{PRESS RELEASE} Wike: When Are We Going To Hands Down In Oyigbo?

PRESS RELEASE 

Wike: When Are We Going To Hands Down In Oyigbo?

Four days from today would make it two weeks that a special security agents were stationed at Oyigbo, Rivers State, precisely, at the popular Express Junction, after the September 12 2017 supposed impasse in the area that was fingered to be an IPOB affair.

{Wike During 2015 Rivers Guber Campaign}

Even before the security agents came to the place, the least chaos that erupted had settled down and the residents were out for their normal businesses. However, the rather prolonged stay of the security agents at the Express Junction makes it look like there is a war going on in the area, which should not be so.

If you are riding a bike, you are forced to roll it by the hand to pass the Express Junction. Pedestrians are not left out of the security nuisance: They are forced to hands up while crossing the Express Junction.

And the question is – how long are we going to see this in Oyigbo? – a place that has been as peaceful as the cemetery from the time immemorial. The worrisome aspect of it all is that the security agents are converting the Express Junction to what we are yet to understand: The often shots of gun in the air by the security agents are embarrassing just as they do not send good signal to the Government of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

If there was a cult rival in Oyigbo, that would have been a different thing. The idea would have been that the security agents must fish out the culprits before they retreat to where they were deployed from. But in this case, Oyigbo is peaceful before and after the September 12 bottleneck.

I hereby call on the office of Governor Wike to call the security agents to order, to allow residents and passersby to walk freely without any form of molestation by the security agents.

It does not add up that Oyigbo residents should be raising their hands up before they walk the Express Junction. In a sane clime, this security method does not represent the wish of democrats in a democracy.

The practice by the security agents can be attributed to pure intimidation given that in a democracy, the “people shouldn’t be afraid of their government,” one Alan Moore, V for Vendetta would say, “Government should be afraid of their people.” But in Oyigbo, the people are being intimidated to be unnecessarily afraid of the government, which invariably was not the mindset of Governor Wike.

We should not allow anti-intellectualism and anti-democracy become a recurring decimal in the political sphere in this country. Let the governor read Mahatma Gandhi, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Notwithstanding, if the security agents must stay, let the residents and passersby be allowed to walk freely without raising their hands up and the motorcyclists, not rolling their motorcycles by hand before they cross the Express Junction.

The continued mandating of people to raise their hands up and motorcyclists to roll their machines by hand, do not achieve positive gains to the government of Governor Nyesom Wike, but a bad name.

Oyigbo is not known for charlatanic maneuvers, so the residents shouldn’t be subjected to ridicule and inhumane features in the name of security checks. Let the governor withdraw the security agents to allow people go about their normal businesses. The security agents’ presence at Oyigbo Expressing Junction is not only intimidating the residents but also halting individual businesses.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Date: September 22 2017.

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[poem} Oyigbo On September 12

By Odimegwu Onwumere

{Scene of IPOB protests}

The orgy of messages has been received in Oyigbo:

Some vehicles cremated, human grievance still mountaining.

The streets are littered with baked chaos,

Stern-looking agents from Aso-Ruse watch in apprehension.

Biafra protesters clamour for freedom

Adjacent-to the craving of the man from Daura;

Who fancies their blood sponged-down the ocean

In lure of freedom he sees as a taboo.

Men are drinking coffee to expunge sleep

Yet, sleep befalls them like a possessed by malaria.

There is nowhere to lay the sleeping head

In a land where soul and body are shoddily severed.

Certainly, everyone is un-free

Except for supernatural empathy.

©Odimegwu Onwumere; September 13 2017.

Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

How Dishonest Politicians Cause Pains Among Citizens

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The electioneering campaign is on and we gather ward by ward and unit by unit to receive aspirants of political positions in 1999 and hear their manifestoes. They promise us of a better living like good roads, hospitals, qualitative education, constant electricity and other people-oriented need.

{Scene of IPOB protests}

While we listen to them, many of us do not believe their sermonizations. They say that politicians are not honest in the entire global political environment, they are not frank. They say that politicians just speak in the language that they feel will arrest the minds of the people, seeking to engage the people, but not actually to do what they promise after the people must have voted them.

There are today tears and anguish written all over our faces – we are now refugees in our country, christened Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). I look for explanations to define the relationship of politics with the people; it is a strong and importunate relationship of disagreements. The word politics is dirty to people. Nigerians say that politics has become about power and conflict and this explains why many people are especially irrational about politics.

The displaced are victims of politically-motivated insurgencies being carried out by Islamic sect known as Boko Haram in the northern part of Nigeria. The last time I checked, there were nearly 4 million people in the camps where the government provided for them. These people are excluding hundreds of thousands that have been killed since the mayhem started in 2009. We are facing a problem of political foolishness. It is a social problem greater than any crime in the world; politics has prevented our leaders from solving the problems they promised the voters that they would solve if voted for.

We have been having politically-motivated religious wars between the two dominant religions of Christianity and Islam in the country. The United Nations (UN) will always have politics or is it humanitarian services to play in such crisis whereas it is very hard to see a country that is united with each other across the world. Politics has divided countries and peoples. Yet, we hear that in the last 20 years alone, the United Nations (UN) has presented electoral support to more than 100 countries. However, the drums of wars and rumours of wars in diverse places, being brewed by politics continue to skyrocket.

We once saw Palestine on 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 where people lost everything they had due to political conflict. I have heard of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the decades of dictatorship under Ben Ali and his predecessor Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, where Tunisians gnashed teeth in their experience of bad governance, dearth of liberty and poor panoramas. They later engaged the government of Ali in December days of 2010 and on 14 January 2011, they achieved their objective and the government was ousted. By then scores of people have been pummeled to the soil. All boiled down to politics and the people.

I’m looking for the truthful person who will engage us actively. I would have joined politics but one has to know how many millions of dollars that he or she has, hence politics isn’t for people, but for the capitalists, who have for centuries been transforming in circles from the times of lords and feudal and found themselves in democracy. Around the world, I’m seeing a lot of people who are not engaged in politics and policymaking, due to politics.  Yet, over the years, you hear of politicians, clerics and opinion leaders advising more people to join politics.

Hardly can we explain political decisions and hardly can journalists be given freedom of information. We saw Zambia in 2011, when for the second time since independence in 1964, Michael Sata from the Patriotic Front vanquished the sitting president and was elected to the country’s presidency with the highest choice, after three unsuccessful endeavours. This makes politics boring to me and it has created long distance with voters. We have sentences like German sociologist Max Weber stating in his capacious sociology of religion in 1920, that the direct problems with the world people are material interests which come first, followed by mental interests, and not ideas.

We perceived that the earlier European colonization relegated the Aboriginal peoples to abysmal political approaches that contempt or pay-no-attention-to Aboriginal peoples’ cultural rights. There was the Queensland Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897, regarded as the most heinous, geared towards pointing out where the natives should live, who they should associate with or even marry. It is politics that drove more than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015. The last time I checked, 135,711 people got to Europe by sea since the start of 2016. In 2015, Germany received more than 476,000 asylum applications. More migrants made the journey on land through Greece and the Western Balkans, and sought for asylum in Hungary, which had 177,130 applications by the end of December 2015.

We heard the International Organization for Migration (IOM) saying that more than 1,011,700 migrants entered by sea in 2015, and about 34,900 by land. More than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died while on their expedition. We also heard and saw the crisis that it sparked. Many countries were literarily held hostage by the flood of people. Europe nearly divided over decisions to handle the menace. Many migrants drowned in the seas and many arrived by seas to their respective countries of refuge.  We saw that Turkey and Albania didn’t rest.

The conflict in Syria drove many citizens away with the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, molestations in Eritrea, poverty in Kosovo, compelled people to leave. They were looking for better life elsewhere due to political issues in their countries.

But upon how politics has treated the people, we are still struggling to be like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the First indigenous President of Nigeria; Fidel Castrol of Cuba. You see Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President (non-U.S.1954–).  There is Hillary Clinton, Government Official, U.S. First Lady, Women’s Rights Activist and once presidential hopeful in 2016 (1947-). There was Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister (1925–2013). There is John Major, Prime Minister (1943–); Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen (1542–1587); David Cameron, Prime Minister (1966–); Alexandra Feodorovna, Princess, Tsar/Tsarina (1872–1918) and a host of others.

{Scene of IPOB Protests}

Notwithstanding, we heard a former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in 1998 that democratization gives people a stake in the society. Its importance cannot be overstated for unless people feel that they have a true stake in the society, lasting peace will not be possible and sustainable development will not be achieved.

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

The Stinking Gap Between Politics And People

By Odimegwu Onwumere

I was youthful when the military took over the political affairs in Nigeria on December 31, 1983, lasting till 1998. Killing of civilians and hounding of activists that were opposed to the whims and caprices of the military, were the first impression that I had about politics, likewise many of my ilk. Nothing more!

Many Nigerians fled the country for their dear lives. I saw a country that was moving backward, yet preaching to us pubescent as the leaders of tomorrow. I saw radical elders who did not blink before their wards in showcasing their political impoliteness, whereas young people were involving in political conflicts.

Some sane minds were afraid that we the youth then were erroneously influenced; saying that what influences a person build up his or her future. Those in this line of thought were worried that we the youth were learning radicalism from the military and there might not be respectability and rule of law in the country, even if the much touted democracy was finally achieved.

Upon democracy in 1999, I’m among the many Nigerian adults today that are asking for who destroyed the country economically, socially and politically, especially between 1999 and 2016 that we attained democracy. I’m among the adults who are dropping patriotism to question reality: The country has not moved forward from where the military left it.

The writer in me has propelled me to ask many questions in my articles pertaining to mis-governance in our country, but the answers I have gotten are not what we collectively bargained. One may think that our country is Iraq in 2002. I see cynics everywhere, not by their making, but the hardship in the country has caused some persons’ neurons. People are going gaga. Most times, I have to go miles to charge my phone with electricity generating sets in the houses of those who can afford buying fuel at the exorbitant price of N145 a litre. Electricity supply in the country is seen by the authorities as luxury, not a necessity. No one is talking about government water. The roads are sorry tales.

I’m aghast that scarcity of fuel, kerosene and diesel is endemic in a country that is characterized among the 10 producers of crude oil in the world. Police are on their part collecting tips on the road, transport fare is on the increase, people are being sacked from their jobs everyday and there are no job opportunities in sight. The present government that promised change during its party’s electioneering campaigns in 2015 and was embraced by Nigerians in the Diaspora as well as the international community, is giving excuses like governments before it, why it cannot reform and transform Nigeria over two years it mounted the saddle of leadership.

The resultant of this is the hunger I see written on people’s faces in the name of democracy, more than it was in the military era. Functional education, hospital, road, and every dividends of democracy are all mirage. Yet, politicians are joining politics everyday to make money. Service to the people is not in their agenda.

There is insecurity everywhere. One wakes up every morning to note from news some hundreds of innocent people that have been killed either by insurgents that have taken killing as an occupation in the northern part of the country or Fulani herdsmen from the north massacring numbers in the south for the purpose that their cows must graze in the south. Kidnapping is rife and issues of judiciary and corruption are on the increase.

These heinous acts without doubt are the extension of what we learned from the military and today, our leadership (as leaders of tomorrow then) is not in moving the country forward, but in extending what we learned from the military that has left us poor.

The Federal Government is recently, politically proposing a grazing bill in all the 36 states of the federation for northern cattle owners. But the southerners are objecting the agenda. They are saying that they do not see how that will translate to national development, but owners of the cows who are supposed to man how their cows are fed.

Against this backdrop, politics has made some of our people who returned from overseas to feel that they are ‘repatriates’ or tourists, because of the sordid conditions they left many years ago, have not been solved when they returned, many years after.

Every year, we clamour for change. But change has remained elusive, not minding that the project of our country should be taken seriously. The economic system is down and citizens are scampering for safety without hope.

Observers say that more than 70 per cent of the citizens are very poor. Just on July 17 2016, the Deputy President Yemi Osibanjo affirmed this in the national broadsheets, saying that 110 million Nigerians are poor; whereas the population of the country was estimated at 170 million. Imagine!

Like many of my ilk today, who were not born in 1960 when Nigeria got her independence from the British colonialists, everything is moving backward 55 years after. Our country has not learned from the woes of the past. It keeps taking backward movement and repeating the same old things that have not made us develop like the so-called developed countries of America and Britain.

A large population of our countrymen and women believe that the country has been backward due to the charlatanic approach of the political class. Against this influence, I’m thinking if there is a correlation between politics and corruption. Everyone is saying that our political elites are severely corrupt and pay just lip service to national issues that should matter.

It was politics, like in our country, that compelled the Arab Spring of 2011 that saw to the ouster of Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi.

Our leaders are yet to learn from the political conflict of the Middle East in late 2010. From Tunisia, it spread all over the region in 2011, all-through Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria.

Born June 7, 1942, al-Gaddafi was politically killed on October 20, 2011. It was the same politics that saw to the death of the fifth President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti. What killed al-Gaddafi was what I saw in 1990s when youth-spawned political upheaval brushed the former Soviet coalition like East Germany, Georgia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, and Serbia.

Across the world, politics has destroyed many conditions that include social ecology, basic resources, social networks, safety and security. Hussein was killed by a kangaroo judgment on December 30, 2006. Born on April 28, 1937, he served in his ability from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003.

We saw Bosnia in the 1990s, when young people did not understand the political situation around them and that borne emotional and shared scars of ill-treatment. The youths moved for violent struggles for the social good.

That was coming after the Palestinian first intifada of the late 1980s and early 1990s. In Syria, this is the fifth year that youths have engaged in politically-motivated war, ignited by a display of foreign intrusions on the side of government and Free Syrian Army.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes in this war regarded today as the world’s bloodiest civil war. Look at the ruins created by politics in Sudan. I still remember the Nimery’s notorious September Laws in 1983, which ushered in Sudan’s route headed for Sharia Law and the equally villainous Article 152 that bullies pants-wearing females with whips amid prejudiced sentences and shrewdness.

There is politically-motivated madness in our country and this has made a lot of people to mind their businesses and, they are naive. We have been experiencing crackdowns on opposition political parties and their members.

The authorities think that the laws they enact would shape our lives, but while we most often embrace social path and decorum, the authorities don’t. Today, liberals in the Americas are calling for political fairness, while the conservatives wink. Our backwardness as Nigerians would have been averted if politicians think that politics is related to the entire masses, not only to them. Politics is life.

Imagine where government decisions that were supposed to affect the generality of the people just affect only a few opportunists. Politicians have turned politics to where people take their destinies into their hands.

Nevertheless, no matter the shoddy sides of politics to people, the world will still have Martin Luther King Jrs., who will take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, to challenge the atrocities of politicians against their people, because conscience, not politics, tells them it is right.

We will continue to have Theodore Roosevelts, who will tell the world that in politics, it is not oppositions that count, but those unsung heroes who fight, whose faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly; who err, who come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who do actually strive to do the deeds; who know great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at the best know in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Our Injured Mentalities In Political Choices

By Odimegwu Onwumere

“We have given politics a substantial impact on the direction of our lives. No wonder it’s so important to so many people!” shouted Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, research fellows at Cato Institute, an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C, USA.

Powell and Burrus’s insight on politics in their discourse of September 14, 2012, with the designate – Politics Makes Us Worse – was the aftermath of my fears about politics in the 80s. They appended that political choices matter greatly to those most affected and the interest in political parties manufacture problems that never existed.

I came to understand what that meant: Our mentalities have been injured as a result of political choices. Buttressing this point, they enthused that for those who do pay attention, politics consistently leads in newspapers and on TV news and gets discussed, or shouted about, everywhere people gather; politics can weigh heavily in forging friendships, choosing enemies, and coloring who we respect.

Politics As A Dicey Affair

At our aboard in Oyigbo, Rivers State, Papa had told my younger brother, Henry, and I that there is an axiom that guides politicians: In politics, no permanent enemy or friend, but permanent interest. Incessantly, he shouted it into our ears that politics is a dicey affair.

Not minding, Henry showed interest in politics, but I never did. I hated politics following history accounts of how people kill and have been killed for politics and its offices. I detested killing and my bother never liked it, either, but he wanted to be a politician.

Powell and Burrus were worried why politics plays a major role in people’s lives with decisions by politicians determining what the people should do and should not, what the people’s children should learn in school and what they should be taught, how the people should eat and socialize, how they should even marry the people they love and sundry.

The highlight of that buttressed my worst fears which were on December 31, 1983 when many lives were lost to a coup for group mentalities, for political choices. The democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari was overthrown by Major General Muhammadu Buhari in a military coup.

The same was applicable on August 27, 1985, when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida overthrew Major General Buhari in a coup, and stayed in power until August 27, 1993.

In that coup, many lives were lost, too. As a maximum ruler, people wailed and were bullied for wailing, because of group mentalities, political choices.

Hence, there was a long struggle to attain democracy with the help of international community. When democracy was gotten in 1999, we thought that democracy would help us when a retired Army General, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected President Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1999.

But like the military regimes, I noticed the government sending out the Nigerian military on a largely Ijaw town of Odi in Bayelsa State, on November 20, 1999 and they massacred a people in a circumstance over indigenous rights to oil resources and environmental fortification.

Nigeria experienced a lot of politically motivated killings from that year to 2007. Dissenters to the views of the government were hounded and in 2016, democracy has not helped the people, either. All boils down to group mentalities, political choices.

Imprint Of Politics On People

Later, Papa told us of how politics of Nazism hypnotized Germany in the 20th Century. We read in the newspapers of how democracy and politics have made India to be on the index as the world’s largest population of poor people; oh! South Africa was ruined by apartheid of decades which was a sorry tale.

Across Asia and Africa, politics has imprint of woes in diverse places. Papa had told us that from 1974 when autocratic regimes gave way to democracy in Greece, to Spain in 1975, to Argentina in 1983, to Brazil in 1985, to Chile in 1989 and a host of others, politics has traumatized the people.

Soviet Union with a people living harmoniously was disintegrated by the politics in central Europe. My phobia heightened on noting that monarchical government was fad in the 19th Century and people fought against each other for dukedoms.

While peoples all over the world were fighting and hoped to gain in democracy, yet, nascent democracies collapsed in Germany, Spain and Italy in the first half of the 20th Century.

Politics Connects People With Woes

More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history known as First World War, or the Great War, that originated in Europe and lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.

Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died in that politically motivated war. This number excluded victims of a number of genocides. Because of politics, came Second World War that lasted from 1939 to 1945.

It was regarded as the most widespread war in history, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. There was the Holocaust (in which roughly 11 million people were killed).

An estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities were recorded in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was the Third World War where countries in extensive divergences indirectly showed their grievances.

This was christened Cold War or the War on Terror leading to the formation of the United Nations (UN). Psychotherapists observed, ‘United Nations’ was first coined and used by the then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

Whichever, I could not have believed much in Powell and Burrus’s pose – on how badly politics can make a people worse or influence them in a democracy till the government of General Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria came on board on May 29 2015, now as a democratically elected president.

Sharing Baked Breath In Politics

In Nigeria, the members of the two political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have shared baked breath under Buhari government except a few persons ‘sharing’ the largesse of the government.

Nigerians at large are crying wolf since the inception of this government and I will tell you how. Politics like this has made a lot of people not to vote across the countries of the world.

For instance, many young people in America do not vote during an election. This does not mean that they do not want to be heard, but, because of how the older ones have made them to feel and see a tooting gap between them.

In 1992, Mr. T.B, then a 19 year old student, refused watching the 1992 Presidential Debates because he didn’t see how that responded to the many isolations he was facing in school.

I could remember a Chris Weinkopf, associate editor of National Review, saying, “I think both of them are really just paying lip service to young people in the way they address issues.”

Weinkopf said this “when speaking about how Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are talking to young voters.” Many people believed that democracy would be the most political idea when the idea started in the 20th Century, but politics has posited itself to be afar from the people, even though that people play the politics.

In February 2014, I was astonished of how Ukraine politics was overturned by protesters, all, in a quest that there should be closer relations with the European Union (EU). The much solicited for by the protesters was for the closer relations to end Russian interference in Ukraine’s politics.

The world saw a people that took a stand against what they knew and termed “corrupt, abusive and autocratic government” of President Viktor Yanukovych.  Powell and Burrus sniveled, saying that even if we try to ignore politics, it influences much of our world.

Nigeria Politics

My brother is today in politics, but I’m yet to see any change that the people have made with politics, or politics has made in the people.

Just in June 2016, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, (CDHR) cried out, saying that the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government has failed Nigerians who voted for them.

Both Buhari, who was once a military dictator and his party, the APC, have been said that they displaced signs of incompetence during electioneering campaign of 2015.

I read from a source, saying, “The APC presented Nigerians with a glimpse of Eldorado even when they were aware that they lack no the capacity or intellectual ability to fulfill even 10% of their promise. To mask their disability, they shielded General Buhari and Prof Yemi Osinbajo (his deputy) from every form of political debate. Instead, they resorted to prepare speech-making in Chatham House, London(UK), and padi-padi town hall meeting where participants, who are their party sympathizers and paid agents would discuss pre-arranged questions.”

This is my phobia about politics and the people. People hide under politics to perpetrate heinous things against the people. It is saddening that many people are committed to their different political parties for politics than they are committed to the general public. This is what psychologists have forewarned: People will grasp group mentalities for politics and will be antagonistic.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Hundreds Of Thousands Dying In Nigeria Due To Vaccines and Immunisation Gap

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that meningitis and other vaccine-avertable diseases have become somewhat a recurring decimal in Nigeria and in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa that include Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso which make-up ‘Meningitis Belt’ due to poor innovative approach to delivery of vaccines

By April 17 2017, Nigeria lost about 800 lives and had 8,000 cases of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, CSM, in six states of Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto and Yobe due to embarrassing vaccine approach, informed the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Since 1996, there are data showing that meningitis and other vaccine-avertable diseases have killed thousands of people in Nigeria and by extension, in some sub-Saharan African countries of Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso which make-up ‘Meningitis Belt’ due to poor delivery of vaccines.

Checks reveal that no fewer than 11,000 people were killed by meningitis alone in Nigeria in 1996 and by 2009, 600 people died. Like a recurring decimal, this dangerous disease that science says is “caused by viral or bacterial infection, and marked by intense headache and fever, sensitivity to light, and muscular rigidity and most affected age group is 5-14 years of age” impinged on approximately 10,000 people in 2015, and exterminated over 1,000 people in Nigeria.

The world is embarrassed by the outdated vaccine delivery systems in the country, because Nigeria prefers to buy vaccines from the international market instead of set up vaccines manufacturing plants for local consummations. The highlight of this is that records show that Nigeria only delivered (1.3m vaccine doses for a country that has a population of over 180m people) during the recent impasse. These vaccines, according to media reports, about 800,000 doses were mostly ordered from United Kingdom.  Yet, according to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “Too many children still lack access to lifesaving vaccines because of outdated and inefficient supply chains.”

Dr. Berkley was of the belief, saying, “There is need to drive change and deliver comprehensive improvements now, countries won’t have the systems in place to protect the next generation of children, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was caught up in vaccines and immunisation ruckuses in July 2013. The then President of the association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele frowned that the Federal Government (FG) failed to curtail the sprinting of hepatitis in the country due to its overdependence on foreign delivery of vaccines. At the occasion of the 2013 World Hepatitis Day, Enabulele said, “Hepatitis virus A, B, C, D and E were accountable for the millions of death in the country, because they caused sensitive and unremitting infections and inflammation of the liver, the government did not bellyache.”

If the country had been vaccines conscious, these deaths could not have occurred. In the light of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) in one of its reports, held, “Vaccines prevent an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year, but an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improves.”

The international body supposed that in 2015, an estimated 19.4 million infants worldwide did not receive routine immunisations. What that suggests is that Nigeria, which includes the countries of the world, is awful in the way she sees to vaccines and how they are handled. The hullabaloo is that this oil rich country prefers to order vaccines from the Americas and Europe during outbreaks, whereas in the advanced world, such methodology of delivery of vaccines has been regarded as outdated and compromising that put the lives of people in danger.

The argument is that health and immunisation are not regarded with the attention they needed in Nigeria. According to news, “President Muhammadu Buhari submitted a budget of eight billion naira for the funding of routine immunisation and polio eradication. But the budget that came back from the National Assembly was cut by about 50 per cent. There is need for the legislature to understand the intricacies of immunisation financing and support fulfillment of the government of Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable immunisation at all levels.”

Dr. Aminu Magashi-Garba, Lead Project Director of the Routine Immunisation Sector of the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family, who is also Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network was befuddled in the above commentary on April 22 2016 in Lagos, when he succinctly declared that the budgetary allocation for routine immunisation including eradication of poliomyelitis was slashed by the National Assembly during its review and passage of the 2016 budget. This could have formed the view by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

Dr. Moeti said, “We must act to close the global immunisation gap. Achieving the Global Vaccine Action Plan goal of universal access to immunization by 2020 would benefit the health of millions of Africans.” This is given that pundits have said that the best ways to save lives of  children, condense cost of healthcare and give the children the prospect to live up to their aptitude is through  immunisation.

But according to Magashi-Garba, the cut in the budget meant, “We are going to have shortage of vaccine procurement this year and early next year if enough funds are not available for the vaccines to be procured completely. This also poses a problem because the funding was tied to two international commitments and it will also create a serious challenge in the sector in ensuring that all eligible children are immunised.”

Unlike Nigeria, most countries are “implementing changes and adopting new technologies like solar ‘direct drive’ refrigerators and redesigning delivery systems.” Against this influence, Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, sounded in the following comments as if he had Nigeria at heart, “There are too many places in the world where vaccines are still not reaching the people who need them most. We need to apply the same ambitious investments to vaccine delivery as we apply to vaccine development.”

In the advanced world, the innovative approaches are being put in place to help augment vaccine ease-of-use and publicity. But Nigeria is still gasping for the air on where to source for vaccines during emergencies. Hear Dr. Robin Nandy, principal advisor and chief of immunisation at UNICEF, “Expanding the use of freeze alarms and rigorous temperature monitoring is critical to ensuring that all children have access to potent, lifesaving vaccines. In the long-term, we must work toward the development of products that can better withstand temperature variations.”

However, the WHO has been concerned that 1.5 million children that include Nigerians who are yet to receive life-saving vaccines they need, do not have access. Hence, April each year is mapped out by the international body to create this attention.  But on May 25 2017, at an award ceremony on health innovation given to Alma Sana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the NGO introduced a bracelet that was launched by Glaxosmithkline.

The bracelet was said to be worn on the leg or wrist of infants to remind mothers the type of vaccines they have given their children and the time they need new vaccines. While speaking at the rite, wife of the Senate President and founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Saraki, believed, “We need to work towards adapting a vaccine dependable Nigeria. One of the problems faced with vaccinations is most mothers forget to take their children for immunisation and this bracelet is supposed to help tackle that issue since the bracelet will be on the child from first vaccination till the age of one.”

While the bracelet is believed to “deal with the problem of timeliness, completion of vaccine doses and that of wider coverage to know the extent immunization has been covered in a locality.” According to Dr. Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, director of WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, in commenting on a study, “For too many countries, it is nearly impossible to collect and harness data to forecast vaccine requirements and deliver vaccines when and where they’re needed. But there are innovations such as electronic data systems that are being piloted and scaled up in developing countries that could and should be more widely adopted.”

Last year, Dr. Orin Levine, the director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation suggested four innovative ways of vaccines delivery during the world vaccine week. Inter alia, Dr. Levine said that first, for vaccines to be safe and effective; they need to be kept cold, hence the invention of Sure Chill refrigerator, which is said to be using “hydro and solar power to keep vaccines cold for days without energy and are being used in more than 30 countries and have become an important tool in humanitarian response efforts when distributing vaccines for cholera or measles can be especially critical.”

In spite of this, Dr. Levine added, “Immunisation is one of our biggest public health success stories, but safe, effective vaccines don’t deliver themselves. With consistent, visible support from national and local leaders, every community can have 21st Century systems that reliably deliver lifesaving vaccines to everyone who needs them.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Pregnant Women Blending With Traditional Delivery Homes

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Checks have revealed that Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality due to spent healthcare system. Odimegwu Onwumere notes in this report that as a result of the apparent failed healthcare system, most women have resorted to traditional delivery homes with the attending dangers

Despite the promise by the present government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, which came into power in May 29 2015, to establish the 17 agendas on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) index, that include providing good health and good living to all and sundry, Mrs. Joy Ebi, 28, a trader at the Oyigbo Main-market in Rivers State, would prefer to die instead of go to government hospitals for a child birth

Ebi patronizes native delivery homes whenever she’s pregnant. Her three children were delivered in the homes. She would also patronize the native home as she’s pregnant for the next baby. This is in spite of advice from neighbours and relatives to the contrary. However, Ebi seems relaxed in the native delivery homes. She gives her reasons that she feels relaxed, accommodated and loved by the attendants unlike those in the hospitals.

“I’ve my reasons for going to native homes otherwise called quacks, to be delivered of my babies whenever I’m pregnant,” Ebi says. Adding, she enthuses that the native delivery homes attendants are kind unlike those of government hospitals.

“The native delivery homes are receptive, caring and charge little or no money unlike the government hospitals that pose above life and most times deliver women of their children through caesarean section (CS) just for money, whereas most of the women could deliver normally,” Ebi adds.

This is even as pregnant women who patronize government hospitals lament of high costs of delivery in government hospitals. According to newsmen, “One striking thing is that the charges in these hospitals are not uniform even though they are all run by the Ministry of Health.

“The policy of compulsory blood donation is also a source of worry. Pregnant women are complaining of high cost of ante-natal and delivery services.

“Some are asked to pay N12, 500 for registration while their husbands should donate blood, or pay N10, 000 for a pint of blood.

“This is excluding the money for your drugs and other laboratory tests. If you undergo CS, it will amount to over N200, 000. That’s too much for most of us.”

The rural women seek for delivery homes miles away from their abodes that often lead to some ‘putting to bed’ along their villages bush paths. It is believed that poverty is the reason for their action, because they cannot pay for the apparent mountainous bills pregnant women incur in government hospitals. But poverty is not the blight with Ebi. She is a university graduate and a trader of note in the city.

Apart from the traditional homes, many pregnant women attend religious places for prayers and also choose them as where they would give birth. Chris Ewokor in 2016, reported to BBC Africa from Cross River State, saying, “Twenty-seven-year-old Ransom Linus Martin, four months into her first pregnancy, has come to the Land of Promise church near the city of Calabar for prayers, but it is also where she will be giving birth.”

Ewokor added that Martin was not alone in her choice upon that campaigners were headlong to end the practice in southern Nigeria, where many believed that they could be delivered of their babies by ‘God’.

“They do fasting and prayer here, and if you are pregnant you need to go to the place where there is God and there is daily fasting and prayers,” Ewokor impinged Martin, adding, “At the hospital there is nothing like prayer. They don’t pray. They only give you injections. But as you pray at the church, you get closer to God. On the day of your delivery, God will help you and you will deliver successfully.”

Notwithstanding, some medical pundits are of the view that at the government hospitals, their immemorial snowballing neglect and defective funding have made them equal to native delivery homes that are being operated individually with contemplative resources.

Reporting, Pricewaterhouse Cooper, a global thought leadership organization noted, “The Nigerian elite class spends $1 billion on medical tourism and their child bearing needs, while the majority bottom poor are left to die in public hospitals or endure the uncertainties of delivering through traditional birth attendants which often end in fatalities.”

The highlight of it is that the dangers of pregnant women giving birth in this clime cannot be overemphasized. In the view of a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) report, there were a predictable 814 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Nigeria. “About half of those deaths were caused by two conditions: uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage, and pre-eclampsia,” said the source.

In a meeting held with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, September 28 2016, the Executive Director of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who was a former Minister of Health in Nigeria, and the Permanent Secretary of the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, Mr. Mark Lowcock bemoaned that Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate has levitated to 10 percent where about 111 women die on day-after-day footing.

“Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality,” said Osotimehin. UNFP also stated that in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has a 1 in 16 probability of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data believes that Nigeria’s maternal deaths record is a disaster, if not the highest globally.

“Even though, maternal mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly half in the last 15 years, Nigeria still faces a heavy burden, leading the world in the total number of maternal deaths per year. In 2015 alone, 58,000 Nigerian women lost their lives to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes,” said the data. Those who know better add that corruption, negligence and injustice have been the major factors debilitating the Nigeria’s broken healthcare system.

On the other hand, newsmen of a leading broadsheet in Nigeria had this to say, “The Nigerian Association for Reproductive & Family Health (ARFH) and the international NGO, PATH, revealed in a 2016 study how a lack of access to three basic medicines is increasing the threat of Nigeria’s two most deadly pregnancy complications: postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia.”

The source went further, “As of March 2016, there were 13 oxytocin products and four magnesium sulfate products registered in Nigeria that had not yet been judged to meet international quality standards. This increases the risk that maternal health products are poor or unknown.”

But while speaking in Uwanse village of Cross Rivers State, Ewokor explained that Dr. Linda Ayade, the Cross River State governor’s wife was appalled by the practice “of a church or traditional home birth” therefore she was crusading for a stop to the practice given her experiences in the government hospitals.

In her words, “I have worked in hospitals in Nigeria and I have first-hand experience of pregnant women being rushed in at critical times when they can no longer be helped. Some are even confirmed dead on arrival, and it happens quite often. I have taken it as an obligation to save lives and reduce incidences of maternal mortality relating to child birth and delivery, knowing what it means for a mother to die and leaving children behind.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com