find Greatness

Creativity is the birth of innovation and as daunting as it may seem to showcase a new angle or perspective through your images…that is where the true challenge of this visual art-form lies.

Authenticity is the key that unlocks the great power of photography. Photographers that understand this as the basic foundation of their work usually go a long way in their professional paths. In the beginning, however, it may seem like an impossible feat to achieve but it is the part of our journey that we need to embrace in order to become visible in this competitive and challenging creative world.

In the past, I have been through phases of disappointment as a young photographer when I struggled to prove my point to people but perseverance, patience and practice can take you anywhere as I have learned from my journey. I was inspired by photographer, Chester Higgins who taught me the tricks of the trade – to never stop believing in yourself, your work and to always remain authentic. That advice has led me to become who I am today. I stuck to black and white photography as my core niche even though the world was booming with innovations in coloured photography. It is crucial to reflect your own individual point of view in your work without getting overwhelmed by trends or fads. That remains my advice for all budding photographers who dream to make their mark in the world…be authentic, remain consistent and believe in yourself!

Submit your entries  here: https://canon.sm/3mYsyLF

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Do You Know Ijaw Politicians?

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Ijaw Politicians

By Asiayei Enaibo

Yes, they are great politicians in Ijawland; many have groomed followers with the gospel of hatred, those who managed our poverties with one salary divided to seven. Those that only want to see you serve their children and take over from them while their servants service their grandchildren and in-laws.

Do You Know Ijaw Politicians?

Yes, we have great and eloquent Ijaw politicians that make or support a bill once in four years and give us cups of rice at the end of the year and we call them Messiahs. Are they Messiahs or cups of rice and anti-development politicians?

The last time I saw my village children sent as delegates from their families to collect cups of rice tied in cellophane, and the children too were happy and angry, but they could not say a word, for they do not know what good governance is all about.

We have politicians only in the election period as our youths, including myself, praise them for survival to manage our collective poverty as we clap for their third or sixth term coming!

Ijaws are blessed with great minds as politicians that never brief us on constituency development for four years or twenty years. Once you make such comments, they will hire community-based boys from your area to disarm your pen and break your legs in a ghastly Keke accident when their convoy is coming.

From the Senate down to House of Representatives, to House of Assembly, the lawmakers, their oversight function is to gather enemies, a list of stubborn boys they could starve for objective criticism, blacklist, even though you have community-based policy ideas to show them for them to excel in their business of politics, they will refuse you to come near their homes, locked with iron gates and dogs to attack the Talking Drum.

Empowerment, zero per cent. Once you say something about empowerment, they will go and snap photos at the sales points of Keke and Okada to show us photos that they did empowerment at Abuja, while the people in the villages they are representing have no idea of such empowerment.

Do You Know Any Ijaw Politicians?

Yes, those who have not said anything as a matter of urgent public importance even though flood kills all the children at Bobougbene, yes those that don’t listen to the youths but listen to old ones on money sharing formula in Burutu.

Do You Know Any Ijaw Politicians?

Yes, the few good ones are good but the corrupt familitocracy are more than the public interest. Once they give our children one scholarship, they say it is their personal money. When they were not elected, none had personal money to share, they turn our head against us.

They have never called for a town hall meeting to address us. Once we make such comments, those who call themselves as Ijaw watchdogs that they have given cups of rice, are blindfolded to distract the meeting for their own interests not to allow the meeting to expose their selfish, un-political thinking. They said they have influenced the project to us, the last time I checked, the lawmakers are the same contractors, their grandfathers’ father’s names are the contractors, they partner as an elder brother to corruption whose senior sister is to embezzle the money and abandon the work while they give her negotiated amount to run away. For they are the Messiahs we have as politicians in Nigerian.

I do blame the good ones that are afraid of bad ones not to contest to rule us with great ideas, innovative laws that can project our rural riverine areas to tourist centres. We have great minds in Ijawland, the old good ones are poor, the young good ones are poor, they can’t buy a vote, for our society sells vote to buy poverty. Some have already exchanged their franchise for 20 cups of rice come 2023.

Look at them, we have Urban Development Commission everywhere, but no Riverine Rural Development Board and nobody is saying anything. They gather and only laugh with their colleagues, no policy, Where is great Comrade Joseph Evah, who has done this to us?

How Do We Reform Them Now?

First, we should hold them accountable with a blueprint whenever they are coming to our communities for campaigns, itemize what they can do for us in black and white paper and use Egbesu to swear, once they fail us, let what happened to Abacha happen to them. Amen!

Let us hold them to brief us in a town hall meeting on what they could bring to our communities in a yearly budget. If they fail, we go to their national office with placards as a vote of no confidence to withdraw our mandate in protests. Yes, we can.

Yes, it is a good point, we do not have light, no politicians care in our area, we don’t have drinkable water in the Ijaw area, no elected politicians care, we don’t have good schools, the appointees are afraid to tell the governor.

We don’t have roads, they said our places are difficult terrain.

Our mothers give birth in the canoes while paddling to the cities to deliver in the hospitals, then we call such children names like “Arukazi.”

The year 2023 is around the corner, they hire all the 200HP engine boats to go to the difficult terrains to buy votes, the good, the ugly and the evils, many have listed the stubborn boys to beat the writers, many have planned hired boys for rigging, then vote-buying, four years equal to N2,000, N10,000 for the future of a whole family. I blame our mothers and women with political Asoebi clapping for N500 on daily basis at the end no empowerment. Eyorotuooo.

Do You Have Great Politicians In Ijawland?

Yes, one half-bridge as a legacy project for twenty years, they are the best coming again. Let us prepare to buy ‘Ongu,’ that ancient water reservoir and cry into it to fill it with tears so we could have water to drink.

Arise youths of conscience, let us watch over our future as 2023 comes around.

Someone has already listed his father’s enemy once he becomes a governor, they will suffer, a premeditated plan to suffer the masses as if they are God.

Good leadership is a manifestation of public development.

Look around you and where you are representing, don’t allow your praise singers to deceive you as Darkness and Light are known to humanity at all levels.

Asiayei Enaibo, the Talking Drum of the Niger Delta, writes from GbaramatuVoice Media Centre.

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Moving Day Madness

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Moving Day Madness

Moving to a new home is exciting, but it can be stressful, too. A move requires so much planning that it can feel overwhelming but, by being organised you can turn it into a smooth, even enjoyable, process. Planning is key – this is definitely one of those times that it pays to be super organised. Follow these tips from Aisha Pandor, CEO and Co-founder of SweepSouth, to keep the stress at bay on moving day.

Make a list

A checklist helps you to keep track of everything, making it less likely you’ll forget something. It also allows you to tick off tasks as you complete them, giving you a sense of accomplishment and motivating you to keep going if you start getting tired of packing.

Plan the move as far ahead as possible, and sort out any admin you can in the run-up to the actual day, such as changing your Wi-Fi details and informing your insurance of your new address. Check to see if they’ll insure your possessions while you move.

Packing hacks

“Start packing well ahead of time, labelling each box on top by writing the name of the room it’s intended for, along with bullet points of what’s inside,” advises Aisha. Safely store fiddly fixtures and fittings like screws and brackets in sealable plastic sandwich bags, and stick appliance and gadget wires down with tape to prevent them from dangling about while being moved.

Use bin bags to make transporting clothes easier – slip hangers with clothes on into a large bin bag and tie a few hangers together with a rubber band for easier carrying. Pack precious items like jewellery, important documents, and laptops into a separate bag that you take in your own car.

Finish packing the day before

It sounds obvious, but don’t compromise on this one, says Aisha. “You’ll thank yourself when the movers arrive and you don’t have to rush around getting last-minute things sorted. And don’t underestimate the small items. You may think they’ll be easy to pop into a box just before the movers arrive, but these small tasks could end up wasting valuable time.”

Packing is a tiring task, so hire hands for the other big chores associated with moving day, like cleaning. Empty houses are always dirtier than you’d expect, so book a cleaning service through SweepSouth Connect for both the old and new – meaning your old space will be left spotless once the last box has been taken, and you’ll be moving into a sparkling clean home.

Assemble a moving-day survival kit

Pack a box of essential items to see you through the day and your first night, and keep it in your car for easy access. Consider these items: a phone charger, screwdriver, sharp knife for opening boxes, glasses and mugs, a kettle, provisions to make hot drinks, cleaning cloths, bin bags, washing up liquid, toilet rolls, and a small medical kit. It’s also a good idea to have an overnight bag with toiletries, a hand towel, pyjamas, a clean change of clothing, and sheets to hang over bedroom windows in case the curtains aren’t up yet.

Be safety conscious

Take every precaution you can to keep you and your moving team safe. Don’t overpack boxes, dispose of any dangerous liquids, and make sure that appliances like lawnmowers are cleaned and emptied of fuel. On the day of the move, prevent accidents while boxes are being moved by keeping a clear pathway so that you can walk through without tripping over objects while carrying something heavy in your arms.

Pace yourself

Moving days are tiring, so make sure you get a good night’s rest before. Start the morning off with a good breakfast, and stop for lunch, so that you keep your energy levels up. Keep a few bottles of water handy for yourself and the movers – a hydrated moving team is a happy and efficient team, says Aisha.

Create a playlist ahead of time. Music is a mood booster, and listening to music you love triggers feel-good chemicals that make you happy and less anxious. If you don’t have time to collate a playlist, type terms like ‘Happy Hits’, ‘Mood Booster’, or ‘Good Vibes’ into Spotify and slot into a bouncy, energetic playlist. Move over, moving-day blues!

Do a final walk-through

Walk through the house one last time before you go, doing a close inspection of each room. It’s also worth taking some photographs so that you have a record of the state of the property.

Moving days always take longer than anticipated, and you’ll no doubt be exhausted by the end of it. “Have realistic expectations of how much you can achieve in one day,” says Aisha. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to unpack everything by the first night, so take a well-deserved break and recharge. And, finally, order some lovely takeaways to celebrate the first night in your new home – your tired body will thank you!

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