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Still on the True Meaning of Political Power

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Political Power

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve a purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, economic, political, cultural and religious changes.

What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demand of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

From these words of Martin Luther King Jr, it may not be a wrong assertion to conclude that; there is nothing wrong with power; that power could be used both constructively and destructively; that for man to function well in any given position of authority, he/she must identify that power is not a complete end but looks up to something further; it cannot itself be the ultimate goal; that power is valuable according to the use to which it may be put.

And most importantly, power in the estimation of the Marxists is but the ability to protect one’s interest.

Chief among such examples of the destructive exercise of power include Pol Pot.  It was in the news that while in power in Cambodia between 1975 and 1978, he used his position to cause the death of more than two million people in Cambodia – a small country in Southeast Asia bordered by Vietnam and Thailand. This is a verifiable fact.

The story is not different here in Africa as it is factually backed by that late Robert Mugabe in his quest to hold on to power, massacred over 20,000 of his people and not animals, destroyed the nation’s economy and watched with disinterest while his wife looted millions of dollars.

Fresh in our memories are the Liberia episode in the early 1990s, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire.

Specifically in Africa, there are even more accounts of gradual and silent encroachment/abuse of power by those in positions of authority, than by violent and sudden usurpations.

Conversely, talking about constructive use of power, the thought of Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore (as he then was), naturally comes flooding.

It is recorded that Lee grew fifteen times, independent Singapore with a GDP of $3billion in 1965 to $46billion in 1997 and its economy became the 8th highest per capita GNP in the world in 1997 according to the World Bank ranking.

Back home is a similar account, shortly after independence, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then Premier of the Western region, Nigeria constructively used his position to better the life chances of his people of the region- infrastructurally, socio-economically. And through quality and affordable education, set the region on a hyper-modern pathway.

This feat or a combination of other people-purposed achievements, without doubt, explains why four decades after his reign, he is daily remembered and used in virtually all the primary schools (both public and private), as an example of a great leader

Indeed, they defined power in the image of their actions

But today, that narrative has changed. National development is not only in trouble; rather education, power, health and infrastructure are the worst victims of present ineptitudes.

On the contrary, when you build down precisely what went wrong, one thing seems to stand out. It is the shocking reality that the same qualities that created success in the past are the same qualities that undermine success today.

In many ways, the present administration may have a sincere desire to move the nation forward, but there are three major militating factors. First, there is no clear definition of our problem as a nation, the goals to be achieved, or the means chose to address the problems and to achieve the goals.

Secondly, the system has virtually no consideration for connecting the poor with good means of livelihood-food, job and security.

Thirdly, though they constitutionally possess the political powers to improve the life chances of the governed, governments at all levels daily manifest non-possession of political will to perform their constitutional responsibilities. This is the only possible explanation for this situation.

Take the education sector as a living reality, globally, it is a well-considered belief that that; with sound and well educational institutions, a country is as good as made -as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects.

Similarly, it’s being argued elsewhere that education is, in fact, an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of society’s ills.

In an age where information has more economic value than ever before, it’s obvious that education should have a higher national priority. It is also clear that democracies are more likely to succeed when there is widespread access to high-quality education.

But despite these virtues, attributes and exceptions about education, here in Nigeria, the sector remains in the ‘valleys of the shadow of death’ occasioned by perennial underfunding.

Standing as a telling proof to this claim is the budgetary provision for education in 2019 which got N620.5 billion (7.05 per cent), an amount that is far below the United Nations Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation.

This failure speaks volumes and points at FG’s unwillingness to engineer national development and signposts an administration that is not interested in using the power properly. What about the state of the nation’s infrastructures-roads in particular? Definitely, it elicits but a similar response. Some years ago, it was reported that Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), instead of telling Nigerians about the efforts being made to fix the federal roads, told bewildered Nigerians that the roads in the country are not as bad as they are saying it.

Indeed, it is responses such as this that have in the estimation of the global community characterized our democracy as ‘democracy turned upside down’.

To reverse this unpalatable demonstration of power, governments at all levels must develop the political will to use power creatively and profitably by recognizing that the need to have the future of this country discussed has become eminently urgent.

Education must be well funded to help lecturers carry out scholarly research, promote a smooth academic calendar; rid Nigerian schools of dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities and aid our tertiary educational institutions to produce graduates with the manpower needed by the nation’s industrial sector.

The nation must also come up with programmes to sustain the youths who for the moment have lost all fears of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of violence.

Their fathers and grandfathers embezzled millions of naira meant for development projects. They used the money to acquire arms for electoral purposes. They have armed the youths to unleash terror on their perceived enemies’.

The youths seem not to be interested in dropping guns so easily. Particularly, the Alamajiris in the north must be reintegrated back to school, so should challenges of the youths in the south-south whose farmlands and other means of livelihood have been destroyed through oil prospecting and explorations be addressed.

By 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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Islamic Estate Planning: Protect Your Family and Leave a Legacy

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Islamic Estate Planning

By FBNQuest

Islamic estate planning involves the distribution of your assets that serve to preserve, manage, and distribute them after death according to the principles of the Shari’ah.

According to the Islamic ordinance, those principles are significant in planning for dependents and represent an investment in the afterlife.

Islamic inheritance laws organise your wealth ownership and assets to ensure fairness and justice after your passing. Instead of leaving the tough decisions to grieving family members, you can arrange the gifting of your assets in advance. This creates a streamlined process for the distribution of the inheritance to all family members.

Islamic estate planning is essential in the life of Muslim faithful. Indeed, if you pass away as a Muslim without a proper plan for your assets, you may be breaching the bequest guidance stated in the Holy Book, which serves as an instruction manual for a Muslim’s life.

However, many are not concerned with making an inheritance plan, even though a failure to make one could trigger intense family debate and hinder the transfer of some assets to specific beneficiaries.

According to the guiding principles of Islamic estate planning, after covering the funeral expenses and debts owed by the deceased, a person may designate up to one-third of their wealth.

This discretionary giving is known as the Wasiyyah. However, there are limitations to this discretionary giving.

For example, Wasiyyah cannot be given to someone already receiving a share under the Islamic inheritance laws. The Wasiyyah is most commonly given to charity or to care for distant relatives who cannot provide for themselves.

The residual two-thirds is the Mirath and is reserved for the Islamic heirs as ordained in the Holy Book. Primary beneficiaries are those who will inherit some of your wealth, provided that they are alive and Muslim. These are your spouse, children, and parents, and they receive a fixed share of the wealth.

Secondary beneficiaries are those whose share of the inheritance is contingent on whether other primary beneficiaries are still alive. These may include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. It is vital to appreciate the rights and obligations relating to an estate.

In preparing to bequeath an inheritance, it is crucial to organise your wealth in a manner that will make assets acceptable for consideration in an Islamic estate plan.

In this regard, investments should be screened for compliance with Islamic estate ethics, and investments in interest-bearing assets are disqualified.

Instead, it would help if you endeavoured to invest in increasingly popular Sukuk bonds. You should consider Mudarabah Investment accounts as substitutes to fixed deposit accounts and subscribe to a family takaful policy instead of a life insurance policy in your saving plans.

As for pension assets, you should opt for a multi-fund structure with an option to invest in Shari’ah-compliant instruments.

Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a compulsory giving required from every financially stable Muslim. Those who have acquired wealth are obligated to respond to people in need and give back to the community. This response could include sponsoring widows or the education students and organising in a charitable Trust as part of an Islamic estate plan.

Therefore, you must consult a professional estate planner to assist with setting up a Trust arrangement where 2.5% of your assets/wealth is set aside annually for Zakat.

Several other tools can be used to organise the transfer of assets to a specific beneficiary. They include Hiba (making gifts), Waqf (setting up an endowment or trust), Wasiyya (transfers by donation), and it is appointing a Wasi or guardian for living dependents. Getting it right requires a thorough understanding of the principles of Islamic estate planning and the various assets available to achieve compliance.

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Governor Okowa’s 2023 Presidency; an Objective Analysis

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Governor Okowa's 2023 Presidency

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

This piece stemmed from three recent developments in the country. First is the latest argument by development minded Nigerians that the nation’s perennial leadership haemorrhage/crisis is aggregated by a successive deficiency in leadership vision and in some cases made worse by public officials’ understanding and interpretation of problems with clarity but lacking in political will to see through or implement solutions. A development that has made the nation in dire need of a system that works, a government that caters for its citizens, especially the youths, secures lives and property while bolstering the economy.

The second and very germane is the Southern Governors Forum insistence that the presidency must shift to the southern part of the country come 2023, coupled with the recent decision by the main opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to zone the position of the national chairman of the party to the north.

As we know, it is a political principle embraced by major political parties in Nigeria that each time the national chairman of a political party emerges from the north, the presidential candidate of the same party, usually, emerges from the south where the likes of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State hails from.

Thirdly and most essential has to do with the fresh call by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Ndudi Elumelu, on Mr Okowa to contest for the presidency of the country in 2023.

The Minority Leader, who spoke at the installation of Rotary Club’s 2nd President for 2021/2022 Rotary Club Year (Club of Asaba Downtown District 9141), pointed out that Governor Okowa should serve as the President of the nation so that he can replicate his achievements in massive infrastructural and human capital development in Delta State at the national level.

He stressed that Governor Okowa was endowed with the capacity and proficiency to rescue the nation from the misrule of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and reposition her to the path of peace, unity and economic prosperity.

“I must commend Governor Okowa for his selfless service and sacrifices that have led to unprecedented massive infrastructural development in our dear state as well as a better living standard for our people.

“Governor Okowa is a rare gift not only to Delta State but also to our nation Nigeria, at large. I firmly hold that he is endowed with the capacity and proficiency to serve our nation at the topmost level so that he can replicate the successes recorded in our state at the national level.

“I sincerely call on him to make him available to serve the nation again. He deserves to be the president of this country, come 2023,” Elumelu stated.

However, despite the popularity of this opinion, it will be antithetical to support a movement based on sentiment or allow sentiment to determine our actions. Therefore, in line with the Christian Holy Book, the Bible, admonished in 1 John 4; 1 that we do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

It will, for reasons, be of considerable significance to place this call under objective analysis to fundamentally help electorates make informed decisions ‘as the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all’.

To perform this function well, it will necessitate the following posers; Is Governor Okowa capped with vital leadership capacity needed to tame the nation’s perennial ‘leadership haemorrhage/crisis aggregated by a successive deficiency in leadership vision and made worse by public official’s understanding and interpretation of problems with clarity but lacking in political will to see through or implement solutions? Has Governor Okowa truly achieved massive infrastructural and human capital development in Delta State? Has he indeed and in truth demonstrated selfless service and sacrifices as claimed by Mr Elumelu?

Again, going by Elumelu’s claim, another question would be at the federal level, are there signs of misrules on the part of the APC led federal government that calls for Okowa’s attention to reposition the nation to the path of peace, unity and economic prosperity?

Again, on May 29, 2015, amidst cheers and jubilation from the marmot crowd that attended his swearing-in ceremony at the Cenotaph in Asaba, Okowa, going by media reports, told his audience that, “As a government, we are committed to the building and consolidation of a state in which there shall be more employment opportunities, a flourishing agriculture and agribusiness sector, effective health and educational systems, renewed urban infrastructure and enhanced security and peace to bolster economic growth and development.”

Now, looking at the past six years of his administration, it will elicit the question as to how well has the Governor brought these promises to fruition? Also, at the national level, how relevant is Governor Okowa when it comes to issues of national urgent importance? As the current Governor of Delta State, what particulars can Okowa led government point at to convince Nigerians that he can effectively administer the federation?

In providing answers to these nagging questions beginning with the last question, it must be fundamentally underlined that separate from the fact that Delta State, to use the words of Governor Okowa, is a microcosm of Nigeria because she is populated by different ethnic nationalities and has had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, and political tensions, a case that in my views qualifies a governor of such state to effectively lead the federation, Governor Okowa, as subsequent paragraph will show, since assumption of office on May 29, 2015, demonstrated that for the leader to distinguish himself, he has to be a shining light and as such, he should be in a position to break the retrogressive tendencies that subsist in doing what one does not wish to do.

To capture this claim well, this piece will further x-ray/classify the achievements of Governor Okowa’s administration into two.

First, achievements at the state levels which has to do with policy objectives/programmes implementation aimed at creating jobs and wealth (wealth creation and employment generation), economic diversification, the democratization of the education sector, infrastructural development, re-jigging/provision of the state’s security architecture in the state, engagement of the youths in productive enterprise, nurture of entrepreneurs and leaders, promotion of communal peace and development of a database of employment and unemployed youths for planning purposes. The second focuses on his unrelenting nation-building efforts at the federal level.

Evidence abounds that the Governor in pursuance of these objectives compressed his programmes into a five-point agenda which is encapsulated in the acronym SMART.

The SMART agenda means Strategic wealth creation projects and provision of jobs for all Deltans; Meaningful peacebuilding platforms aimed at political and social harmony; Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization; Relevant health and educational policies and; Transformed environment through urban renewal.

Take the wealth creation and employment generation, as an illustration, the Governor himself recently but succulently captured his achievements in this way; “we have a deliberate policy to tackle youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes. I believe that the way out of the unemployment quagmire is to equip the youth with the technical know-how, vocational skills, values and resources to become self-employed, as distinct from one-off empowerment. This is what my administration has done by instituting various skills training and entrepreneurship development programmes, which include: Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Rural Youth Skills Acquisition Programme (RYSA); Girls Entrepreneurship Skills Training (GEST); and Women Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition Programme (WESAP).”

These programmes he said are trainee-centred and service-oriented. The sectors and activities covered include agriculture, agricultural value chain services, vocational skills-based microenterprises and cottage enterprises.

Furthermore, the training and mentoring processes aim beyond raising entrepreneurs to produce leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and effectiveness. I am pleased to let you know that after six years of faithful implementation of these programmes, we have trained and given business support packages to several thousands of youths.

Following the success of these interventions and other efforts in promoting technical education, Delta State was ranked the Best State in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria.

Also in 2020, Delta was adjudged to be the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, Nigeria’s business hub, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

From the above observations, it is obvious that he (Okowa) in my view is a Presidential material the nation needs to exit the unemployment crisis and economic retardation. However, in order not to be accused of indulging in hasty conclusions, this piece will go beyond the Governor’s wealth creation and employment generation prowess, to x-ray his efforts in other sectors.

To Be Continued.

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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The Effects of Home Loans on the Cost of Living Post-COVID

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Home Loans on the Cost of Living

COVID-19 has been a disaster for many people globally, one reason being the effect of the pandemic on the cost of living.

As the cost of living is rising while wages remain stagnant, it’s becoming apparent that many people are struggling to pay off their existing commitments. As a result of such obligations, more and more people seek refinancing options to lower their mortgage rates and reduce monthly expenses.

This post will cover how COVID-19 has affected home loan rates and the part it plays in the rising cost of living.

How Has COVID-19 Stressed Out The World Economies?

While it’s inevitable that no country can escape the effects of a global pandemic, some countries have weathered the storm better than others. For example, as you can see in the image above by Compare The Market Refinance Quotes, the US, Australia, and Denmark seem to be the least financially stressed of world economies, with manageable home loan rates being a significant factor. This has allowed these countries to cope with the negative effects that COVID-19 has had on the cost of living.

Other countries may be able to copy the decisions made by these governments to help restore their economies. Nevertheless, many individuals of these countries and others still find it challenging to pay their bank loans and mortgages.

How Are Home Loans Affecting The Cost Of Living Post-COVID-19?

In March 2020, many countries worldwide implemented a debt moratorium to alleviate household debt burdens due to the coronavirus pandemic. These moratoriums have already expired in many places, which raises some tough questions regarding what additional policies should be adopted to address the pandemic’s lingering effects.

With people facing the challenge of prioritizing their payments, especially when considering the rapid increase in inflation that many countries are experiencing, many have turned to various financial tools such as refinancing to get them through these difficult times.

What Is Loan Refinancing?

Loan refinancing is when you take out a new loan to replace the old one. There are many reasons why you might want to refinance your loans; you may not be happy with how much money you are spending each month on your monthly payments, or maybe you have another loan with a higher interest rate that will save you money in the long run. In these uncertain times, refinancing is becoming more popular.

However, it’s important to note that refinancing only works if you have good credit and still owe some of the original balance of your original loan. Not all types of loans can be refinanced, but here are five loan types can:

  • Student loans
  • Credit card balances
  • Auto loans
  • Mortgage
  • Various bank loans

In conclusion, the effects of home loans on the cost of living are pretty significant for many people, not just in the US but also worldwide. This has caused many to use refinancing as the cost of inflation rises.

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