Kpean Community in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State was thrown into mourning and gloom at the weekend as the indigenes and other outside sympathizers gathered for the funeral oration and final home call of one of its most illustrious sons, late Pastor Augustine Nwikinaka, who passed on recently.
Like a tidal wave, grief gushed through the hearts of the people as they battled with the sordid reality of adjusting to the incalculable loss.
It was a disconsolate lot for the entire community, the immediate family, members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and members of the Salvation Ministries, where the late Nwikinaka served as a minister before his untimely demise.
The final journey home of the veteran journalist and seasoned entrepreneur commenced with a service of songs held in his honour last Thursday at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, and later a brief stop-over and lying-in- state at the press centre on Saturday.
The two sessions witnessed emotional out pouring of tributes and eulogies by veteran journalists and other dignitaries.
Speaking at the service of songs, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, extolled the virtues of late Nwikinaka, describing him as an accomplished professional who pursued his work with “the deepest sense of commitment “.
Abe, a former Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, said the late Nwikinaka earned his respect while serving as the Chief Press Secretary to the former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, and later as the General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation.
In his remark at the service of songs, the Permanent Secretary of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications, Pastor paulinus Nsirim, described late Nwikinaka as a thorough professional who contributed immensely to the development of journalism practice in Rivers State.
Nsirim, a seasoned journalist, and former colleague of late Nwikinaka said the deceased had a knack for excellence and unwavering commitment towards the service of God and humanity. He said the family and other sympathisers should be consoled over the fact that he lived a good life while on earth.
Chairman of the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ), Mr. Stanley Job Stanley, who spoke with journalists shortly after the service of songs, said late Augustine Nwikinaka served as a mentor to younger journalists while still in active service. He said those who worked under his watch will not lose touch with the virtues of discipline and professionalism which late Nwikinaka stood for. “The late Austine Nwikinaka was a senior journalist who adhered strictly to the tenets of the profession; he believed that a practising journalist must be properly trained to do his job. We will ensure that we instill professional discipline in the practice of journalism in Rivers State, this is the only way we can immortalize him”.
Addressing the mammoth crowd of journalists and other sympathizers during the brief stop-over and lying-in-state, at the Rivers State NUJ Secretariat, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barr. Emma Okah, described late Nwikinaka as a “man of honour and diligence”.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, the commissioner said the late Nwikinaka showed great enterprise and passion in his service to the state, and expressed his deepest condolence over his demise.
Other former colleagues of late Augustine Nwikinaka, who paid glowing tributes during the brief stop-over, include South South Bureau Chief of the Business Day Newspaper, Ignatius Chukwu, and former Chief Press Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Mr. Fidelis Agbiki.
While some people view the task of institutional and societal renewal as a burdensome responsibility, others see it as a call to service, late Augustine Nwikinaka was one of those that believed in service to God and humanity as a calling.
He was a seasoned executive and prime mover that combined authority with affability. He was both a strict disciplinarian and a huggable personality that had a way of rousing people from their inertia to respond to their fullest creative talents.
Late Nwikinaka’s successor, as General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Group of Newspapers, Mr. Celestine Ogolo, attested to this fact, when he stated during the service of songs that, “Nwikinaka repositioned The Tide to a global brand and established a tradition of hard work and discipline which is now a policy in The Tide”.
It is on record that on his appointment as General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, late Nwikinaka revived the corporation from its state of comatos and rebranded The Tide Newspaper to be the first state-owned newspaper to go colour.
As the state Chairman of the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nwikinaka played pivotal role in the establishment of the Department of Mass Communication in the then, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, (RSUST) now, Rivers State University (RSU).
The vision was to create an enabling academic ground for journalists in Rivers State to advance their professional training.
Before then, most journalists in Rivers State had their professional training outside the state.
Late Nwikinaka’s personal philosophy of life, was predicated on the fact that, “real commitment to service is beyond shallow entreaties, driven by personal motive”.
Like Jean Anoulih, he averred that real service, should involve “sweating and rolling up one’s sleeves and plunging both hands into life up to the elbow”.
Like a piece of tapestry, his life was made up of many strands which, interwoven, made a pattern. He was an accomplished professional, a community leader, a Minister of God and a loving parent and husband. He will be missed in every facet of his humanly endeavour.
However, both life and death are part of the same great adventure worthily carried through by those who understand the essence of their being.
Such persons stand as torch bearers who illuminate their generation through their ideals and actions. They believe that values must be made to live in the acts of men, not on mere platitudes.
The late legendary reggae maestro, Robert Nesta Marley, in one of his lyrics defined the journey of life in its ephemeral nature, “one bright morning when my job is over, I will fly away home to Zion”.
He was simply alerting humanity over the reality that earthly life is often shortlived. And as Michelaugo put it, “My soul can find no staircase to heaven except through earth’s loveliness”.
Preaching at an open air service at the Kpean Central Field, a minister of the Salvation Ministries, admonished the people to live a worthy life and have the fear of God while alive, adding that we will all be remembered by our works after our earthly departure. He said the family should take solace in the fact that the late Nwikinaka lived a worthy life. The path of Glory leads but to the grave. Adieu.
By: Taneh Beemene.
Lest We Forget Dim Ojukwu
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a man of reputation and influence, warlord, people’s general and leader died in a London hospital on November 26, 2011 after he was struck with a complicated stroke. He was given a state-cum-military burial on March 2, 2012 by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria. It is now eight years since he took a bow, bade us goodbye and departed this mortal world after he had played his parts in the affairs of the Igbo nation and Nigeria.
Ojukwu was an exceptionally intelligent, dauntless and courageous leader. He was the first Nigerian to be enlisted in the Nigerian military with a Master’s degree, the first African to pass the Joint Services Course at Latimer, England. He was the first military instructor of the Nigerian Army, the first Nigerian Quartermaster-General of the Nigerian Army, the first Military Governor of the Eastern Region and the first regional leader in Nigeria to confront, challenge the Federal Government of Nigeria and prosecuted a war that held Nigeria captive for 30 months over the perceived injustice meted on Ndigbo and the massacre of people of Eastern Nigerian extraction nationwide.
He was a defender, a crusader and advocate of justice, people’s rights and good governance in Nigeria. So, his absence for the past eight years is seriously felt by all who admired his doughty spirit, especially now that the issue of Biafra, a country he attempted to create out of Nigeria, is fully resurrected and is making wave in the world. Who knows what would have been his contribution and moral support to Biafra and its agitators. What would have been his stand on controversial issues such as rural grazing areas (RUGA), restructuring, Ibo presidency in 2023, Python dance which is reported to have claimed many innocent lives of Ndigbo in Umuahia. We missed all that. Infact, we are short-changed by his death.
Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Ojukwu’s bosom friend and a man who kept the spirit of Biafra alive, said few days after the death of Ojukwu that when he heard that he was stricken with the dreaded stroke, he and some members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) went to his Casabianca residence in Enugu to see him, to commiserate and wish him speed recovery. He said when they got there and saw Ojukwu, he was really in a bad state. He said he hailed him (Ojukwu) as usual with all his intimidating chieftaincy titles, such as Ikemba Nnewi, Dike Dioranma Ndigbo, Eze Igbo Gburugburu and other titles, he did not respond to any. He said he was alarmed. He then joked and told him that he was a handsome man. It was then he responded by asking whether he would be handsome in the coffin. Uwazuruike said that he was shocked and devastated by such a response. Thereafter, he asked Ojukwu what he meant by being handsome in the coffin, there was no response. The MASSOB leader said it was then he knew that Ojukwu would not survive. Ojukwu eventually died in the United Kingdom where he had gone for a medical treatment on November 26, 2011.
Truly, Ojukwu became handsome in the coffin. As a historian, what was paramount in Ojukwu’s mind in his sick bed was how people and history would place or perceive him as regards his involvement in the civil war that claimed millions of lives and destroyed properties worth billions of naira. That was why he asked his friend Uwazuruike whether he would be handsome in the coffin. However, people and history proved kind to him. He was eulogized, idolized, honoured and dramatized while in the coffin. Ojukwu was, indeed, handsome in the coffin.
There was an unprecedented outpouring of affection and admiration for him. There were celebrations everywhere in Nigeria and beyond. Even the truth about the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War and the patriotic roles he played to avert it was told for the first time in 42 years after the end of the war. Everyone who spoke unanimously agreed that he was a man of peace, vision and foresight. They consented that his postulations as enunciated in the Aburi Accord was the finest and the greatest for the unity and development of Nigeria.
They averred that if the then Federal Government had abided by the accord, there wouldn’t have been a civil war and that Nigeria would have been a better place to live in today. The restructuring of the country which Nigerians are clamouring today was a major menu in the Aburi Accord. So, what Ojukwu saw many years back is what Nigerians are seeing and agitating today. What a visionary and foresighted leader? Again, they agreed that he was an enigma, the people’s general and a leader whose exemplary leadership virtues should be emulated by all Nigerians.
He was exonerated from being among the coup plotters nor supported the January 1966 coup that shutdown the corrupt First Republic and led to civil war. He was the commander of the Fifth Battalion of the Nigerian Army stationed in Kano where he succeeded in ensuring that the coup plotters and their cohorts did not infiltrate the. That remarkable achievement earned him the respect and admiration of the then Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, and his subjects. It also earned him an enduring friendship with the Emir and people of Kano.
Ojukwu was honoured by the Nigerian military during his burial. They carried his lifeless body from Abuja to Owerri, Aba, Enugu, Awka and kept vigil throughout the burial. Ojukwu, no doubt, deserved the honour. He brought dignity, honour and prestige to the Nigerian military. Apart from being one of the few Nigerian military officers that built the Nigerian military, Ojukwu brought respect to the force when as a Master’s degree holder (obtained from the prestigious Oxford University in England) and son of a millionaire he joined the military as a lowly ranked soldier.
Before then, the military was largely seen as an institution for school dropouts and wayward children. But Ojukwu’s enlistment erased that erroneous notion and encouraged many educated Nigerians to join the military. So, he deserved whatever honour and respect the Nigerian military accorded him during the burial. He was a great man in all ramifications.
Ojukwu, a charismatic leader, was born in Zungeru, now in Niger State in 1933 to Sir and Lady Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu, the first African millionaire. In 1944, at the tender age of 11, Ojukwu was admitted into the prestigious Kings’ College, Lagos after completing his primary education at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Lagos. And in 1946, two years after, and at the age of 13, the brilliant boy was sent to England where he enrolled in Epsom College, Surrey, to continue and complete his secondary education.
On completion of his secondary education, he was admitted into an elitist Oxford University, United Kingdom. Strong and determined, little Ojukwu shunned the comfort of his millionaire father’s home, ignored the devastating British cold weather, strange environment and ubiquitious white faces, persevered and graduated with a Master’s degree in Modern History.
He returned to Nigeria in 1956 and joined the civil service of the colonial government of the then Eastern Region as a district officer. A year after, precisely in 1957, the restless Ojukwu left the civil service and joined the Nigerian Army; thus becoming one of the first university graduates to be enlisted in the Nigerian military. There, he made a super and brilliant military career and left a unique imprint on the sands of time.
Ojukwu was an elder statesman and politician. He was the founder, political leader and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2003. His party came third among the 30 political parties that participated in the elections. Former President Goodluck Jonathan honoured him with a state-cum-military burial. By that, he partially ended the civil war and equally endorsed General Yakubu Gowon’s famous declaration of No victor, no vanquished. The final fulfillment of all this will, indeed, be when an Igbo man is elected as president of Nigeria, 50 years after the end of the civil war.
Former Nigerian leader, General Ibrahim Babangida, in his tribute to Ojukwu, said that the election of an Ibo man as president of Nigeria would gladden Ojukwu’s spirit. No doubt, Ojukwu’s death marked the end of an era in Nigeria.
Ogbuehi, a freelance journalist, wrote in from Eagle Island, Port Harcourt.
Fishing Out The Ritualists
It would be obvious to a growing number of Nigerians by now that much of the violent crimes in the country, from murder to kidnapping and armed robberies, have much to do with some fetish rituals. A most recent case of car-snatchers in Eleme axis of Rivers State can be used as an example, because there was a confession pointing towards working in collaboration with witch-doctors. Ritual murder of a young girl by an undergraduate student also pointed towards the involvement of a ritualist and sponsor as accomplices.
Witch-doctors and ritualists go far beyond what an average Nigerian would know. Without being uncharitable or alarmist, there is a need to look into the activities of numerous religious sects operating as visionary and exercise ministries. To say the least, there are witch-doctors and ritualist, using religious applications as platforms of operation. Was there not a case of a “clergyman” and “after-birth placenta pepper soup”?
Investigations into the exploits of witch-doctors and various brands of ritualists, in relation to their associations with criminal groups, reveal shocking details. The first issue has to do with a propensity to acquire some power, coupled with an illusion of invincibility. In agberolingo such power of invincibility is known as “Odeshi”. Unfortunately, those exploring and promising such extra-normal power engage in a number of activities whose end-results they know nothing about.
But they go on, heedlessly!
Those who heedlessly explore the psychic world without knowing its nature expose themselves and other people to serious dangers, one of which is the possibility of insanity. Thus, toying with psychic power, for political, economic, religious or criminal purposes, usually lead to unpleasant end. Actually there are centres of energy of various natures which anyone can make contact with, but the rule is that only the pure can reach-out to what is pure or noble.
At best, what witch-doctors, ritualists and other impudent explorers of the psychic world encounter and deal with are usually inferior and dark energy centres. Fascination with what is unusual and curious cause many gullible people to be carried away by the illusory nature of the psychic world. One rule is sure over there, namely: There is no free meal, neither can anyone get what he is not qualified to get. The only thing easy to get is illusion or clouding of consciousness.
Therefore, dabblers into the psychic world for whatever purposes, do a great deal of harm to themselves and others too. When those who do so are clergy men and women, there is the possibility of dragging the image of religion into the mud. Serious seekers of the light of truth do not associate with juggling fiends of the psychic world, because no wise person would go for mud when gold is not far to fetch. One has to know the differences and values.
There is a need to suggest that stricter regulations be placed on establishment of religious houses as well as proselytism. Possibly, preachers and operators of all visionary, miracle and healing ministries should be licensed, inspected and subjected to regular audit. As for various categories of witch-doctors, ritualists often mentioned by criminal gangs as their accomplices or consultants, they should be prosecuted. They are known to demand for human parts, including placenta of nursing mothers taken immediately after delivery. If there is no demand for human parts, then, there would not be ritual murder for the purpose of obtaining such parts. Similarly, the murderers are merely killer agents for faceless monsters who believe in money and power as chief goals in life. Quite often such monsters are rarely accessible or prosecuted.
The illusion of wanting to get something without paying an equivalent price for it is an issue which all stakeholders in human development process must jointly emphasize at every opportunity. Similarly the fact that dark and impure forces thrive where people hold such illusions about life is a reality which explains the sad rate of spread of evil propensities. Of the laws governing life hardly is there any which stipulates that anyone can get away with any wrong doing, not even when a visionary, exorcist or a marabout claims that such law can be annulled. People are simply gullible.
Arising from the illusion that natural laws can be annulled by those who claim to have a power to do so, may gullible people rush to those who make such claims? While we may not be able to stop anyone or groups of persons from making claims about possession of unique powers, those making such claims should be licensed and taxed as they operate. Authentification and verification of such claims would also be necessary before they become legal for public patronage.
A great deal of harm had been done by dabblers, intruders and fake practitioners in every sphere of human activities. In the case of the unseen and known, there is a need to protect the gullible public from harms which can arise from such charlatans. While the laws prescribe freedom of belief and association, there should be strict provisions to checkmate extremities and abuses. Such extremities and abuses include disturbing and noisy nocturnal ritual and hallucinations under the name of freedom of worship. Ban on noisy worship is necessary.
Undoubtedly, activities of ritualists which include witch-doctors, marabouts, religious and cult groups, who engage in various orgies, are going into extremities that should be put under control. The current hard and difficult times in the country should not be a licence for ritualists to exploit the gullible masses to practise their trade for a fee. Some demand weird items for exorcism.
More importantly, the police should intensify activities in this direction by fishing out ritualists of the criminal hue and place a check on other groups to ensure that the public remains protected. Despite the difficult nature of such a task, ritualists of all kinds pose real dangers to society.
Border Closure: What Gain For Agric Sector?
It’s been three months since the Federal Government shut the major land borders in a bid to check smuggling of goods, especially rice, light arms and other contraband items from neighbouring countries into Nigeria. Government had explained that the action was taken to strengthen the nation’s security, protect its economic interests and grow the agricultural sector, especially in the area of rice production.
Last Monday, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, insisted that the borders will remain closed until the neighbouring countries are ready to play by the ECOWAS rules.
He gave conditions for the reopening of the borders which include: “There should be no modification whatsoever to the packaging on those goods imported into an ECOWAS member-state destined for Nigeria; so, with the original packaging they must be escorted from the port directly and transferred to the Nigerian Customs Service; for goods predominantly produced in ECOWAS member-states, the rules of origin must be certified, so we have to avoid any possibilities of dumping; so, if goods are produced in ECOWAS member-states, those goods must be in majority produced in those countries or if they are coming from outside ECOWAS the value addition made by an ECOWAS country must be over 30 per cent.”
Going by the diplomatic tussles these conditions might generate between Nigeria and other West African countries that may not accept them or may come up with their own conditions of doing business with the country, some have opined that the reopening of the borders might not be in sight. Expectedly, some have condemned the extended border closure, saying it will continue to hurt businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises, leading to more hardship in the nation.
Many other groups and individuals have, however, thrown their weight behind the federal government’s action, maintaining that it is in the interest of the nation. Prominent among the last group are Nigerian farmers and those in agro industries. Rice farmers across the country have reportedly been commending the federal government, saying the border closure is the best decision President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration has taken.
Alhaji Faruk Rabi’u, chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kano State chapter, told newsmen that, “The border closure is a clear indication that the Federal Government is ready to boost agricultural production by insisting on the patronage of the home products.
“With this development, farmers will have more confidence that their products will be patronized. Therefore, they can invest more on their farms because they know that, after harvesting, their farm products will be sold”.
“If we continue to import rice, despite the fact that the locally produced one is the best for our health, people will continue to buy it,” he insisted.
In the views of a former Director, National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, Dr Mark Ukwungwu, despite the fact that Nigeria is not yet self sufficient in rice production, there are many gains associated with the border closure. He itemized them: – the rice value chain (production, processing, and marketing) will become more vibrant; it will generate employment opportunities; more land areas will be opened up for rice production; the citizens will be consuming fresh home-grown rice rather than expired rice from Asia.
He suggested that to sustain these gains, government and stakeholders have to boost the agricultural industry in the following ways: offering of grants; granting loans at cheap interest rates; encourage funding from foreign agencies; revamping irrigation systems so that two cycles of rice could be grown in a year; invest in research and extension services; stakeholders should also invest and innovate in the rice sector; example, the innovative partnership between the Governments of Lagos and Kebbi States which gave birth to LAKE Rice in 2016.
While he encouraged Nigerians to patiently bear the attendant shock, pains and hardships of the border closure, which he said will fizzle out gradually, Ukwungwu advised that “the closure should not be for long. Rather the agencies involved in manning the borders should be more alive to their responsibilities to ensure that smuggling is at the barest minimum.”
In the opinion of the Research fellow/ Scientist, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan, Dr Uche Asogwa, the agricultural sector and the nation in general stands to gain immensely from the border closure if effectively and efficiently managed. He said though the action was taken in a rush by the federal government, without any prior notice to stakeholders, it was long overdue, given the enormity of what goes on at the borders.
According to the research fellow, “the neighbouring countries have shown flagrant disobedience to all the protocols of the ECOWAS treaty and trade agreements. The continuous influx of these agricultural produces and processed products, if not properly checked, will stifle our local produces/products. The local farms and industries were at the receiving end before now. But thanks to the border closure, we have no other choice now than to think Nigeria and patronize the locally grown and processed foods. With this high level of patriotism, the farmers will be encouraged to produce more, knowing full well that there will be market for their produce as the competing alternative will now have to come into the country through proper channels”
He stated that beyond the border closure government and stakeholders should take all necessary steps towards improving the agricultural sector and achieving food sufficiency for the nation. Some of the measures include: granting tax holiday to local farms and related agricultural businesses operating in the country; giving incentives in terms of loans and inputs to real farmers, not political farmers; provision of basic infrastructural (roads, power, healthcare and water) to the rural communities to minimize rural-urban migration; capacity building of farmers, especially unemployed graduates, to take up farming as a profession; resuscitation of all existing farm settlements and establishment of new ones; reorientation of Nigerian citizens to drop our newly acquired tastes for foreign foods and embrace consumption of our local foods.
Asogwa said there should be no going back on the borders closure until they are sanitized and the rate of smuggling activities and illicit business going on at the various land borders are curbed. He added that “we should take cue from China and other notable countries that shut down their borders for years so as to grow their local economies to enviable heights.”
Another respondent, Mrs Blessing Lerabari, a Port Harcourt-based farmer, expressed her pleasure over the border closure, saying that the action will help farmers to reap from their sweat. She agreed with the previous respondents that there is no way a country of about 200 million people, and a projected population of 400m by 2050, blessed with large, fertile land, will continue to depend on other countries for its day-to-day needs.
She noted that a lot has been said about the need to diversify Nigeria’s economy, making it less dependent on oil by promoting agriculture and the best way to succeed is proper manning of our numerous porous borders.
Lerabari, however, regretted that some Customs officials and other bodies saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the law on contraband goods are so corrupt and selfish that they collect bribe from the smugglers and allow these goods into the country, not minding the harm that it will cause the nation and the people.
She suggested that for the border closure objectives to be realized, the problem of corruption which has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation must be sincerely tackled headlong.
“It is this same corruption that has made some greedy, selfish people to mop up the local rice in our various communities, causing artificial scarcity of the food item and hike in its price. So the authorities have to look into it and ensure adequate price control of goods so that some greedy merchants will not be milking the poor people to their own advantage”.
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