close

Perspectives

Opinion (4/5/2022): Dame Patience Jonathan Is Our Man – By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

 

There is so much talk over the political airwaves of a possible return of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the seat of power in Aso Rock.
Nigerians are indeed living in very interesting times to witness a president appearing first with a PDP umbrella only to return with an APC broom.

What can be more legendary than this case of trans-party political mesmerism that will even surprise Mesmer himself?
It is of course understandable that politics has always been a game of impossible characters.

These political characters make things happen like in the theatre of the Swedish playwright August Strindberg in which “characters split, double, multiply, evaporate, condense, disperse, assemble.”
Whether in the manner of speaking, or in carriage, the charismatic politicians stand out and shine, for good or ill.

During the time of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe we were wont to hear expressions like “Zikism is no jingoism!”

Dr KO Mbadiwe would tell you: “I am no longer of the timber and calibre class because I am now a juggernaut!”

You can shout all you like about the grammatical hocus-pocus, but the politician’s voice must always carry.
The voice that carried most during the Jonathan presidency was not the president’s but that of his wife, the inimitable Dame Patience Jonathan, the most unforgettable First Lady in the history of Nigeria who made this landmark revelation: “Ojukwu has died, but his manhood lives on!”

I genuinely like the woman for being herself, no matter what the grammarians say to the contrary.
She reminds me of Barkin Zuwo, Nigeria’s Second Republic Governor of Kano State, who is indeed very worthy of celebration and remembrance.

When Barkin Zuwo was asked a question on the mineral resources to be found in his beloved Kano State, the man pointedly replied: “There are many mineral resources in Kano like Fanta, Coke, Sprite, Mirinda, Pepsi Cola, 7Up, Kunu, Fura di nunu, Danta Cola etc!”

A journalist reportedly asked Barkin Zuwo about his running mate, and got this answer: “My running mate is Abubakar Rimi who keeps running after my life! That Dan Iska called Rimi is always my running mate, chasing after me everywhere in Kano, never allowing me to rest, wicked running mate!”

What the then President Goodluck Jonathan lacked in gregariousness and colour was more than made up for by his very daring wife, Dame Patience, whose quotable quotes took up the entire cyberspace.
Dame Patience thrilled the audiences across the country when campaigning for her husband by always stressing: “Vote for umblerra!”

She then upped the ante with the following quote: “We should have love for our fellow Nigerians irrespective of their nationality!”
Politicians all over the world almost always have their foibles documented in the public space.

Former American President Gerald Ford had an entire book written on his idiosyncrasies known as The Gerry Ford Joke Book.
Gerry Ford was once quoted as saying: “If Abraham Lincoln were still to be alive, he would turn in his grave!” Talk of a man being alive and yet turning in his grave.

There is even the joke that Gerry Ford won an election in his constituency only because the people of his community were tired of seeing him around and thus sent him off to Washington DC by massively voting for him to leave town.

Dame Patience is therefore in great company as a politico being celebrated while still alive.
As Oscar Wilde knows, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
Nobody can afford to ignore our Dame Patience especially now that there is the heavy info that her doting hubby Goodluck is about to stage a comeback.

So let’s ride on with the many quotable lines attributed to the First Lady of yore such as: “The bombers, who born them? Wasn’t it not a woman? They were once a children, now a adult, now they are bombing women and children, making some children a widow.”
She reportedly took her poetic licence to the combo of President Jonathan and Vice-President Sambo, saying: “My husband and Sambo is a good people.”

With a husband like President Jonathan, it’s quite easy to understand how Dame Patience empathized with widows by addressing them thusly: “My fellow widows!”
After all, there’s this not-so-funny joke about the pastor who asked all the widows to go to a side of the church only to see one woman abandoning her living husband to join the widows.
When the husband protested, his wife replied him sharply: “Are you alive when you cannot buy me ordinary Nkwobi? Let me join my fellow widows to get their blessings jare!”

Dame Patience is indeed a very formidable character, very much like the late Barkin Zuwo of Kano.
Trust Dame Patience to always say her mind anywhere, anytime, anyhow, anyplace, not unlike Barkin Zuwo who, when arrested after the 1983 coup for having millions of Naira in the house, coolly told his military arresters that he did not see anything wrong in having “Government money in government house!”

The great lady who asked “Na only you waka come?” Dame Patience Jonathan is my man. Diaris-God-oooo!

read more

2023 Rivers PDP Guber Primaries and Go Round’s Poverty Reduction Agenda.

By Comrade Nwokoma Messiah

While addressing newsmen after his successful interview and clearance by the Governor Diri led screening committee at the party’s zonal office in Port Harcourt, leading contender for the position of governor of Rivers State Bro. Felix Amaechi Obuah had told reporters that one of his major agenda is to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor by adequately spreading the resources of the state so it can go round.

This statement which has become like an anthem among his teeming followers clearly epitomises the character of the former Chairman of the PDP in Rivers State. For those of us who have been fortunate to know him over decades we know his character and can unambiguously state that this is not a political statement (apologies to Adams Oshiomhole). This statement is a real promise to the people of Rivers State which will be made manifest if the delegates of the party eventually hand him the ticket of the party which I believe will surely come later this month of May.

Politicians over the years have shown their love for mendacious promises which usually have left their followers seething with rage when they renege on their promises but this promise of Bro. Felix Obuah should be considered a promise that can be taken to the bank. He has in his everyday life shown how humane and caring he is and can be to the welfare of the people of the state irrespective of their background. Lots of persons will bear witness to this fact and they are all willing to do the needful by electing him wholeheartedly if he clinches the ticket.

The principle of Go Round which is very charming will make Rivers State attractive to people for people and for investment and you can imagine what will happen because everybody will want to identify with him and his government.

At this point of our national and state development, the state needs the best available candidate who can run the affairs of the state in an inclusive manner which will make every hand to be on deck and that candidate is no other person than Bro. Felix Obuah. The state also needs continuity of the programme of the incumbent administration of Barr. Nyesom Wike.

Most aspirants today cannot boast of any support base but anyone who has his ears on ground as far as the politics of the state is concerned will not doubt the fact that even members of the opposition parties will come out to vote him massively on the day of the election if he is the one flying the party’s flag. This is because of his huge support base across the state.

Like I stated in one of my articles, the opposition especially those in Abuja are hell bent on ensuring they apply all manners of fiendish politicking to wrest the state from the PDP. Our dear delegates must ensure they don’t give them any chance to achieve their inordinate aspiration of ruling the state from outside. This is why the delegates and the party hierarchy must do the needful by ensuring the most popular and acceptable aspirant is presented to the people of the state on the day of the election. Anything short if this will prove disastrous not only for the party it will also be disastrous for the people of the state who cannot afford being pushed to the precipice.

read more

Go Round 2023: Rivers Are Waiting.

By Comrade Nwokoma Messiah

 

Since the creation of Rivers State on the 27th of May 1967, the state has relatively experienced some level of recognition that has distinguished it as a foremost state among the comity of states.

From the days of Alfred Diette Spiff, to Melford Okilo, down to our father of modern day Rivers State Sir Dr. Peter Odili and now the indefatigable Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the state has at least had it’s very own fair share of reasonable leadership. The emergence of this leadership fortunately, has not been based on ethnic or dichotomous sentiments rather it has been based on rational thought and the need to do the needful. This is why hell was not let loose when Melford Okilo an Ogbia man became executive governor some years after his brother and cousin Alfred Diette Spiff from Brass was dethroned as governor. Ethnicity or dichotomy has never been a basis of depriving anybody as governor on Rivers State rather it has been a ploy by some selfish persons to get into power.

Rivers people have always wanted to push for the best and most acceptable candidate during elections and they have always remained a faithful and dependable state as far as national politics is concerned.

Some political actors have always suggested that a particular zone be favoured in the process of selecting who succeeds the incumbent governor of the state with the excuse that the state is divided between what they refer to as is iverine and upper land” differences. They fail to realise that all parts of the state are gifted with lands as well as it is with Rivers.

These Rivers which are spread all over the state did not discriminate to fall on a particular area of the state or senatorial zone. Rivers State as the name depicts is a riverine areas with happy people. Just as the waters bubble with joy, so do the people of the state bubble with happiness making them one of the most pleasurable people to deal with in the country.

Rivers people who in the quest to have a happy contented life have always opted for the best candidate that can give them happiness. This is why they did not look at ethnicity while choosing Nyesom Wike as successor to his brother Rotimi Amaechi.

As the primaries of the only recognised and most organised party in the state draws close, the ever happy, excited and loving people of Rivers State and it’s array of rivers, lakes, swamps etc are itching for the best candidate who can continue with the good works of our fathers and who can cement the achievements of the present governor of the state.

That person is nother than the former Chairman of the party in the state Bro. Felix Amaechi Obuah. A former Local Government Chairman and presently Chief Executive of the Rivers Waste Management Agency RIWAMA, he has always shown quality and humane leadership wherever he finds himself. Little wonder he is popular referred to as Go Round depicting a man who does not keep his goodies to himself. Rivers State as a PDP state that plays opposition politics at the center, cannot afford to give it’s flag to a candidate that cannot win elections on his own popularity against the APC which seems bent on applying federal might to wrest the state from our great party. The party needs to be resolute in damning all sentiments to give the ticket to the most prepared and appealing candidate Bro. Felix Amaechi Obuah.

God loves those who are prepared for the job and the rivers that transverse the state are eager to see thst the best candidate who will be endorsed by the land emerges. Anything to the contrary might prove disastrous for us all irrespective of affiliations.

Comrade Nwokoma Messiah is the Coordinator of Bro. Felix Obuah Support Group Abuja. He  wrote  from Abuja.

read more

All Votes Belong To Political Parties In Nigeria By Femi Falana

 

By Femi Falana

On Tuesday, 8th March, 2022, The Federal High Court (coramInyangEkwo J.) sacked the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, along with 15 lawmakers in the State over their defection from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

In sacking the governor and his deputy, the learned trial judge ruled that the votes polled by a political party could not be transferred to or utilised for the benefit of another political party or member of another political party. In acknowledging that the Constitution was silent on the implication of the defection of a governor or his deputy, the learned trial judge opined that “such a lacuna was not to be celebrated or even mischievously flaunted as failure of a remedy for situations of such nature.”

Before the decision was handed down last week, the High Court of Ebonyi State had dismissed the suit filed by the APC and its flag bearers, Senator Soni Ogbuji, Justin Ogbodo in the 2919 governorship election who had prayed the Court to declare them the winners of the election since the PDP candidate had abandoned the mandate of the people by joining the APC. It was the view of the presiding Judge, Henry Njoku J.  that his jurisdiction to entertain the matter had been ousted by section 308 of the Constitution which has conferred immunity on Governor Umahi and his deputy.  In contradiction, Justice Ekwo held that immunity from civil and criminal proceedings conferred on the President, Vice-President, Governors, and Deputy Governors by section 308 of the Constitution did not apply to the case because “the cause of action and the remedy thereof cannot wait till the third and fourth defendants leave office.” Consequently, the Court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately declare the persons nominated to it by PDP as governor and deputy governor or alternatively conduct fresh gubernatorial election in the State in line with section 177(c) of the Constitution.

Not unexpectedly, the epochal verdict has generated mixed reactions from social commentators, political analysts and legal practitioners and other interest groups. It is pertinent to note there is no dispute whatsoever in the removal of the 16 legislators who decamped from the PDP to APC because the issue has been judicially put to rest in many decided cases pursuant to section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which expressly prohibits cross carpeting by legislators and provides for circumstance(s) in which legitimate defection is permissible. In the case of Abegunde v. Ondo State House of Assembly (2014) LPELR 23683, the Supreme Court rejected the argument of the appellant, a member of the House of Representatives who decamped from Labour Party to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on the basis of fractionalization of the party at the State level. The Supreme Court held that only a division that makes it impossible for a party to function can provide the basis for a legislator’s defection hence, the Appellant’s seat was declared vacant.

In the instant case, there was no fractionalization in the PDP when the 15 members of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly decamped from the PDP to APC.  The legislators decided to defect in solidarity with Governor Umahi without considering the legal implications of their action.  Having regards to the facts and circumstances of the defection and the state of the law the finding of Justice Ekwo on the loss of the seats by the legislators cannot be impugned in any material particular. But the former legislators should be prepared to contest on the platform of the APC as INEC will soon conduct a bye-election to fill the 15 vacant seats in the parliament. No doubt, the loss of the seats and the court order for the refund of all salaries and allowances collected by the defectors will serve as a deterrent to other political defectors.

However, the removal of Governor Umahi and his deputy has been questioned by some lawyers who erroneously believe that the Judge erred in law in not relying on the authority of Attorney-General of the Federation v AtikuAbubakar (2007) 20 WRN 1. Those who criticized the judgment on that score have failed to realize that the main issue for determination in the Atiku’s case was the legal priority of the decision of President OlusegunObasanjo to declare the office of Vice President AtikuAbubakar vacant for abandoning the political party on whose platform he and the President were elected and joining another political party. While upholding the fundamental right of the Vice President to freedom of association the Supreme Court declared illegal and unconstitutional the President’s declaration of his Vice President’s office vacant, based on his defection to another political party. The Court held that the Constitution does not make express provision for the vacation of office of the Vice President upon his defection from his sponsoring political party to another party.

Contrary to the misleading impression conveyed by many lawyers, the Justices of the apex court did not endorse the defection of Vice President Abubakar. Indeed, in the leading judgment of the Court, Akintan JSC said that “The action cannot be justified by the fact that he (1st respondent) had been suspended or expelled from the ruling political party under which he was jointly elected with the President or that he was exercising his fundamental right of association guaranteed by the Constitution. What is required of him is to first resign and even after resigning from that office, he would still be precluded from dissociating himself from the collective responsibility for decisions taken by the cabinet while he was in office.” Although the Court declined to order the removal of the Vice President it was held that his action could fall under misconduct which would make him liable for impeachment by the National Assembly pursuant to section 143 of the Constitution.

It is on record that the Supreme Court has been consistent in condemning cross carpeting and defection by Nigerian politicians as it has bedeviled the political morality of the country. In the case of Federal Electoral Commission v. Goni (1983) 2 SCNLR 227, Aniagolu, JSC said, called for an end to the “fraudulent and malevolent practice of cross-carpeting politicians of yester years who, for financial consideration or otherwise, crossed from one political party to another, without qualms and without conscience. Such a practice had to be discouraged by the framers of our Constitution if political public morality of our country was to be preserved.” On his own part, Obaseki JSC stated that “It is now political history that some of the Nigerian politicians who had the honour of being voted into Parliaments and the Houses of Assembly under the previous civilian Constitutions just before and after independence did little to keep their loyalty to the political parties which sponsored them for election. No self- respecting politician would wish to see a repeat of the wave of carpet crossing and sitting tight that characterized those eras.”

Those who have placed uncritical reliance on the Atiku’s case have failed to appreciate that the validity of the votes scored by the PDP in the presidential election did not arise for determination. To that extent, the case cannot be a justification for the subversion of the democratic rights of voters by political defectors. Whereas in the 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi State, the PDP garnered 393,343 votes across the 13 local governments areas of the state, its closest challenger, the APC, got 81,703 votes.  After the PDP had emerged the *winner of the election the certificate of return was issued in the name of its flag bearer by the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmud who stated that “I hereby certify that Nweze David Umahi of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been elected to the office of Governor of Ebonyi State…” Even though Governor Umahi has decamped from the PDP to APC neither the INEC nor the High Court of Ebonyi State has amended the Certificate of Return to read “Nweze David Umahi of the All Progressive Congress”!

It is interesting to note that some lawyers have maintained that Governor Umahi has exercised his freedom of association by decamping from PDP to APC. While the Governor’s freedom of association is constitutionally protected he cannot be permitted to infringe on the democratic rights of the 393, 343 citizens who voted for him as the governorship candidate of the PDP have been completely ignored. Or are we to believe that the votes scored by the PDP have been merged with those of the APC since the PDP candidate decamped to APC? Curiously, in making a mockery of the democratic rights of the people of Ebonyi State the critics of the judgment of Justice Egwu have failed to advert their minds to the undeniable fact that majority of the voters actually exercised their franchise in favour of the PDP.  After all, the names of the candidate David Umahi and his deputy were not on the ballot papers.

In the leading judgment of the Supreme Court in All Progressive Congress v. Marafa, LOR (24/05/2019) SC, Justice Paul AdamuGalinji declared that all the votes cast for the APC were “wasted votes” on the grounds that the party failed to conduct a proper primary. The Court added that all political parties with the second highest votes in the elections and the required spread, are elected to the various elections. In the instant case, the votes credited to the PDP in the 2019 governorship election in Ebonyi State cannot be said to have been wasted based on the decision of Governor Umahi to decamp to the ruling party. Since the said votes are not wasted it is inconceivable that they have been legally transferred from the PDP to the APC. Under no law in Nigeria can the exercise of the right of Governor Umahi to defect from the PDP to APC extinguish the 4-year mandate freely given to him on the platform of the PDP during the 2019 general election.

We wish to submit, without any fear of contradiction, that elections are won by political parties and not by candidates. In Amaechi v. INEC &Ors(2008) LCN/3642 (SC), the Supreme Court held that “The above provision (i.e. section 221) effectually removes the possibility of independent candidacy in our elections; and places emphasis and responsibility in elections on political parties. Without a political party a candidate cannot contest.” Pius OlayiwolaAderemiJSC, emphatically stated that, “…it is the political parties that the electorates do vote for at election time.” This decision has been consistently misinterpreted by some lawyers who share the view that the position of the apex court in Amaechi’s case has changed and that the decision reached in Atiku’s case represents the correct position of the law on defections by State Governors.

In a rather desperate bid to  buttress the point, reliance has been placed on the Court of Appeal decisions in INEC v Action Congress (2009) 2 NWLR Pt. 1126-524 (CA), where it was held that, “…the participation of a political party does not exceed campaigning for the candidate…” and Ngige v. Akunyile (2012) 15 NWLR Pt. 1323-343 (CA) where it was said that “… a political party is nothing more than agent of the candidate in gathering votes to an election”. In order to discredit the judgment of the Federal High Court, some lawyers have referred to sections 140 and 141 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 to prove that the case of Amaechi v INEC is no longer the law.  Apparently, the lawyers are not aware of the case of Labour Party v INEC (Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/399/2011) where Kolawole J. (now JCA) had declared that both sections of the Electoral Act, 2010 for being inconsistent with sections 134 and 179 of the Constitution which imbues the judiciary/court with powers to declare the person with majority votes winner of an election process. According to the learned trial judge “the two sections smacked of legislative tyranny, in the sense that they removed the constitutionally guaranteed powers of the court to declare any candidate winner of an election. The judge further stated that what the National Assembly had done in this instance was to deliberately interfere with judicial affairs. While noting further that the two sections were nothing but legislative judgment…”

With respect, the Supreme Court has never jettisoned its position in Amaechi’s case. Hence, in Wada v. Bello (2017) 3 W.R.N. 72; the court reiterated and upheld its earlier position in Amaechi’s case when it held that “A political party is an abstraction. It has to canvass for votes through its members as agents, in the same way it contests, wins or loses elections through a candidate it nominates who acts as its agents. There is no provision for independent candidates. The candidates nominated to contest at an election by his party acts as an agent of his party. He is, as it were, an agent of a disclosed principal and as far as third parties are involved, benefits and liabilities accruing to the candidate (as agent) belong to his party (the disclosed principal).”

Thus, in line with the tenets of the rule of law the INEC has been guided by the decisions of the Supreme Court in Amaechi v INEC and Wada v Bello. For instance, the INEC declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the December 5, 2020, senatorial bye-election held in Imo North. The returning officer reportedly announced that APC polled a total of 36, 811 votes while PDP came second with 31,903 votes but the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Imo, Professor Francis Ezeone said that the commission was unable to return a candidate at the time as a result of several court orders for and against the two major contenders. Interestingly, the commission did not declare the candidate who won the election until the Supreme Court affirmed Frank Ibezim’s candidacy, several months after the election.

In the same vein, in February 2022, INEC declared the APC as the winner of the chairmanship election conducted in Abaji Area Council of Abuja but due to a legal tussle over the party’s aspirant, no candidate was declared the winner of the election. The INEC Returning Officer for Abaji Area Council said that it would not be legitimate to declare any of the aspirants as the winner of the election. He announced that, “We cannot declare a candidate winner in Abaji because the winning party does not have a candidate here, the case is still in court.” He said that a winner would be announced after the resolution of the pending intra party dispute by the Supreme Court. Up till now, the winner of the election has not been declared as the case has not been determined. It is interesting to note that the practice of declaring political parties as winners of elections without naming the candidates by the INEC has not been challenged in any court.

The consistent interpretation of section 221 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by the Supreme Court has confirmed that votes cast during elections in Nigeria  are owned by political candidates and not by candidates who are flag bearers or agents. Since the candidate are agents of their principals it is grossly misleading to insist that Governor Umahi has transferred the 393,343 votes scored by the PDP to the APC because of his defection.  Furthermore, Governor Umahi had constituted the government of Ebonyi State on the basis of the majority of the lawful votes scored by the PDP in line with the provision of section 179 of the Constitution. Thus, before the defection of Governor Umahi from PDP to APC, Ebonyi State was a PDP-led Government. Therefore, , the APC-led Government in the State formed as a result of the defection of the Governor is illegal as it is a negation of section 1(2) of the Constitution which has prohibited the control of the government of Nigeria or any part of it except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

It has also been argued that the defection of Governor Umahi in exercise of his freedom of association has cancelled the 393, 343 votes scored by the PDP.  Even under a military dictatorship in Nigeria, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights held that the cancellation of the results of the June 12 presidential election won by Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola by the Ibrahim Babangida military junta was a violation of the combined provisions of articles 13 and 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. See Constitutional Rights Project &Anor.  v Nigeria (2000) AHLR 198. Furthermore, in view of the several provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act which have provided for  participatory democracy on the basis of majoritarian rule the defection of Governor Umahi cannot wipe out the 393, 343 lawful votes scored by the PDP in Ebonyi State.

It view of the foregoing, it is submitted that the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered by Justice Ekwo  is in tandem with the relevant provisions of the Constitution, Electoral Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. It is also in line with the decisions of the Supreme Court which have confirmed that elections are won by political parties.  However, in view of the penchant of members of the ruling class to subvert the wishes of the people through cross carpeting or defection borne out of wanton opportunism it is high time that votes were made to count in the country. The members of the national assembly and the various state legislative houses should take advantage of the ongoing constitutional review to put an end to the subversion of the wishes of the electorate by compelling political leaders who decamp from the political parties on whose platform they were elected to resign from office forthwith.

In conclusion, I am compelled to remind Nigerian politicians and lawyers of the cautionary words of the Honourable Justice Ganjili in the case of A.P.C. v Marafa (supra). Worried over the brazen political manipulation and impunity by  the Nigerian ruling class, his Lordship said that, “For this great country, some politicians who are either ignorant of what party politics is, or out of mischief, have continuously dragged this nation backward. If care is not taken, this class of politicians will drag this nation to the Stone Age, where all of us will be consumed. I once again, as this court has consistently preached, urge this class of politicians to play the game according to law and guidelines which they themselves have enacted. It is only when this is done that sanity will take center stage in the domestic and international affairs of this great nation.”

read more

FOOTPRINTS OF A TRAILBLAZER: RT.HON (PRINCE)CHIBUDOM NWUCHE,OFR..AN INSPIRATION TO YOUNG NIGERIANS-BY BLESSED OYAGIRI

By Blessed Oyagiri

Great achievers all over the world share a unique attribute, they are men/women of less words but much action put them on the encyclopedia of the movers of the social, political, economic and religious affairs of the universe.
Prince Chibudom Nwuche, without fear of contradiction belongs to the unique group of silent achievers.

He is however not unmindful of the necessity of galvanizing the support of the people at every form, he had harped on the need for the people of Nigeria to join hands in building a nation that truly works.

Ever wonder what it means to stand out from the crowd? To be treated as an individual, an entity separate and distinct from the rest. Imagine being singled out and accorded attention by his people. Imagine them at his beck, attending to their every whim, awaiting his people’s command, and things they considered unattainable now at their fingertips.

That is the power that comes with being recognized as an individual with a unique personality and redefined service delivery towards humanity. Undoubtful, he is as passionate, as committed, assuage, as dogged, and as pragmatic, as workaholic, but his admirers says ‘The Esama Ekpeye of Ekpeye kingdom’ is perhaps more frugal, more principled and less trenchant.

At the last count, The LEGISLATIVE CZAR has cut a niche for himself as a much-focused burning with the zeal of taking leadership to the level beyond excellence. In pursuing the realization of his dreams, Prince Nwuche has ensured compliance with the rule of law, this he viewed as the only way to ensure accountability, transparency in government and to strengthen confidence building among the various segments of the society.

Rt. Hon Chibudom Nwuche by every sense of reasoning is an embodiment of integrity, humility,a trailblazer with a unique personality Or what better way would a resourceful, hardworking and creative young man be described?
His ideas do not come from vacuum. He learns from the elders, he adopts ideas from other climes to suit his environment and, always involves people at the grassroots in finding solutions to problems.

Another virtue that stands him in good stead is his pragmatic acceptance of room for improvement.
This has been evident from his beginning, which accounts for the consolidation of his success as a lawmaker and, a businessman. A politician of the new breed, Honourable Prince Chibudom Nwuche remains a role model to many; an inspiration to young Nigerians. Inspiring in the sense that he loves urging people to do what he did, a near overnight success.

“I didn’t come into politics for want, but to cause a positive change”, he once noted. His approach to issues is legendary; though focused in terms of delivering political promises. Not given to controversy, his response to critics is bedded in style.
Prince Nwuche was born in Enugu into the royal family of late Eze Clifford Cheta Nwuche and Madam Grace Ogbuta Nwuche. He is a native of Ochigba town in Ahoada East, Rivers State. The Prince started his educational career at St. Cyprians State School, Port Harcourt where he got his First School Leaving Certificate. He proceeded to Stella Maris College, Port Harcourt for his Secondary Education where in 1979, he graduated with an Ordinary Level School Certificate. Not done, he proceeded to Lansdowne College, Oxford, United Kingdom for his advanced levels.

Educated at the prestigious University of Keele, between 1982 and 1985, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts(Hons) in Politics and Philosophy, with subsidiary subjects in History and Astronomy, Prince Nwuche between 1985 and 1987 obtained an LLB (Hons) in Law, with a Second Class Upper Division from the Aberystwyth University after which he came to Nigeria for the mandatory Bar programme at the Nigeria Law School.
Always desirous for excellence, he went back to the Kings College London and obtained a Master’s degree in Law (LLM).

He is an expert in Shipping Law, International Finance, International Commercial Law and Intellectual Property. In addition, Prince Nwuche has overtime attended several workshops, courses and seminars in and outside the shores of Nigeria on Legislative Matters, Public Policy among others.

His leadership traits were discovered and horned while in school. At the Stella Maris College, he was elected as a Prefect and; while in London as an undergraduate, he ran and won election as President, Nigeria Society at the University of Keele.

A pace setter, Prince Nwuche whose creed remains an untiring zeal to make a mark, returned to Nigeria after his sojourn and studies abroad. He has since worked in different organizations and held different positions in which he roundly performed to the admiration of all.

He serves as the Chairman and Director of Mass Telecommunication Limited. From 1990 to 1992, Prince Nwuche was a legal practitioner in the law firm of Ajumogobia Okeke and Oyebode and; also in the law firm of Mudiaga Odje and company. And as the Legal Adviser and Consultant to Petgas Resources International Limited, the Prince was applauded for brokering the Beneficial Term Contract Agreements with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Petgas Resources International Limited is a crude oil trading company that worked in corporation with other international oil companies. They include Nap-Oil, Petrol SA of Argentina and, Mark-Rich International, Zug, Switzerland. He served between 1992 and 1994. Also a Director of Omega Petroleum and Energy Company, an organization whose specialty is in shipping of Wet Cargoes and marketing of coastal petroleum products, Prince Nwuche served as the Managing Director of Rheingold Nigeria Limited between 1994-1998.

For his humanitarian efforts and genuine bond he shares with his people, partly persuaded by his impressive achievements in the academia, legal practice and business, he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives in 1999. At the National Assembly, his colleagues quickly noticed his fine ideals and vibrancy and was elected the Deputy Speaker on June 4, 1999. His Ahoada East/Abua/Odual Federal Constituency, the area that elected him into the House immediately took note of a rising star.
Whilst as Deputy Speaker, Hon (Prince) Nwuche was very visible as he chaired the Committee of Whole that was responsible for the passing of both Executive and Member Bills. He also sponsored the Local Content Bill, Disability Bill amongst several others.

He also promoted dialogues between the World Trade Organization and its effect on industrialization of the nation.
A highly articulate Prince, he was nicknamed “Tiger” by his colleagues for his dogged and polished views. When he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives, little did the people reckon he would make positive impact. But as he matured in legislative duties and settled in, he became more embolden.

He marched with refined ideas and energy and, he moved on with aggressive vigour. He was eager, visibly enthusiastic to serve the nation and her people. His focus was to restore the dignity of the common man.
In return, across the country, the people appreciated him. He was bestowed with traditional titles, Ozurumba of Umunya; Aha Egi Aga Mba of Okigwe, Imo State, and Ebubedike of Ogbunike. His Ekpeye Kingdom aptly recognized him as their Adigwe (Moon); later elevated to famous title of Esama (Moon light).
Founder of the Foundation for Youth Development, other traditional honours include the Agbawo Dike Izu, Egbema, Ada-Idaha Ke Efik Eburutu, Calabar; Onwa Netiliora of Enugu State, Nta-Nta, Oron; and he is the Maitaimkin Sarkin Talakawan Nijeriya. Prince Nwuche is a member of the prestigious Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), an award from the Nigerian nation.
A Honorary Fellow of the Nigeria Association of Technologists in Engineering (NATE), the Ekpeye Prince holds other honours and awards. The list includes an award from the All African Students Union; Life Patron, National Union of Rivers State Union; Hallmark Award for Distinguished Nigerians of the 21st Century; and an award for Exceptional Performance in Politics, from the Igbo National Council. He is a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and, he holds an Award of Excellence in Politics and Leadership Accomplishment.

Noted for his commitment to the promotion of dialogue between the organized private sector and the National Assembly, he facilitated dialogue between a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations and the Parliament on matters of media rights and sustenance of a credible democratic system. The Nigeria Local Content bill which is now in existence was set out to allow for greater participation of indigenous companies in the oil industry.
A grassroots activist and politician, he played important role in the passage of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act and the Onshore Offshore Dichotomy Bill. He is a unique lawmaker, his love for the down trodden buoyed him to sponsor the Nigerian with Disability Bill and another bill establishing a National Agency to enforce laws against trafficking of persons, particularly women and children.

Beside presiding the House Committee of Whole, he was Vice Chairman, House Committee of Selection; Vice Chairman, National Assembly Joint Committee in the review of the 1999 constitution; and he led several delegations to various International Conference and Summits.
These include the 107th Conference of Inter-Parliamentary Union, Morocco; Global Conference of Parliamentarians Against Corruption in Ottawa, Canada; Parliamentary Summit in Venezuela; and Commonwealth Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers, Kesane in Botswana. He also led the delegation to the 106th Conference of Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Parliamentary visit to People’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, African Region held in Ghana and; Nigerian Parliamentary Delegation to the Economic Community of West African states, ECOWAS.

A member of the Board of Directors of Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, Prince Nwuche is the Chairman, Nigerian Chapter of the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption. He holds the membership of the Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association, London Institute of Petroleum, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Institute of Directors and, he served as Chairman, Trade Group of Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce.

Hon (Prince) Nwuche is a community worker. He has set-up scholarship and grant schemes for indigent students. Even the small/medium scale business men and women have benefited from this philanthropist. No wonder, Prince Nwuche was adopted as the Leader of the Orashi Region, an area comprising of Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Abua-Odual and Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Areas.

Hon. (Prince) Nwuche is happily married with children.
Those who love him ,do so, because they either see him as their role model, while those who hate or criticise him do so because, they neither know him nor able to stand his guts. His attributes-good or bad, his flaws and perfections in deed, add up to what many describe as the embodiment of humanity. He may not be a saint by human standard, but he is a present day description of a man after God’s heart.” His tenacious spirit and resilient attitude even when the chips are down is the reason why he has been able to catapult himself to greatness.

Blessed Oyagiri is the Publisher/CEO of BBOreporters.com, an online medium based in Port Harcourt.

read more

AGAIN, WE ARE ABOUT TO HAVE A GOVERNOR WE DO NOT KNOW SO WELL

By Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
The political climate in Rivers State ahead of the 2023 governorship election is at best simmering. Nothing much is happening.
Three months to INEC’s deadline on governorship primaries. Five months to the final submission of names of governorship candidates. Twelve months to election day, yet the electorate wallow in speculations. Nothing much is heard about those who want to be governor.
Again, Rivers State is faced with the prospect of another rushed campaign. Again, we are about to have another governor that will ride to the Brick House singing and dancing in LGA and state political rallies.
We are again confronted with the grim prospect of having a governor whose plans and programmes we do not know. Whose ability and character we cannot vouch for.
We are about to surrender another eight years of our lives to a governor we do not know so well. We are about to entrust trillions of naira with a governor without telling him how we want him to spend our money.
Unfortunately, the rogue conspiracy to deny the electorate ample time to know and decide who to vote is perpetrated by INEC, party leaders (governors and top political office holders) and the aspirants/candidates themselves.
Despite the over 300 billion of public funds that it gets to conduct in-season elections, INEC places a ban on campaigns and threatens to sanction defaulters who dare to campaign outsider its approved four-five months window.
INEC spends so much to produce persons that spend so much more, yet the people have so little a time to know and decide who to vote.
This situation is made worse by incumbent governors/serving Ministers that hold their parties to ransom. They keep the people in suspence and keep their party stalwarts guessing. They endorse their preferred candidates very late while threatening to deal with anyone that jumps the gun. In order to avoid the wrath of the governors/leaders and avoid wasting money on “fruitless” aspirations, the aspirants themselves keep silence.
Civil Society, National Assembly and INEC are beating their chests on electronic transmission of results. They are euphoric about provisions in the new electoral law designed to make votes count. But they show very little interest in the process that produces the candidates to be voted for.
What is the benefit of electronic transmission of results when the people have little or no say in the emergence of party candidates? Can election be adjudged free, fair and credible when the people do not have enough time and space to evaluate the candidates? For who do the votes count?
But no matter what they do, no matter the shortness of time, Rivers people must decide, this time around, to constructively engage WORTHY PERSONS that are strongly rumored to be eyeing the governorship. Rivers people must come together to create platforms to evaluate governorship flag bearers when they emerge.
Civil Society, the media and all patriotic bodies must come together to ensure the enthronement of good governance in Rivers State and do so dispassionately.
read more

The War on Free Speech Censorship’s Global Rise

The roots of free speech are ancient, deep, and sprawling. The Athenian statesman Pericles extolled the democratic values of open debate and tolerance of social dissent in 431 BC. In the ninth century, the irreverent freethinker Ibn al-Rawandi used the fertile intellectual climate of the Abbasid caliphate to question prophecy and holy books. In 1582, the Dutchman Dirck Coornhert insisted that it was “tyrannical to . . . forbid good books in order to squelch the truth.” The first legal protection of press freedom was instituted in Sweden in 1766. In 1770, Denmark became the first state in the world to abolish any and all censorship.

 

Today, people in developed democracies take for granted that free speech is a fundamental right. That concept, however, would never have taken root if not for the work of trailblazers who were vilified and persecuted for ideas that many of their contemporaries considered radical and dangerous. They include the seventeenth-century Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who argued that “in a free state everyone is at liberty to think as he pleases, and to say what he thinks”; the so-called Levellers of seventeenth-century England, for whom free and equal speech was a precondition for egalitarian democracy; the French feminist Olympe de Gouges, who wrote in 1791 that “a woman has the right to be guillotined; she should also have the right to debate”; and the American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who saw free speech as a weapon against slavery and thought that “the right of speech is a very precious one, especially to the oppressed.”

If these pioneers were alive today, they would no doubt see the twenty-first century as an unprecedented golden age of free speech. They would marvel at what people in much of the world can freely and immediately discuss, across time zones and borders, with no Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books) to censor blasphemy, no Star Chamber to punish sedition, no Committee of Public Safety to guillotine political heretics, and no lynch mobs to attack abolitionists. At a global level, the principle of free speech has been transformed into an international human rights norm, and its practice has been aided by advances in communications technology unimaginable to the early modern mind.

 

Given the epic struggles and enormous sacrifices that led to this happy outcome, there is indeed much to celebrate about the current condition of free expression. But despite the unprecedented ubiquity of speech and information today, the golden age is coming to an end. Today, we are witnessing the dawn of a free-speech recession.

According to V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy), a research institute that analyzes global democracy, 2020 saw substantial declines in the respect for freedom of expression in 32 countries; in the year before that, censorship intensified in a record-breaking 37 countries. These developments had terrible consequences for the media and reporters. The Committee to Protect Journalists documented the imprisonment of 1,010 individual journalists between 2011 and 2020, an alarming 78 percent increase from the previous decade.

In some countries, the free-speech recession looks more like a depression. In India, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has relied heavily on the type of colonial-era laws against sedition and enmity that the British once used to convict Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian nationalists. Modi has used those laws to silence environmental activists, politicians, journalists, academics, and minorities—in stark contrast to Gandhi’s passionate defense of free speech, which he considered “absolutely necessary for a man to breathe the oxygen of liberty.”

 

Free speech is faring even worse in Hong Kong, where the Chinese Communist Party has completed a striking transformation of the city since cracking down on pro-democracy protests in 2019. What had been a small oasis of free expression, with a vibrant civil society and a critical press, is now a barren desert where democracy activists, academics, and independent media are punished with draconian laws against what the CCP deems terrorism, secession, or sedition.

Freedom of speech and the media have also been targeted in the EU member states of Hungary and Poland, where illiberal governments view media pluralism and minority voices as a threat rather than a strength. In both places, right-wing leaders have put in place laws aimed at ensuring de facto dominance by government-friendly media outlets and reducing the visibility of LGBTQ people.

But brutal repression in authoritarian states and creeping censorship in illiberal democracies only partly explain why free speech is in retreat. Liberal democracies, rather than constituting a counterweight to the authoritarian onslaught, are themselves contributing to the free-speech recession. In the wealthy, established democracies of Europe and North America, elites in political, academic, and media institutions that once cherished free expression as the lifeblood of democracy now worry that “free speech is killing us,” as the title of a 2019 New York Times op-ed by the writer Andrew Marantz put it. Many now point to unmediated disinformation and hateful speech on the Internet as evidence that free speech is being weaponized against democracy itself. Meanwhile, the growing strength and geopolitical clout of authoritarian and illiberal regimes have led to brutal limits on freedom of expression in many developing and middle-income countries that not long ago seemed poised to become freer, more open societies.

It is true that freedom of speech can be exploited to amplify division, sow distrust, and inflict serious harm. And the right to free expression is not absolute; laws properly prohibit threats and incitement to violence, for example. But the view that today’s fierce challenges to democratic institutions and values can be overcome by rolling back free speech is deeply misguided. Laws and norms protecting free speech still constitute “the great bulwark of liberty,” as the British essayist Thomas Gordon wrote in 1721. If not maintained, however, a bulwark can break, and without free speech, the future will be less free, democratic, and equal—and more ignorant, autocratic, and oppressive. Rather than abandon this most essential right, democracies should renew their commitment to free speech and use it to further liberal democratic ideals and counter authoritarian advances.

SAY ANYTHING

Europe is the laboratory where the principle of free speech was first developed and experimented with in a systematic fashion. Over time, different rulers tinkered with different combinations of freedom and restriction. So far in the twenty-first century, more restrictions than freedoms have been added to the mix.

Since 2008, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, western European countries have experienced a sharp decline in civil liberties as “infringements of free speech . . . have increased.” In recent years, both the European Commission and the governments of Austria, Denmark, France, and the United Kingdom have pursued what the German political scientist Karl Loewenstein termed “militant democracy”: the idea that democracies must deny basic democratic freedoms to those who reject basic democratic values. France has adopted a law prohibiting the online “manipulation of information” during elections. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has also issued decrees banning the right-wing anti-immigrant organization Génération Identitaire (citing alleged hate speech) and the antidiscrimination group the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (citing what was considered the group’s defense of terrorism and anti-Semitism). Even criticizing Macron himself is risky these days. Last September, a man was fined more than $11,000 for depicting Macron as Adolf Hitler on billboards protesting France’s COVID-19 policies.

In 2020, Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, coordinated a crackdown on online hate speech in seven member countries. Among them was Germany, where police searched more than 80 houses, seizing smartphones and laptops, and questioned almost 100 suspects about hateful posts that included “insulting a female politician.”

Denmark, along with its Scandinavian neighbors, ranks as one of the world’s most open democracies, with a long tradition of tolerating even totalitarian ideas. But during the past decade, Danish governments on both the left and the right have restricted free speech by toughening libel laws, increasing the punishment for insulting public officials and politicians, instituting a de facto ban on wearing veils that fully cover one’s face in public, adopting laws punishing religious “hate preachers” at home and banning foreign ones from entering the country, expanding the scope of laws against hate speech, and presenting a draft bill requiring social media platforms to remove any illegal content within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

 

In the United States, the legal protections afforded by the First Amendment remain strong. But for many Americans, the underlying ideal of what some First Amendment scholars have termed “free speech exceptionalism” has lost its appeal. As an abstract principle, Americans continue to support free speech. In practice, however, that support frequently collapses along unforgiving tribalistic and identitarian lines. Despite American liberalism’s tenet that free speech is necessary to protect historically persecuted minorities against outbreaks of majoritarian intolerance, this civil libertarian ideal no longer persuades a new generation of progressives who want to purge an ever-broadening collection of ideas and views they deem racist, sexist, or anti-LGBTQ from universities, media outlets, and cultural institutions. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education documented more than 500 attempts between 2015 and 2021 to professionally sanction scholars for engaging in constitutionally protected forms of speech. Over two-thirds of the scholars targeted for speech involving race or gender faced investigations, suspension, censorship, demotion, or termination. Many of those cases stemmed from pedagogically justifiable uses of offensive language. Last year, for example, the University of Illinois law professor Jason Kilborn was suspended after a student complained about an exam question that referenced racial and misogynistic slurs—even though the exam presented only the first letter of each term, with asterisks replacing the rest of the word.

This new American skepticism of free speech is hardly consigned to the political left. As president, Donald Trump attacked the media as “the true Enemy of the people,” proposed tightening libel laws, and advocated punishing people who burn the American flag, an act protected by the First Amendment. Consequently, according to polls conducted by YouGov during Trump’s presidency, a plurality of Republicans supported giving courts the power to shut down media outlets for inaccurate or biased news stories and stripping flag burners of U.S. citizenship. Despite professing concern for free speech, conservatives have also responded to the rise of so-called identity politics and what they decry as “cancel culture” with illiberal laws prohibiting the discussion of certain conceptions of and theories about race, gender, and even history in educational settings.

On occasion, the assault on free speech has become a bipartisan affair. Several states and a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate have adopted or promoted laws punishing businesses for supporting boycotts of Israel and Israeli settlements, despite federal court rulings that the right to boycott to influence political change is protected by the First Amendment. Many Democrats and Republicans have also found common ground on the idea of stripping social media platforms of the broad legal protections they enjoy when it comes to user-generated content—although the liberal and conservative justifications for that proposed step differ greatly. Democrats want to rein in disinformation and hate speech, whereas Republicans oppose Big Tech because of what they see as Silicon Valley’s anticonservative bias. But the combined force of this enmity raises serious questions about the long-term prospects for free speech in the United States.

EGALITARIAN OR ELITIST?

Perhaps nowhere has the erosion of free speech been more apparent than on the Internet. In 1999, one of the primary architects of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, described his vision of a decentralized space unfettered by the censorship of “hierarchical classification systems” imposed by others. In 2020, however, Internet freedom receded for the 11th straight year according to Freedom House, which attributed the trend to a “record-breaking crackdown on freedom of expression online.” The techno-optimist’s ideal has given way to an Internet aggressively policed by states and by corporate behemoths that carry out what some have dubbed “moderation without representation,” using opaque algorithms to define the limits of global debate with little transparency or accountability.

In hindsight, it should have been obvious that the global expansion of free speech that the Internet allows would produce harmful unintended consequences. Along with spreading truthful information and fostering tolerance, a free and open network accessible to billions of people across the world inevitably disseminates lies and amplifies hateful rhetoric. It was also predictable that authoritarian regimes whose hold on power was challenged by the Internet would invest heavily in reimposing their control of the means of communication. In the twentieth century, authoritarians and totalitarians of every stripe turned the press and broadcast media into fine-tuned instruments of propaganda at the same time as they ruthlessly censored and repressed dissent. Today, authoritarian states—with China leading the charge—are reverse engineering the technology that was supposed to make it impossible for censorship to silence dissent at home and sow division and distrust abroad. In 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton famously remarked that China’s attempts to crack down on the Internet were “like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.” Some 20 years later, the Jell-O is firmly attached to the wall—and a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping hangs on the nail.

History should have made clear that radical developments in communications technology would not entice elites and gatekeepers to willingly give up their privileges and admit previously voiceless groups into the public sphere. New communications technology is inevitably disruptive. Every new advancement—from the printing press to the Internet—has been opposed by those whose institutional authority is vulnerable to being undermined by sudden change. In 1525, the great humanist scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam, himself a prodigious writer, complained that printers “fill the world with pamphlets and books [that are] foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive.” In 1858, The New York Times lamented that communication via transatlantic telegraph was “superficial, sudden, unsifted, too fast for the truth.” In 2006, Barack Obama, then a Democratic senator from Illinois, praised the Internet as “a neutral platform” that allowed him to “say what I want without censorship.” Social media would later play an important role in his rise to the presidency. But 14 years later, after the presidential election of 2020, Obama declared online disinformation “the single biggest threat to our democracy.”

The fundamental disagreement about free speech among democrats in the digital age can be boiled down to two opposing understandings. An egalitarian conception of free speech stresses the importance of providing everyone with a voice in public affairs regardless of status or education. An elitist conception, on the other hand, prefers a public sphere mediated by institutional gatekeepers who can ensure the “responsible” diffusion of information and opinion. The clash between these two perspectives stretches back to antiquity and originated in the differences between Athenian democracy and Roman republicanism. In Athens, ordinary free male citizens enjoyed a direct voice in political decision-making and the right to speak frankly in public (the fate of Socrates notwithstanding). Rome, in contrast, limited free speech to a small elite; others had to tread carefully, lest they run afoul of laws against licentiousness, which could lead to banishment or execution.

THE DIGITAL CITY

The tension between these egalitarian and elitist ideals has dominated the history of free speech ever since, even as the mediums have changed and technology has advanced. Outbreaks of elite panic often reflect real concerns and dilemmas but often result in policies that are likely to worsen the problems they were intended to solve. Take Germany’s Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), which was put into effect in 2017 and obliges social media platforms to remove illegal content or face huge fines. The law has done little to check hatred online but has incentivized Big Tech platforms to expand their definitions of prohibited speech and extremism and turbocharge their automated content moderation—resulting in the deletion of massive amounts of content that was perfectly legal.

The law’s most discernible impact, however, may have been to serve as a blueprint for Internet censorship, providing a veneer of legitimacy to authoritarian regimes around the globe that have explicitly cited the German law as an inspiration for their own censorship laws. The law was a good faith effort to curb online hate speech but has helped spark a regulatory race to the bottom that undermines freedom of expression as guaranteed by international human rights standards. Although it would be misleading to blame Germany for the draconian laws adopted in authoritarian states, those countries’ embrace of restrictions resembling NetzDG should give Germany and other Western democracies pause.

The importance of free speech in the digital space is clear to embattled pro-democracy activists in places such as Belarus, Egypt, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Russia, and Venezuela, where they depend on the ability to communicate and organize—and to the regimes of these countries, which view such activities as an existential threat. And when liberal democracies pass censorship laws or when Big Tech platforms prohibit certain kinds of speech or bar certain users, they make it easier for authoritarian regimes to justify their repression of dissent. In this way, democracies and the companies that thrive in them sometimes unwittingly help entrench regimes that fuel propaganda and disinformation in those very same democracies.

 

These conflicting dynamics are playing out in a context in which there is no clear legitimate authority, shared values, or principles on which to build a global framework for free speech. This reflects a much deeper and fundamental disconnect between what the philosopher of technology L. M. Sacasas has called “the Digital City,” where we live our hyperconnected lives in the Internet era, and “the Analog City,” where life took place in the industrial era, prior to mass digitization. Modern humans increasingly inhabit the former while trying to make sense of its unprecedented informational order according to the principles and assumptions of the latter. The result has been a tendency toward a fragmentation of the public sphere, with plummeting trust in established sources of information and political institutions.

The disruptive effects of switching from the Analog City to the Digital City are unlikely to run their course anytime soon. The printing press had been around for 70 years before it caught on and helped launch the Protestant Reformation. In comparison, the World Wide Web has been around for only 30 years or so, and Google, Facebook, and Twitter were founded in 1998, 2004, and 2006, respectively. These may well be just the early days of the digital age, with massive disruptions still to come.

Over the past two years, a torrent of lies and conspiracy theories have taken a toll. They have made it harder to contain a deadly pandemic. And they led millions to reject the legitimacy of a presidential election in the world’s most powerful democracy, culminating in the first violent attack on the peaceful transfer of power ever witnessed in the United States. If these pathologies are but a harbinger of things to come in the Digital City, no wonder many still cling to the relative certainty and informational structure of the Analog City. It might be tempting to simply condemn huge swaths of cyberspace as irreparably corrupt and close them off, much as the Ottoman emperors in the sixteenth century shunned the printing press in a bid to avoid the political chaos and religious conflict that had unsettled Europe in part because of changes ushered in by the freer spread of information. That choice might have seemed prudent at the time; now, however, it looks like a costly miscalculation, as the compound knowledge and ideas spread by the printing press eventually helped Europe lay the foundation for global dominance, even as religious wars were raging across the continent. Modern democracies are unlikely to err so badly. But when Macron insists that in democracies, the “Internet is much better used by those on the extremes,” and when Obama cautions that online disinformation poses “the single biggest threat” to democracy, they are inflating the threat and courting overreaction.

Net neutrality supporters in Los Angeles, November 2017

 

There is no denying that the backlash against social media has had consequences. Facebook and Twitter originally displayed a strong civil libertarian impulse inspired by First Amendment ideals. As late as 2012, Twitter only half-jokingly described itself as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” But as the scrutiny grew more intense and the calls for more content removal and regulation grew ever louder, the platforms changed their tune and started emphasizing the values of “safety” and preventing “harm.” In a 2017 hearing before a hostile British Parliament, a Twitter vice president waved the white flag and announced that the platform was ditching its “John Stuart Mill–style philosophy.” And in 2019, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, called for stronger regulation of the Internet, knowing full well that few other platforms would be able to spend as many resources on content moderation as Facebook does.

In recent years, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have altered their terms of service in ways that have led to the banning of more content and broader categories of speech. Facebook deleted 26.9 million pieces of content for allegedly violating its standards on hate speech in the last quarter of 2020. That is nearly 17 times the 1.6 million deletions of alleged hate speech in the last quarter of 2017. Twitter and YouTube also removed record levels of content in 2020. Those caught in the dragnet are not all neo-Nazis or violent jihadis; others whose content has been purged include activists documenting war crimes in Syria, racial and sexual minorities using slurs to expose bigotry, and Russians critical of President Vladimir Putin. No government in history has ever been able to exert such extensive control over what people all over the world are saying, writing, reading, watching, listening to, and sharing with others.

Ultimately, any society that becomes dependent on the centralized control of information and opinion will be neither free nor vibrant. Past attempts to rid the public sphere of ideas that authorities or elites considered extreme or harmful have tended to exclude the poor and the propertyless, foreigners, women, and religious, racial, ethnic, national, and sexual minorities. Until relatively recently in historical terms, those in power have deemed people in these categories too credulous, fickle, immoral, ignorant, or dangerous to have a voice in public affairs.

Liberal democracies must come to terms with the fact that in the Digital City, citizens and institutions cannot be shielded from hostile propaganda, hateful content, or disinformation without compromising their egalitarian and liberal values. Whatever fundamental reforms governments must pursue to ensure that humans can thrive, trust one another, and flourish in the Digital City, a robust commitment to free speech should be recognized as a necessary part of the solution rather than an outdated ideal to be discarded.

THE POWER OF SPEECH

Rather than trying to save democracy by sacrificing free speech, democracies must rediscover its enormous potential. Recent history provides both inspiration for how they can do so and stark warnings about the dangers of letting authoritarian states win the fight on where to draw redlines. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the legally binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) were negotiated at the UN in the years following World War II, liberal democracies and the Soviet bloc fought bitterly about the limits of free speech. The Soviets sought to include an obligation to ban hate speech in accordance with Article 123 of Joseph Stalin’s 1936 constitution, which prohibited any “advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt.”

In the face of this pressure, Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chair of what was then the UN Commission on Human Rights, emerged as an eloquent defender of free-speech maximalism. She warned that the Soviet proposals “would be extremely dangerous” and were likely to be “exploited by totalitarian States.” Democracies managed to defeat hate-speech bans in the UDHR, but ultimately, the Soviet agenda won the day: Article 20 of the ICCPR obliges states to prohibit specific forms of incitement to hatred. Predictably, Soviet-backed communist states used laws against hate speech and incitement as part of their arsenal against dissent and political enemies at home, a tactic still in use by authoritarian states. But the initial fight at the UN over the limits of free speech in international human rights law was only the first of several rounds that would be fought over the coming decades.

In 1975, the Helsinki Final Act was signed by 35 countries under the auspices of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The act’s primary ambition was to ease Cold War tensions, but Western democracies persuaded the Soviet bloc to accept the inclusion of human rights provisions. The communist regimes objected to the human rights language during the lengthy negotiations. They were already fighting an uphill battle to jam the radio signals of Western radio stations that broadcast uncensored news into the homes of millions of people behind the Iron Curtain. In 1972, using rhetoric eerily similar to that now used by many democratic leaders, Soviet officials had declared that they would never tolerate “the dissemination of . . . racism, fascism, the cult of violence, hostility among peoples and false slanderous propaganda.” Nevertheless, the Soviet bloc swallowed the human rights concessions, which they viewed as little more than empty rhetoric.

But through newspaper reports, word of mouth, samizdat publications, and Western radio broadcasts, people in Eastern Europe quickly learned about the new rights that their governments had solemnly promised to respect. And among the rights guaranteed by the Helsinki Final Act, perhaps none was more important than freedom of expression. The principle and practice of free speech were used by Western democracies and burgeoning human rights organizations to empower and amplify the protests of Soviet-bloc dissidents. The famous Charter 77 manifesto, authored in 1977 by an eclectic mix of Czechoslovak dissidents—including Vaclav Havel, the country’s future leader—complained that “the right to freedom of expression, for example, guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR, is in our case purely illusory.” In 1990, after Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, Havel, who had become president, gave a triumphant speech to the U.S. Congress:

Likewise, Lech Walesa, the trade union leader who went on to serve as the president of Poland in the post–Cold War period, recalled that in his successful struggle to topple communism, “one of the central freedoms at stake was freedom of expression.” Walesa noted that “without this basic freedom, human life becomes meaningless; and once the truth of this hit me, it became part of my whole way of thinking.”

Later, free speech also contributed to ending apartheid in South Africa, where censorship and repression had been used to maintain white supremacy. In 1994, shortly before winning the country’s first free presidential election, Nelson Mandela gave a speech in which he credited the international media for shining a global spotlight on the atrocities committed by the apartheid regime. He then promised to abolish apartheid-era laws limiting free expression, a right that he pledged would constitute one of the “core values” of South African democracy.

More recently, in 2011, the Obama administration notched a rare but important win amid the current era’s free-speech recession. For more than a decade, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had mobilized majorities at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council to support resolutions against “the defamation of religion.” The OIC’s campaign was an attempt to pass a legally binding ban on religious blasphemy at the UN—a step that would have effectively extended the writ of regimes in Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia that severely punish satire, criticism, and irreverent discussions of Islam. In response, the United States, with assistance from a number of European democracies, launched a multilateral global offensive to stop the OIC’s effort. The strategy worked and not only defended but also expanded existing free-speech norms, leading to the adoption of a resolution that affirmed that human rights law protects people, not religions or ideologies. Although the resolution condemned advocacy of incitement to hatred, it called on the criminalization only of “incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief.” Moreover, the resolution helped remedy the original sin of international human rights law by narrowing the obligation to prohibit incitement to hatred inserted in the ICCPR at the behest of the Soviet Union back in the 1960s.

THE TALKING CURE

These precedents provide democracies with a guide for how to promote the fundamental value of free speech. Instead of launching global initiatives limiting that freedom, democracies should join forces to expand the shrinking spaces for dissent and civil society around the globe. One way to do so is through concerted efforts to expose and condemn censorship and repression and to offer civil society organizations and dissidents technical support that can amplify dissent and circumvent repressive measures. Democracies must be vigilant about protecting norms within international institutions and preventing authoritarian states from taking advantage of elite panic to dilute hard-won speech protections.

Democracies should also push for global Big Tech platforms to voluntarily adopt robust human rights standards to help guide and inform their content moderation policies and practices. This would solidify the sprawling and ever-changing terms of service that previously set the bar significantly lower than what follows from human rights norms and constitutional freedoms in liberal democracies. Such a move would also help online platforms resist the pressure to act as privately outsourced censors of dissent in countries where social media may be the only way for citizens to circumvent official censorship and propaganda.

In addition to direct government action, civil society and technology companies can also contribute to the promotion and protection of free speech. A cottage industry has sprung up to map, analyze, and counter disinformation and propaganda—a far healthier approach than attempts to ban harmful speech. Likewise, several studies suggest that organized campaigns of strategic “counterspeech” can provide an antidote to online hate speech, which frequently targets minority groups. For example, the Swedish online community #jagärhär (#iamhere) has tens of thousands of members who respond to hateful posts on social media—an approach that has been copied by groups in many other countries.

Innovative journalists, activists, and collectives such as Bellingcat are also using open-source intelligence and data to expose the criminal deeds and human rights violations of authoritarian states. Not even China can avoid such scrutiny: unlike the suffering of victims in the Soviet Union’s gulag, to which the world was mostly oblivious, the horrific conditions in China’s network of “reeducation camps” in the western region of Xinjiang have been exposed by journalists, activists, and victims using smartphones, social media, satellites, and messaging apps.

The free-speech recession must be resisted by people around the world who have benefited from the revolutionary acts and sacrifices of the millions who came before them and fought for the cherished right to speak one’s mind. It is up to those who already enjoy that right to defend the tolerance of heretical ideas, limit the reach of disinformation, agree to disagree without resorting to harassment or hate, and treat free speech as a principle to be upheld universally rather than a prop to be selectively invoked for narrow, tribalistic point-scoring. As George Orwell put it in 1945: “If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.” Free speech is still an experiment, and in the digital age, no one can guarantee the outcome of providing global platforms to billions of people. But the experiment is noble—and worth continuing.

 

read more

Between Christianity and Feminism

Our religious studies teacher gone, my classmate, Tofunmi (not his real name), walked the length of our classroom to my seat. We had a few minutes until our next teacher would begin another lesson in mathematics, English, or literature and the room sizzled with the energy of unsupervised secondary schoolers. Tofunmi was smug, gloating as he recounted the lecture on ‘The Family’. His verdict: men were their wives’ heads. The Bible said so. What could I possibly still have to say?

Once, another classmate said that families without sons were incomplete. I was agitated because, in my family, there’s me, and four other girls. No brother. No son. It meant that when my parents gave me and my sisters chores, there was no juxtaposition of sex. No differentiation. I swept floors and washed cars. Still, it has always been clear that I must learn domesticity, not because basic hygiene and cooking are non-gendered life skills, but because I am always a wife and mother-in-waiting.

Growing up, I learned the word ‘tomboy’ early. I hated dolls, assumed a posture and gait apparently masculine, wore my hair short since I was ten (although at first involuntarily), and frequently presented and acted in ways not stereotypically female. But in Nigeria where gender binaries are non-negotiable, I was always female whether or not I performed femininity correctly.

My mother raised me and my sisters, Christian, though half of my family is Muslim. We go to the kind of Pentecostal church where women are discouraged from wearing trousers and men from growing beards. At first, we went when we could, on most Sundays. When we found a closer church of the same denomination, we started going every Sunday, during the week, for vigils, and for special programmes. At home, through daily devotionals, my mother taught us to prioritize a relationship with God. As much as a child could, I accepted this, along with the Jesus-is-the-only-way, holiness-is-a-lifestyle, miracles-are-possible, prosperity-is-God’s-promise message that our church churned out.

In 2016, I got born again. Aged 16 and newly matriculated into university, I attended a ‘fresher’s service’ at a youth dominated parish of my church, and after an intense experience during which I started to speak in tongues, I decided that I was ready to take Christianity seriously. Immediately, it became important to make sense of a faith that had previously been thrust on me. I split my time between class and my room, where I gave hours to Bible study, prayer and fellowship with other Christians. The more I read the Bible, the more I reconsidered my worldview, sifting through the pieces to align them with the new centre of my identity, my faith. I reconstituted my ambition and gave up secular music.

Then, there was feminism. For me, feminism is obvious. When I hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s expression, ‘feminist before I learned the word’  I understand; but it is impossible to study the Bible without noticing its overtly un-feminist leanings. I panicked. I had been embracing an ideology that God seemed to disapprove. Straddling the torturous path between conscience and religious conviction, I chose God because the language of faith is unflinching commitment, which to me meant a willingness to throw anything on the altar of discipleship. Until I could justify it, I relinquished the title ‘feminist’, considering myself instead a Christian who believed in equality— the vague notion that women could lead countries, should earn as much as men, but may, and I hadn’t decided, be prohibited from pastoring or engaging marriage on their terms only—because that, at least, was obvious.

NEEDING ANSWERS

Although at the time it felt like I was trudging a deserted path, I have since encountered other women confronting the ways their faiths project them. As I pored over Khadija Sanusi’s 2020 Republic essay on advocating women’s rights and preserving an earnest faith,  I found myself tracing patterns on the other side of the coin Sanusi was holding. The story starts the same: two women, solid in our belief in gender equality, believers in the world’s largest Abrahamic religions, Islam and Christianity, both patriarchal by trademark. Our questions, so similar: why are men above women in marriage? Why, in the Old Testament, was polygyny encouraged but not polyandry? What are the rights of the Christian woman? Why are female voices silenced in the Church? Why did Mosaic law allow men divorce but not women? What does a woman of faith do when her doctrines about God collide with her doctrines about equality? While Sanusi chose the well-considered path of the old and mostly orthodox, I would withdraw, reimagining convention.

There are other differences in our journeys. While Sanusi was grappling with the Qur’an, I was wrestling the Bible. Reading the Bible in the twenty-first century is alarming. There are ‘problem passages’, portions that read with difficulty for the events described or teaching prescribed, or both. Stories of commodification, kidnapping and rape (Genesis 12:10-20; 20; 19: 4-11; Judges 19; 21). Singular verses removed from allegories and metaphors. In Genesis 3:16, God subjects women to the ‘rule’ of their husbands. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, frames this as headship and submission. He forbids women from speaking in church—‘It is a shame,’ he says in 1 Corinthians 14:35— and prohibits them from exercising authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12). Furthermore, women are required to cover their heads during public worship, but not men, because while, ‘a man… is the image and glory of God’, ‘woman is the glory of man’ (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). Wives do not have authority over their bodies (1 Corinthians 7:4). Neither do husbands; but it is that idea, that a person should not exclusively decide the use of their body, that is the problem.

Passages like these become doctrine, because in Pentecostalism’s fundamentalism, the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Approximates of the Bible’s own declaration that it is divinely inspired and entirely reliable. This means that there are no mistakes in the Bible, and there cannot be. Infallibility suggests the Bible’s supremacy for moral instruction. In Protestantism, this couples with the Reformation’s sola scriptura doctrine which emphasizes the sufficiency of ‘the Scripture only’ as the right source of doctrine.

FINDING ANSWERS

With my readings leading nowhere, I knew it was time to listen to more enlightened voices. I found them in books I loaned, bought, or found in the public domain. I read articles, academic and otherwise, and blog posts, wading through different sides of the debate to distil a Biblically consistent theology of women.

Quickly, I came to appreciate the importance of interpretation or hermeneutics, as it is technically called. I learnt, as Sanusi did of Islam, that ‘the oppression [Christianity] is so often accused of does not come from religious texts, but from (mis)interpretation.’

Some, like Katharine Bushnell, progenitor of the Christian-Feminism movement, maintain that a male bias colours the Bible’s English text. Bushnell’s intervention was unearthing truth from the original Hebrew/Greek. The specific language and culture that give verses context, many now argue, must be considered for correct interpretation. This idea informs E Randolph Richard and Brandon O’Brien’s Misreading Scripture Through Western EyesThey acknowledge the spatial and temporal gap between the Bible’s original readers and modern learners who, cut off from ancient languages and customs, transpose words into contemporary perspectives and misunderstand them. In differing circumstances, some instructions become redundant or adaptable.

One of the first books I read on biblical femininity was Kenneth Hagin’s The Woman Question. Hagin adopts the contextual hermeneutic, arguing that male headship finds relevance only within marriage, thus men are not otherwise superior. The Greek word for ‘woman’ is same as for ‘wife’, as ‘man’ for ‘husband’, but context makes it clear that the words, when connected to headship, refer to domestic situations. Also, debates about head coverings made sense only in cultures like Corinth’s where a head covered in public could be the difference between a promiscuous woman and a respectable one.

Except in the Book of Timothywith its strong injunction against women in ‘authority’, the word for authority, authentein, appears nowhere else in the Greek text. Scholars debate the implications of this, as the word is also rare outside the Bible. Did it mean that women should not assault men, as Bob Edwards proposes in his 2014 blog post, ‘1 Timothy 2:12-15: Paul’s Original Language, Timothy’s Original Context’? ‘Murder’ is one possible meaning of authentein. Women led the cult of Cybele, a religious movement in Ephesus, where Timothy was sent. These women required men who wanted to be priests to be castrated. Paul could have been instructing that this attitude could not continue in Christianity. The point, as I saw it, was that there is a way women can assert authority over men that is problematic, the kind of authority no reasonable person would want anyway. There are several biblical examples of women in authority, including spiritual leadership. In interpreting the Bible, no unclear passages supersede clear ones; what is obscure is illuminated   by the explicit. Therefore, odd verses that suggested excluding women from leadership did not erase an established value for women in those roles.

I patched pieces together, receiving what resonated with the spirituality I was developing privately and within my communities, maintaining the routine of my faith. Although I would occasionally share some interesting fact I had learned, I conducted my research alone.  With time, I found comfort in feminism again. With an understanding of women’s roles that was rooted in contextual readings and harmonious interpretation, I realized that feminism did not oppose Christianity if understood as Sanusi defined Muslim-Feminism, ‘as much a feminist as [Christianity] allows her to be’. This meant supporting equality —this time affirming women pastors and inclusive marriages— and non-conformist gender expression. But not sexual liberation, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, sex workers, divorce, and other things I considered ‘unbiblical’.

REJECTING ANSWERS

By 2019, I had been born again for three years and had comfortably settled into Christian-Feminism, critical of pastors who perpetuated narratives of composed and subservient femininity. 2019 was a tumultuous year. What started with personal concerns with Christianity’s philosophy of evil, Hell, God’s nature, and morality, entered public reckoning with sexual predation in the Church. There was Bukola Dakolo’s indictment of Biodun Fatoyinbo, and nearer, numerous allegations against Kenneth Ifeanyi, a lesser-known Christian influencer on Twitter. I had once messaged him with thanks for his ministry, and on his invitation joined the New Testament Group, an evangelistic initiative he co-founded. Reading accounts of his serial predation multiplied my questions about Christian morality and genuine spirituality.

I started to struggle with inerrancy and infallibility. As critics and Christians realize, there are factual and historical errors and internal discrepancies in the Bible. There are progressive views of inerrancy, but liberal inerrancy makes no sense to me. Inerrancy means perfection, giving no room for error. Adjusting the definition is discarding the concept. My questions were not new, but they took on an unprecedented intensity and my knowledge of apologetics, the systematic defence of faith, did not help.

For the first time, I allowed myself to traverse the Christian voices that had dominated my perception. I learnt about the transmission of the Bible’s source manuscripts, discovering, for example, that John 7:53-8:11, Jesus’ inspiring reception of an adulterous woman, is absent in the earliest manuscripts. I found that the Bible shares similarity with many extra-biblical texts and cross-cultural myths. Several portions of Genesis are staggeringly similar to the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh Epic, one of the World’s longest surviving pieces of literature, dated older than the Old Testament. It became clear that the Bible is a deeply human book, not untouched by the mistakes, opinions, and interpolation of people. Even more, I could not definitively trace these interjections, see where people had interfered with the word of God, when it could even be so called.

The patriarchal texture of Abrahamic faiths is an affront to feminism. The Bible reads androcentric, that is, it is male-centred. As Danna Nolan Fewell notes in the 1993 article ‘Reading the Bible Ideologically: Feminist Criticism’, ‘The Bible, for the most part, is an alien text, not written by women or with women in mind.’ I agree. God, though genderless, is ‘He’. As are angels and other spiritual beings. Almost without exception, leadership (patriarchs, priests, prophets, kings, apostles) is reserved for men. There is no book traditionally attributed to female authorship, and the language is infused with male nouns; ‘sons of God’, ‘brothers’. The latter is cultural, as the Greek masculine form subsumed the female audience too. But I wondered why there was no pointed rejection of those kinds of attitudes. There is, after all, a connection between discriminatory language and discriminatory views of women. In the Bible, there is the undying motif of the femme fatale, a trope of a woman who uses her charm and beauty to endanger men—Eve, Delilah, Jael, Jezebel, the Siren of Proverbs 5-7, Salome. A denial of male accountability. Why is Christianity’s celebrated liberation of women, only discernible through strenuous argumentation, and conflicting messages?

I think that there are passages that do not resolve however interpreted, conceding my limited knowledge of hermeneutics. That itself is a problem. Most people are untrained in this highly academic discipline. Even among experts, there is limited consensus, so doctrine becomes opinion however well-argued or ‘authoritative’. The truth, at least, is elusive, making it imprudent to contend objectivity and finality.

In the end, I could no longer hold to inerrancy or infallibility, nor claim Christian-Feminism. I no longer believed that you could divorce Christianity from oppressive masculinity, nor did I believe as strongly in what happened to be my preferred interpretations of the Bible’s problematic. I was forced to be one of those who identified as feminists ‘for reasons completely detached from [Christianity]’, as Sanusi might see it.

None of this erases Christians who advocate women’s rights outside the feminist title. Much of early ‘feminism’ was religious, and the word was not in use. There are also those who are feminists because they are Christian, sometimes incorporating the supposedly unbiblical. Learning subjectivity has taught me that people find sincere ways to weave seemingly conflicting beliefs together. What became clear was that I could not continue in faith as I had known it, something I am still learning to do. The things I have learnt have pushed me away from exclusivism, even on religion.

Importantly, because I’m human, I realize that I can be wrong, which seems trite, but I find is often not a possibility that people entertain. That I no longer think the Bible is inerrant does not erode all of its instructional value. I am just now cautious about defending what is indefensible or sacrificing the certainty of feminism’s cause for hypotheticals and ambiguities. Women’s discrimination is a real, urgent fact, crossing religion, and needing subversive, dignifying, realistic answers. I realigned my gaze accordingly: a progressive, secular feminist.

After all these years, I agree with Tofunmi: there is something deeply contradictory between orthodox Christian views and feminism’s ambitions

ADENIKE AKANDE, is a Nigerian wiht a law degree and interests in literature, philosophy and religion. Her work has appeared in Lolwe, Akuko and Agbowo.

The views, thoughts, and opinions published in this article belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of Eastern Herald or its editors. 

read more

The Loneliness of the Expired President

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu.

 

It’s not only drugs that expire; presidents also expire. There are expired drugs and there are expired presidents. You can quote me on this matter.

 

The loneliest man on God’s earth is any expired president of this country called Nigeria.

Not even an expired harlot is lonelier than the expired president. Brothel prostitutes hardly ever abandon their mentors, but not so with political prostitutes who litter this land of the unhappiest people on earth.

Lackeys and ill-assorted ass-lickers in Nigerian politics abandon all presidents once they are out of power like used prophylactics.

My ever serviceable crystal ball tells me that it is in the bid to make up for the coming days of abandonment and loneliness when he is out of power that President Muhammadu Buhari is encouraging every wannabe to visit him at Aso Villa over the 2023 presidential chase.

Trust Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to beat the gun in the visit to Buhari in Aso Villa, but the forever dangerous Northern elders have quickly come out with the ominous warning that their fellow northerners must not vote for any president like Buhari because they are ashamed of the Daura man as a failure.

Can’t you see that the loneliness is already creeping in on Buhari even before he has expired? The elders of the North have kicked into touch like a deflated football the notion that the North can never ever abandon its own.
Just like Peter denied Jesus Christ in the Bible, the northerners have denied their own messiah. Can I hear a loud Hallelujah to that?

It’s like all the powers-that-be are in a mighty hurry to get to the 2023 presidential election date that will launch Buhari into the sad world of expiration and loneliness.

Considering what happened to his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan, after he conceded power Buhari must now be having a goose pimple or two on the fate that lies ahead.
My formidable friend who has seen it all, Dr. Reuben Abati, reveals that after President Jonathan conceded to Buhari the outgoing president’s boon companion who was always sharing boon moments came to Aso Villa and coldly announced that he had not come to see his old friend but to explore the new powers on the rock.

Poor Reuben could not get the hang of it that even the presidential lounge was denied Jonathan when he came to embark on his lonely flight to Otuoke.
It had to even be negotiated for the lounge to be opened and for a presidential jet to be allocated for the man from Otuoke to undertake the flight into the wilderness of utter loneliness.
Our elders say that the new bride ought to learn necessary lessons from whatever happened to the older wife.
It is not for nothing that General Olusegun Obasanjo who reluctantly took power as a military Head of State “against my will” reappeared as a civilian president angling for constitutional review and the so-called Third Term.

The anticipatory loneliness of the expired president needed to be fought with all the powers belonging to “my command”.

Let’s get back further to the first (and last?) military president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, who annulled the popular June 12, 1993 election and perforce had to flee Aso Villa into the loneliness of the fabled 50-bedroom Minna mansion.

Now that Buhari has matched the record of Obasanjo in transiting from military leader to civilian president, the sad reality that cannot be mastered is the loneliness facing the misfiring messiah as the days roll by.

Buhari stressed that 150 cows were all he had before his advent into Aso Villa, but I daresay that returning to these 150 cows may not be enough to stave off the debilitating loneliness of the expired president.

It gets even worse when parrots such as Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu woud no longer be there to repeat endless praise songs of idol worship.
Junketing with multiform presidential jets will be out of the way in a manner that may deepen the loneliness into acute desolation and chronic depression.
The absence of cattle routes and ruga domains may end up playing funny games to the mind when loneliness rules the roost once out of power.
It is cool to learn from Jean-Paul Sartre: “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”

The bad company of the loneliness of the expired president recalls the words of Joss Whedon: “Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there.”

Nigerians hardly ever miss their ex-presidents, and many would actually wish that these ex-leaders never ever happened even as ordinary living things.
Now there is some noise in some Nigerian circles that Buhari has arranged to fetch Goodluck Jonathan out of loneliness and install him in power in a curious predecessor-successor-predecessor-successor chain.

Nigerians are not at all excited by the proposition, and not a few pundits maintain that Jonathan will end up graduating from loneliness to total disgrace if he opts for the poisoned chalice.

Count me out of all the permutations for all I know is that stark loneliness is the ultimate reward of the expired president as per the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”

A tear for the expired president!

read more

FOR WIKE 2022 BEGAN BEFORE IT BEGAN

 

By Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo

 

He was in Sokoto State on New Year’s eve. He was in Benue and Bauchi States on New Year’s day. His state-wide broadcast revealed months of considerations. He itched so long for 2021 to end. The new year is here at last. But for Governor Wike, the year began before it really began.

The governor is north-trotting and he is doing so assiduously. The race for 2023 has begun in earnest and he knows where Kings are made.

Never mind that he recently warned would-be governorship aspirants in Rivers PDP never to venture northwards to Abuja, to consult the national chairman of the party and NWC. Never mind that as he gallivants around, no Rivers PDP member can voice his/her aspiration into the smallest elective office.

The governor’s visit to the palace of the Sultan was on the last day of December 2021, to commiserate with the Sultan over an incident that happened very early in the month. There are many kites in the sky. This is just one.

The governor is a good student of political history. He knows the role of the caliphate in the politics of Nigeria. He knows that unlike the Amayanabo of Okrika, the Amayanabo of Ogu, the Amayanabo of Kalabari and the Gbenemene Nyo-Khana, the Sultan is a critical factor in the political corridors of Nigeria. The governor therefore pays obeisance and goes into lengthy panegyric each time he visits the Sultan.

This time he said of the Sultan: “You have had sleepless nights talking to everybody to see ourselves as one. We must commend and encourage you not to withdraw because it is the position God gave you”.

Governor Wike recognizes the divine mandate of the Sultan but threatens to depose and replace the Amayanabo of Okrika, the Amayanabo of Ogu, the Amayanabo of Kalabari and the Gbenemene Nyo-Khana for not attending state functions. But the governor knows why they can’t attend state functions yet he chose to debase them. Thrones that signed treaties like the Sultanate with Europeans. Monarchs of City-States. Go on! Rub it in Mr. Governor! Is there any wonder we are priced so cheaply?

Speaking with his Bauchi State counterpart on New Year’s day, Governor Wike said that “Only strong leadership will solve Nigeria’s problems”.

The governor is wrong. Nigeria needs strong institutions and not strong leaders. Nigeria does not need rulers and dictators.

Nigeria needs leaders that will steer the ship of state to mutually agreed destinations. Leaders to actualize the Nigerian vision, leaders with moral and ethical excellence, leaders with emotional stability, leaders with intellectual and social capacities. Nigeria does not need strong men. Governance is no boxing or wrestling bout.

In his state-wide broadcast on New Year’s day, Governor Wike said:

“However, the beauty of the city is being defaced by illegal and indiscriminate trading on our streets, under flyovers and other unauthorized open spaces as well as the challenges with the current largely inefficient refuse disposal system”.

The governor’s speech needs a thorough evaluation. His damning verdict on the performances of the Rivers State Waste Management Agency only restated what people have been saying all along.

Surprisingly, the governor usurped the functions of the Waste Management Agency. He said nothing and did nothing to reposition it to do its work better.

This is an agency that is unconstitutional and has never been properly constituted even in its unconstitutionality. Waste management is the constitutional responsibility of the local government. But none of the handpicked local government Chairmen can go to court to challenge the legitimacy of the agency. None can go to court the way the governor went to court on Value Added Tax.

The sweeping measures contained in the governor’s new year broadcast shall be reviewed in subsequent writeup.

read more
1 2 3 4 6
Page 2 of 6