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Op-Ed

For the record: Ahaji Shehu Shagari (1925-2018)

Kayode Soyinka

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Former Nigerian President Shehu Shagari arrives to attend the inauguration of new Nigerian President at the Eagles Square in Abuja, on May 29, 2015 - AFP
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From the onset, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who won the 1979 Presidential election, although the verdict was controversial, never gave the impression of being a man who had clear idea of what government was all about. If anything, he appeared to be the reincarnation of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa: purposeless, weak, and even to some, lazy – characteristics not surprising in a man who, after all, had never courted power and wanted only to be a senator.

In the way he operated and performed as president of Nigeria, it was clear that what President Shagari found most attractive was the pomp and pageantry that came with leadership. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who handed over the reins of power to him, said of him, in his book, Not My Will: “He was pushed into power by those who wanted to make use of him and he was unfortunately too weak, and somewhat ill-prepared for the trappings of political power to check the abuses of his power by those who made use of him”. Shagari himself later demonstrated his lack of confidence in government when he made his famous remark to the effect that, in reality, there were only two major political parties in Nigeria during the Second Republic: the civilians on the one hand and the military on the other.

Because he inherited a healthy economy and because, like former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, the oil boom really was a real boon for him, Shagari saw his problem not as earning money for the country, but as not knowing what to do with it.

When he came to power October 1, 1979, the price of oil was $40 per barrel on average and the production level was two million barrels per day throughout 1980 and the beginning of 1981. The price of oil had jumped from about $14 per barrel in the third quarter of 1979 to $40 per barrel in the first quarter of 1980. In 1979/80 Nigeria’s revenue was estimated at N12.272 billion (about £9 billion), to which oil contributed about N9.489 billion (£7.6 billion).

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Op-Ed

“Sex for grades” – Another sad reminder of our failed education system (Opinion)

Lecturer involved suspended by university and local church.

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Sex for grades - another evidence of our failed systems
Snapshot from the BBC's African Eye Sex for Grades videos.

Sexual crimes as a social vice is as old as man. This is the reason we have various laws aimed at curbing these crimes. But the pertinent question that is begging for an answer is, how well do we match these legislation up with enforcement, especially in developing countries within Africa?  What efforts do we put in making sure that the excesses of man is not left unchecked. 

We keep hearing and reading stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. But do we give these issues the attention they require? Often, the victims of sexual offences take the  blame for the fate that befell them. One gets to hear statements like “She must have dressed indecently!”; “What was she doing on the road at that ungodly hour of the night?” 

Distasteful words that you hear and wonder the evil that has suddenly possessed humanity. The society aide the perpetrators of these crimes with excuses. Excuses that encourage others to also toe the same path. 

However, when it happens to a relative – a sister, daughter, cousin or even one’s mother, then, we feel the heat. When we send our wards to school and they get harassed, assaulted or even raped by perverts and sexual predators in the system, our voices will be heard. But should we be so selfishly reactive in everything?

Pay Attention: Denis Mukwege launches fund for victims of sexual violence in DR Congo

On Monday, BBC’s African Eye released a video in which a senior lecturer of the University of Lagos is seen sexually harassing a BBC undercover journalist, Kiki Mordi who posed as a 17 year-old teenager seeking admission in the institution. The randy lecturer was identified as Dr. Boniface Egbeneghu of the department of French, who was a former sub-dean of the Faculty of Arts of the same institution and also a local pastor with Four Square Church in Lagos. 

In the video which has gone viral since its release, the don could be seen, casually flirting with the supposed admission-seeker in a way that suggests a very regular adventure. In the video, he is also seen confiding in the young admission-seeker that sexual relations between lecturers and female students in the institution are very common occurrences hence, not one that should wow anybody. 

He could be seen in the video stretching out comfortably on his office chair while negotiating sex with the BBC undercover journalist who played along all the while, in a manner that paints a clear picture of a completely decayed system. 

But the story of Dr Egbeneghu is just a tip of an iceberg. It is just one out of many such stories that happen in our higher institutions of learning. Recall that about a year ago, it was a certain Professor Akindele from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife that was recorded telling a female student that she must have sex with him on 5 different occasions before she could scale through his course. 

The story made the headlines of many media platforms . He was suspended by the University Senate and was subsequently prosecuted. These despicable acts happen on the daily in our tertiary institutions but victims do not speak out for obvious reasons. With fellow lecturers and the university management always ready to defend and cover up accused colleagues while seeking for pieces of evidence corroborating the accusation from the victims before their claims could be taken seriously. 

Read Also: Amnesty International calls for justice for Cameroonian victims at soldiers’ trial

This frustrates most victims and leave them with the fear of being further victimized academically. This evil is so rife in our universities that most female students avoid having a one-on-one contact with their male lecturers.

The Nigerian Ministry of Education, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the National University Commission (NUC) must act now! A State of Emergency should be declared in our tertiary institutions as regards this menace, let sanity be restored in the system.  All hands must be on deck to curb this growing evil.

Finally, let the culprit be made to face the full wrath of the law. It is reported that Dr Boniface Egbeneghu has been suspended by both the University and the church where he pastors. But this is not enough. He should be charged to court by the relevant authorities.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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News

Tripoli drowns in waste, as Libya’s war drags on

The rubbish crisis adds to the daily ordeal for residents of the capital, where life is already punctuated by shortages of fuel, electricity and water.

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Faraj al-Doukali hastened to unload the dozens of rubbish bags from his van onto a sidewalk dump in Siyahiya, a residential district west of the Libyan capital.

“Each weekend I collect the rubbish from my four brothers at the farm where we live and I look for somewhere to dump it. I have no choice but to leave it here on the footpath,” he said.

Read also : Sudan shuts border with Libya over security concerns

Across Tripoli, tonnes of waste overflows from bins and piles up on roadsides.

The rubbish crisis adds to the daily ordeal for residents of the capital, where life is already punctuated by shortages of fuel, electricity and water.

Fed up with the smell and the sight of rats and stray cats feasting in the garbage, some residents have taken to burning the rubbish. But this only replaces the stench of rotting garbage with columns of nauseating smoke in the streets of the capital.

Tripoli’s trash turmoil isn’t a new phenomenon but it has reached alarming proportions in recent months. Municipal rubbish trucks no longer collect waste because the city’s main landfill is on a frontline.

The dump is at Sidi al-Sayeh, 45 kilometres (28 miles) south of Tripoli, where forces loyal to the capital’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) are battling those of eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive on April 4 to seize the city.

‘Find a solution’

Doukali seems more angered by the rubbish than the fighting.

“Is it up to citizens to collect the garbage now? Why doesn’t the government and the municipality provide skips in every neighbourhood?” he asked.

A furious passerby interjected: “I’m talking to the government of the east (which supports Haftar) and that of the west (the GNA): keep your ministerial portfolios and the money, but find a solution to this rubbish crisis because it’s making us sick.”

Without long-term solutions and as long as fighting continues, “the crisis will worsen”, said Tarek al-Jadidi, director of environmental protection at the National Centre for the Prevention of Diseases in Tripoli.

“In addition to the lack of environmental awareness among citizens, the state is unable to manage the rubbish in the streets, while ongoing conflict prevents the implementation of plans like in other countries,” Jadidi said.

In theory, waste management in Tripoli takes place in stages, with rubbish being taken first to collection points and then onwards to the main landfill. But with the landfill in a combat zone, collection points are overflowing. Rubbish sorting and recycling are out of the question. 

Glass, paper and plastic could be recycled, but specialised facilities “require a stable security situation”, Jadidi said.

Rouqaya al-Hachemi, an environmental researcher, recently conducted a study on the rubbish crisis in Tripoli. 

She found that respiratory illnesses and skin conditions have clearly increased among children, the elderly and pregnant women.

“People are aware of the environmental risks and dangers of garbage fires but they complain about a lack of skips,” she said.

To resolve this chronic crisis, Hachemi recommends “the creation of a ministry of environment to manage the rubbish situation, and laws to punish offenders”.

Waste management may not seem like Libya’s most pressing issue, but ultimately, Hachemi said, “it’s about the health of citizens”.

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Health

Nigeria’s “Street Doctor”, Samson Shonowo provides free healthcare for the poor

From free maternal healthcare to caesarian sections and more, Dr. Samson Shonowo opens his doors to whoever needs help

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Nigeria's "Street Doctor", Samson Shonowo provides free healthcare for the poor
Dr. Samson Shonowo, founder of Shonowo Hospital.

Illnesses are no fun for anyone, but imagine being seriously ill with a serious condition that requires not just visits to the hospital, but surgery.

Now, imagine being too poor to afford the visits and the treatment necessary to get better.

This is where “The Street Doctor” comes in. Dr. Samson Shonowo of Shonowo Hospital is popularly called ‘The Street Doctor’ because he’s made it his mission to care for the sick in local communities who, otherwise, would not be able to afford their medical bills.

The 37-year-old started his career as a young medical officer at General Hospital in Agege Lagos, where he found himself in constant turmoil, having to attend to several patients who could not afford to pay for their healthcare.

“Every time I had to break the news to a patient or their loved ones that they would be needing surgery and I see their shoulders sag in despair and hopelessness, my heart broke.”

“These are people that can barely afford money to pay for hospital registration cards or recommended lab tests. I decided to do something about it,” he said.

What Dr. Shonowo did was to open his own hospital about 4 years ago and take on as many charity cases as he possibly could.

From free maternal healthcare to caesarian sections, breast lump removals, fibroid removals, hernia repairs and other procedures, Dr. Shonowo opened his doors to whoever needed help.

“It’s not easy, I have to tell you,” he says.

“It’s hard running a hospital where over 60 per cent of your patients cannot afford their care. Bills need to be paid, staff need to be taken care of and medication needs to be supplied, yet, we do it all without external funding or grants”.

“Standard healthcare is not negotiable. It is a right that everyone deserves to have and I believe that as a private healthcare practitioner, it is my duty to humanity to do my part.”

On government’s responsibility, Dr. Shonowo says the Nigerian government must pay better attention to Primary Healthcare.

“When the primary health care system does well, it meets people’s health needs, and that is essential if we are to make progress toward the country’s health goals.”

“Primary Health Care should be free for everyone to access. It will help with preventive medicine and it will handle most people’s health needs before it becomes a major problem.” he further added.

Dr. Samson Shonowo is making good on his commitment by opening up the Shonowo Free Surgery program again. This November, 100 hernia patients will be screened and treated for free.

Intending patients can register and book appointments via the hospital’s website.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central TV’s editorial stance.

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