The Pillar Ortom is Building in Education

By Odimegwu Onwumere

It was a Steven Spielberg that said only a generation of readers will spawn a generation of writers. And like Nelson Mandela, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State believes that education is the most powerful weapon which one can use to change the world.

He believes in the statement that was credited to Aristotle which is, educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. Governor Ortom put this into practice when on May 29 2015 he mounted the saddle and saw that the Benue State University was shut-down for over five months, he made sure that the school is back today, after he negotiated with the authorities.

(Governor Samuel Ortom)
(Governor Samuel Ortom)

The governor moved for the accreditation of the School of Health Sciences. Therefore, fulfilling one thing he told his people of Benue State before he was elected as governor: He is experienced unlike newcomers that would be bent on undergoing a tutorial, a workshop or a seminar before starting their work as governor.

Upon meeting a very dwindling economy when he assumed office, persons like Senator George Akume had commended the governor for his stance in making education one of the 5 pillars of his government, when he came to celebrate Christmas with Ortom at Ortom’s home in Gbajimba. The governor has not said a word without mentioning the need for the people to go to school.

At his hometown, he reiterated that it’s only education that will empower them to pursue careers and gear up to anything, any position, in their future life. Governor Ortom does not only believe in education, but also has modalities put in place in making sure that every child in the state he governs has a basic education.

On February 14, 2016, the governor made public the Government of Benue State preparedness to invest N7.6 Billion in Primary Education. This is coming when the country’s aim to achieve the Universal Basic Education was defeated.

It was at the thanksgiving mass and launching for the building of St. John’s Catholic, Church, Mbazemba, near Adaka, a suburb of Makurdi that the governor made the intention known.

There was the move to make sure that the schools his government is investing in heavily have equal teachers that will man the activities of lecturing. From primary to secondary levels in the state, the government spurred to boost the teaching profession in the schools with a heavily number of 16,000 teachers. With this move, Governor Ortom makes one to recall T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King.”

A statement in White’s work reads, “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

The governor knows that primary school is the epicenter of knowledge and he wants the children in Benue State to learn and form the base for a greater future, hence the primary schools should have a larger proportion of the teachers with 10,000 assigned to them, while the secondary should relax with 6,000.

It was not out of place when the governor’s budget for this year was christened “Budget of trust, confidence and credibility.” There is a confidence in the people that at least 400 primary and 44 secondary schools across the state will be wearing a new look soon.

The governor is achieving in his basic education move for the children in Benue. Nigerians know that a once notorious gang leader called Tawase Agwaza alias’ Ghana’ who was terrorising a part of Benue and that of Taraba State, who surrendered over 84 weapons, did that because of the educational preachments of the governor.

You may call it amnesty, but the truth remains that “If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library,” a Frank Zappa once said. Governor Ortom has gone to college and graduated and now, he has gone to library and wants residents of Benue State to join him.

The educational programme of the governor goes to re-orientate not just the primary and secondary schools students, but also Tiv people, farmers and herdsmen even in Agatu (the idoma side of Benue state), to dialogue instead of fighting and killing themselves in the farms due to misconceptions.

With the good works that Governor Ortom is doing in Benue State, it is evidence that he has been in politics for over thirty years. He has garnered much experience having experienced toughness to attain the educational height he enjoys today. He has a PhD! He was a Local Government Chairman and has headed several positions at the PDP party level and the State, before he was elected governor on the platform of the All Progressives Alliance (APC). He was Auditor of PDP and then, a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Governor Samuel Ortom needs the people’s cooperation to achieve and sustain the numerous works he has started in Benue State. The assemblage of persons he has called around him in order to strategise on how to move education in the state to the next level should not disappoint.

The Technocrats, Politicians, Traditional rulers and all sorts of people he has called together should venture into stringent research to move Benue State forward.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State, Nigeria. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Politics ruining Nigeria’s healthcare workforce

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The pioneer chairman, National AIDS Control Programme, (NACP), Professor Ibironke Akinsete returned to Nigeria some 50 years ago from Canada to work at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

She exposed to the media on ‘Nigeria @ 55’ that there was unadulterated empathy among the workforce to give healthcare to the sick in those days, unlike today, “We seemed to have missed it at some point and nothing seems to work anymore.”

The former President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Vice President, Commonwealth Medical Associations (CMA), Dr Osahon Enabulele frowned at the unfortunate political assurance given to the healthcare sector.

Dr Enabulele said, “It is sad that in what has become a recurring decimal, Mr. President could not spare a critical thought on his plans for Nigeria’s Health Sector in his Independence Speech.”

Workforce Marred By Politics

Governments at different levels in Nigeria are yet to accustom the universal uplift programmes of health workers.

Rochas Okorocha(Governor Okorocha)

The outcome of the lackadaisical approach being shown to Nigerian doctors was experienced recently: Medical doctors were outraged over what they described as “anti-life” policies of Governor Rochas Okorocha, where taskforce was being used to standardise medical practice in Imo State.

The doctors were not happy how taskforce was being used against them; they said that this is against the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria’s policies. Hence, they voyaged for a protest on February 4 2016, disclosed as anti-concessioning protest of public health institutions by Governor Okorocha.

The protest latter turned bloody. An account by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), stated, “It was gathered that when the doctors got to Orlu Road Junction, Owerri, riot policemen in about 10 Hilux vans started throwing tear gas canisters at the group, during which a gun was suspected to have been fired, which injured a doctor.”

A Consultant Physician with the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, Dr. Bede Azudialor was supposedly shot in the head by the riot policemen drafted to monitor the demonstration by doctors. Aftermath, the Nigerian Police denied shooting him.

Politics Of Shooting And Denial

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Andrew Enwerem, said, “Police did not shoot anybody and nobody who is shot in the head will ever remain alive. Let them produce a doctor’s report to confirm that it was a real case of shooting in the head. Anybody can pick any blood stained material from anywhere and claim that he was shot.”

Dr. Azudialor was said to have been rushed to a hospital for prompt medical attention, where he is believed to be receiving treatment. His colleagues spurred for a three day warning strike, as was made public by the state Chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Medical Doctors, Dr. Darlington Akukwu, following the incident.

Why The Doctors Protested

There was the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, HRH, held in Recife, Brazil, from November 10-13, 2013, which represented the largest-ever global gathering on HRH.

IntraHealth was an official co-host and, with CapacityPlus, served as the organiser of one of the themes, “Empowerment and incentives: Harnessing health workers’ voice, rights, and responsibilities in moving toward universal health coverage.”

In that forum, Pape Gaye, President and CEO of CapacityPlus lead partner IntraHealth International, said, “The health worker is the most important element of the health system.”

On-the-contrary, the health worker in Nigeria is estranged. The Imo State chairman of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Hyacinth Emele was very angry that the governor did not consider the plight of doctors in the state upon their advise not to concessionise public health institutions.

(Protesting Doctors)
(Protesting Doctors)

Part of reports made available by Emele on their dilemma in the hands of Governor Okorocha read, “Despite NMA repeated advise government went ahead to concession virtually all the state public health institutions from primary to tertiary (health centre, general hospitals and Imo State Specialist Hospitals, and Imo State University Teaching Hospital) and their management.”

The furious NMA chairman, added, “The state will stand to lose completely from the assistance of donor agencies and partners like the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank, Global Fund among others that sponsor immunization, malaria, tuberculosis, family planning and HIV/AIDS services to these institutions.”

The Governor Reacts

While the Police denied shooting any doctor, Governor Okorocha in a swift reaction in a statement purportedly made available to the public by his spokesman, Sam Onwuemeodo, regretted that the protest turned bloody, even as he added that the protest embarked upon by the doctors was uncalled for and a ploy to blackmail him and his administration.

Part of the statement read, “It has also become important at this stage for Nigerians of goodwill to tell the doctors to publish the reasons for their protest for Nigerians to see and give their verdicts. The doctors involved have not been able to tell their audience their grievances or why they took to the street if not to blackmail the governor and his administration.”

Failed Healthcare Workforce Data

The workforce is important and one of the eight pillars of the National Strategic Health Development Plan.

Nigeria knew about this and in 2011, the Federal Ministry of Health aided by the WHO, and the Centre for Diseases Control, CDC, instated the National Steering Committee for the National Health Workforce Registry and the Committee on Nigerian Public Health Training Initiative.

Conversely, the aim of the pursuit has been defeated, which was to achieve a formidable HRH data for all health workers in Nigeria. Carter Foundation was in the formation for a working Health Registry with the Federal Government (FG). The initiation was called “Health Workforce Registry”.

In all of this, politics now rule over. The torment that the health workers in Nigeria face and followed by the economic depression of the late 80’s and till date, have made them to look beyond their nose and move for greener pastures outside the country.

Greener Pastures Elsewhere

The world over, how to improve on the physiological wellbeing of health workers, has been a topmost priority.

Organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), seek ways to reduce healthcare costs and improve on the universal health coverage. WHO has a publication with the title: “Establishing and Monitoring Benchmarks for Human Resources for Health: the Workforce Density Approach.”

The international organisation was worried in the report concerning the shortage of health workers in Nigeria and as well, the daunting situations that surround the issue, which have made finding solution impossible.

The shortage of health workers in the country has reduced the workforce. The Human Resources for Health (HRH), which represents the foundation of the health structure, has been touched.

Many Patients, Few Doctors

There have been incessant strikes by health workers across the country at different times, at primary, secondary or tertiary health centres. At most of the hospitals the question is always where have the over 30,000 medical doctors, 150,000 registered nurses nationwide, gone to.

In Imo State, Governor Okorocha sacked over 3000 workers. In Lagos alone it has become habitual to keep ‘vigil’ in the hospitals by patients, so that they could see a doctor to attend to them in the morning. Most times, a chance of seeing a doctor is slim upon the stretched long hours of waiting for a doctor.

$ 51 billion and 700 doctors

In the early part of 2015, the Federal Government sought for about $51 billion (N9.4trn) to fix the healthcare in order to meet international standard by 2030.

Nigeria would also need over 700,000 additional doctors to meet the timeframe. According to a source, “Nigeria currently has roughly 14 percent of the number of doctors per capita of OECD countries. To catch up, Nigeria would need approximately 12 times as many doctors by 2030, requiring, under current training models, about $ 51 billion.”

It was gathered that this is because many emerging economies face rising occurrence of non- transmissible diseases determined by aging populations and injurious lifestyles. Budding economies have under-invested in health.

The source added, “In 2012, their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) allocation for health was on average 5.6 percent, less than half that of developed economies (12.5 percent). This has led to shortages in health infrastructure and workforce.”

Nigeria’s Bleak Universal Health Coverage

The year 2015 was when Nigeria had in 2009 set goal to achieve Universal health Coverage (UHC). The promise was to make sure that all citizens in the country enrolled into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

But there were miserable scenarios for the Health Sector in 2014 as Budgetary Allocation failed below anticipation in the African Union’s agreed 15 per cent budgetary allocation for health.

Media reports stated, “The total vote for health in the 2014 expenditure plan of the federal government is N262.74 billion. This is about 5.6 per cent of aggregate expenditure of the national budget. This year’s provision is a further 0.82 drop from the N279.23 earmarked for the sector in 2013. More perplexing is the fact that the budget proposal allocates 76.3% to recurrent expenditure and just 23.7% to capital expenditure. What this means is that the budget is meant to just keep the country and its burgeoning bureaucracy running with nothing spectacular to show for. Experts believe that a budget focused on massive development of infrastructure would assign more to capital rather than to recurrent which covers personnel and overhead costs.”

Conclusion: Nigeria Is Yet To Follow The World

Seven years after Nigeria set the goal to meet the 2015 Universal Health Coverage target, many Nigerians are yet to tap into the enormous advantages of health insurance, experts have said.

Hence, voices are being raised incessantly in the country suggesting that health insurance should be made available to all Nigerians and not only a handful that can pay.

(Dr supposedly shot by police)
(Dr supposedly shot by police)

During its “NMA’s Physicians’ Week” recently, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) called on General Muhammadu Buhari to declare emergency in the health sector.

The reason is that there is a dearth of well-designed guidelines for medical practice in Nigeria, because the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Board was wrongly dissolved.

The NMA lobbied for the appointment of a Chief Medical Officer of the Federation to superintend and fast-track the urgency needed in the health sector.

It also called on the authorities to instantaneously start the discharge of the 2014 National Health Act. It added that there is need for a vivacious primary healthcare system in the states to enliven immunisation and healthcare.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State, Nigeria. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Imo and the cult of politicians against Achonu

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Although, he believes that in any intellectual debate, there is a glimpse of democracy at play. I’m talking about Chief Nneji Achonu (Ikemba), the Okigwe Senatorial candidate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

{Nneji Attan Achonu}
{Nneji Attan Achonu}

Those that have been following my articles would know that the last time I wrote on anything Governor Anayo Okorocha, was in 2007. That was when he was scheduled for the PDP chairmanship contest.

I endorsed Okorocha’s contention through an article I wrote solely for the contest. I was later called on phone by one of his aides, Uche. Aftermath, I saw Uche in Abuja in March 2010 (three years after), when I attended a programme.

Uche introduced the now Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Madumere, to me. Uche was not the much-talking person; he looked mien. But I saw Madumere as an orator and well composed, when he talked to us.

Madumere was a modest man in his clothing, soft speaking with enigmatic power of sermonization. After that meeting, like we know, I learned that Uche joined the government of Okorocha when the later was elected governor.

As human being would always be human being, I evaluated keeping the relationship with Uche, but he disconnected away and we did not make friends. For Madumere, I only know him now as Deputy Governor of Imo State. For Okorocha, he is one man I love till date without him knowing (just the way I love Senator Chris Ngige) no matter all the opposing news coming out from Imo State, of how Okorocha has purportedly fallen short of the expectations by the people.

I hear people crying that he has sugar-coated mouth and has nothing to show for his stewardship to the Imo people. Hence, I beseech him to look into what the people are saying and find a way to reconcile their complaints where he may be needed.

While I digressed a bit above, I was spurred to write this article after a discussion with an Imo indigene that has a profound voice, politically. That was on February 8 2016. We talked at length on issues affecting Nigeria; and the Imo State politics came to play. This person is from the Okigwe senatorial zone of the state.

He told me that even though he is not in Achonu’s camp, there is a cult of politicians that are against his aspiration of becoming senator of the zone in the coming rerun after the 2015 election that he was declared winner was botched in the court. The writer in me snooped more to find out why the cult of politicians are against Achonu. I’ve not heard about the man called Nneji Attan Achonu before till our discussion.

The man who was in the discussion with me bluntly told me that the cult of politicians in Imo State is of the All Progressives Congress (APC); and they are doing everything and anything possible to humiliate Achonu with the view that he is not loyal to them. Two persons mentioned in this cult of politicians, were said to come from Umueze 1 and Ishiebu in Mbano, respectively. And they are working clockwise to ‘deliver’ a perceived strong rival to Achonu who comes from Ishinweke area of Ihite-Uboma or, is it Obowo.

I heaved a sigh on hearing this! I went to research on Achonu and my findings did not disappoint. In the 2014 pre-2015 election campaign, Achonu seemed to have a glimpse of this cult of politicians in his state and he said anywhere he went to that he wanted to go to the Senate in 2015, because the structural shortcomings in the polity compelled his evaluation to represent his people in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

I found out that Achonu is not a loafer; he is being characterised as a foremost businessman and philanthropist and a man at home with his Okigwe people. At least, members of Okigwe Zonal Welfare Association will attest to this fact when Achonu paid them a treat at his residence in Abuja.

Unlike some persons who do not have any agenda other than to be seen at the Senate, Chief Athan Nneji Achonu who was born on May 31, 1959 and had part of his education at Madonna High School, Etiti, in Imo State, Government College Umuahia in Abia State after which he proceeded to John Cabot University in Rome Italy, had made it known that his going to the senate would be to assuage the suffering of the people.

In the March 28 2015 Senatorial elections he was described as “the Lest among the candidates aspiring to represent the zone in the red chambers of the National Assembly.” Whatever that means by Imo political observers. But for one Chief Dan Onwu, who was described as a pharmacist and frontline political leader in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area, Achonu’s political history is far above those suspected to be in the cult of politicians that are against Achonu.

Onwu was quoted to have made this disclosure during a political rally Achonu was in that cut across the sixty-four wards that compose Okigwe Senatorial Zone. It is evidence that Achonu is loved by his people no matter the clattering of some selfish persons whom his presence sends jitters to.

I learnt that Achonu has records of people-oriented colossal achievements that are celebrated and irrefutable in Imo State. I found out that in Okigwe zone alone, he had donated over 200 tricycles to people that he didn’t have a relationship with.

Immeasurable numbers of Imo students are in school today, courtesy Achonu. While a said cult of politicians in the state are after Achonu, he stands a better chance to cripple them politically as ‘One Arm General” he is passionately called by his followers.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Hatred for Jonathan, ethnic bigotry, mendacity mar Buhari’s fight against Boko Haram

By Odimegwu Onwumere

On assumption of office on May 29 2015, Major General Muhammadu Buhari who was declared winner of that year’s presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as at the time, showed-off that insurgency in the North-east Nigeria would be history by December of that year.

It was a statement taken by many Nigerians with a pitch of the salt owing to Buhari’s stance against the Jonathan administration (with the view that the fight against the sect was a fight against the North). The Jonathan government was headlong in fighting the terrorists to standstill.

However, in what Buhari took as criticism against the Jonathan government, on June 2 2013, he told the world as a “Guest of the Week” – a Hausa programme of the Kaduna-based Liberty Radio – that the pronouncement by Jonathan and subsequent declaration of State of Emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States and the following military offensive against the Boko Haram Islamic sect, was a fight against the North.

Buhari was visibly angry that splinter militia groups in the Niger Delta Area, where Jonathan comes from, were never dealt with by the military, as the Jonathan government was dealing with the Boko Haram sect.

Buhari’s traitorous comments in defense of Boko Haram

Buhari said at the time that what is responsible for the security situation in the country was caused by the activities of Niger Delta militants. Adding that every Nigerian that is familiar with what happened knows this. He further said that the Niger Delta militants started it all.

“What happened is that the governors of the Niger Delta region at that time wanted to win their elections, so they recruited the youths and gave them guns and bullets and used them against their opponents to win elections by force,” Buhari said.

He said it was after the elections that the boys were asked to bring back the guns and they refused; hence the governors as at the time stopped the allowance that was being given to the youths by the governors.

“The youths resorted to kidnapping oil workers and were collecting dollars as ransom. Now a boy of 18 to 20 years was getting about $500 in a week, why will he go to school and spend 20 years to study and then come back and get employed by government to be paid N100,000 a month; that is if he is lucky to get employment? So kidnapping became very rampant in the south-south and the south-east. They kidnapped people and were collecting money,” Buhari fumed.

Buhari defends Boko Haram

Buhari believed that the leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was not supposed to be killed when he was arrested by soldiers and handed over to the police.

“The appropriate thing to do, according to the law, was for the police to carry out investigations and charge him to court for prosecution, but they killed him, his in-law was killed, they went and demolished their houses. Because of that, his supporters resorted to what they are doing today,” Buhari said.

{Inset: Buhari and Jonathan}
{Inset: Buhari and Jonathan}

He added that in the case of the Niger Delta militants, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted amnesty to the members unlike the Boko Haram members.

“They (Niger Delta militants) were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones in the north are being killed and their houses demolished. They are different issues, what brought this? It is injustice,” he said.

Did Buhari lie that there was no Military crackdown against the Niger Delta Militants?

Scores of the militants in the Niger Delta were killed when the Nigeria’s military launched a crackdown in the area in 2008-2009.

Wikipedia reported, “In August 2008, the Nigerian government launched a massive military crackdown on militants in the Niger Delta. They patrolled waters and hunted for militants, searched all civilian boats for weapons, and raided numerous militant hideouts.

On May 15, 2009, a military operation undertaken by a Joint Task Force (JTF) began against Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) militants operating in the Niger Delta region.

“It came in response to the kidnapping of Nigerian soldiers and foreign sailors in the Delta region. Thousands of Nigerians have fled their villages and hundreds of people may be dead because of the offensive.”

Buhari continues to blame Jonathan for the 2015 deadline

“Despite the December deadline he had earlier given the military to end terrorism in the affected part of the country, Buhari admitted that the country might not win the war completely by the end of the month,” The Punch of December 28, 2015 reported, in the headline, “Jonathan’s govt provoked soldiers into mutiny —Buhari”.

Hear Buhari, “We investigated and discovered how funds that were penciled down for arms procurement were diverted and shared by government officials who served the last administration. The government at that time sent the soldiers to the battlefield without arms and ammunition to prosecute the war. That was what led some of them to mutiny. They were arrested and detained because of this.”

Did Jonathan procure weapons to fight Boko Haram?

Jonathan said on 27th January 2016, during a programme titled, ‘Focus on Africa’ aired on an international news and current affairs television channel based in Paris, France 24.

When Jonathan was asked to speak in particular on whether he was sure his administration laid the foundation for the fight against the insurgents, Jonathan said, “Of course, you know the new government is working hard and I believe they are still using the equipment we procured.”

Buhari calls Nigerian soldiers impotent; blames US for abetting Boko Haram

Speaking at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), in July 2015, Buhari blamed the US Leahy Law as “aided and abetted” the campaign of bloodletting by Boko Haram.

His words, “In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology, which they could have had, had the so-called human rights violations not been an obstacle.

“Unwittingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy law amendment by the US government has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes.”

Despite having open pity for Boko Haram Buhari still deceives Nigerians

Despite having open pity for Boko Haram members during the Jonathan government, Buhari assured Nigerians that the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Commission would defeat the insurgents by the end of 2015.

He made this pronouncement on August 2 2015, while on a one-day visit to Cotonou in his honour, as the special guest of honour, by the President of Benin Republic, Boni Yayi, at the 55th independence anniversary.

“I assure you that we will defeat Boko Haram by the end of this year,” Buhari said, while commending Yayi for increasing the number of Benin troops to 800 for the MNJTF.

Buhari complicates self

Since Buhari made the statement that his government would defeat the insurgents by the end of 2015, the terrorists have not stopped their dastardly act of destroying lives and property in the affected North-east of the country; and Buhari is not near winning the sect.

On January 31 2016, the overpowered Buhari said Boko Haram terrorists were so fraught to embarrass his government, while at the same time saying in a statement issued by Malam Garba Shehu, his senior special assistant for media and publicity that “the insurgents had suffered immensely from the sustained bombardments of their camps and hide outs by the Nigerian military and had resorted to using desperate measures to gain cheap media attention.”

This is the same Buhari who frowned at Jonathan’s military offensive against the Boko Haram!

While reacting to the wave of suicide bombings in Chibok market, Dalori Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) camp in Borno State and the Gombi market in Adamawa State, Buhari swaggered that he had bombarded the sect’s camps and sundry; something that the Jonathan government did and Buhari added ethnic colouration to it.

Buhari apparently accepted that he has not defeated Boko Haram by the end of 2015 and he pleaded to Nigerians, saying, “I urge all citizens wherever they live to own the war against terror and to be part of the fight because it is the only way we can finish the remaining work that needs to be done to make our country safe again”.

Buhari’s mendacity continues on Boko Haram

In the earlier statement, Buhari had opined that instead of killing the Boko Haram members, they ought to have been treated fairly and given amnesty.

But in faraway New Delhi, India, for the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, on October 30 2015, Buhari grossly turned away and gave reasons why to crush the insurgents would be better than negotiate with them.

“We want to get them (the 250 kidnapped Chibok girls taken away by the insurgents in 2014) back safe to their parents. But we are not sure of a credible leadership that is prepared to talk yet about Chibok girls,” he told the New Delhi Television (NDTV).

He also told the NDTV that the terrorists are on the retreat, saying, “They are on the retreat. If you go to the front, you will find out that they no longer occupy the areas in the North East they once did.”

Yet, he reiterated, blaming that the “war in Libya was pushing Islamic State fighters into Nigeria, filling the ranks of Boko Haram.”

“A lot of trained people have returned to their bases in Nigeria and are finding their way back to strengthen Boko Haram,” he said.

Buhari was in support of Amnesty for Boko Haram during Jonathan govt

Buhari who is today invariably not in support of amnesty for Boko Haram members was in support of the idea in 2013, during the Jonathan government.

He made this disclosure on April 10 2013, as the CPC presidential candidate, while addressing pressmen in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on his way to Ikenne to pay condolence to the Yeye Odua, Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo on the death of her son, Chief Oluwole Awolowo.

Buhari who was accompanied by the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2011 election, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the former House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari and CPC National Chairman, Prince Tony Momoh, said that whatever would bring peace to Nigeria must be pursued.

“It is good that they have set up a committee on amnesty. I have not seen the terms of reference, but it is a right step in a right direction. This is not the first time amnesty would be given to a violent group. You remember it happened in the time of Yar’Adua when he gave amnesty to militants, but whatever would bring us peace as a society, we should do it,” Buhari stated.

Conclusion: Buhari’s fight against Boko Haram is suspicious and paper fight

According to a report credited to Reuters on September 8, 2015, “In spite of President Buhari’s reassuring words, a spike in violence by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria has forced almost 800,000 people to flee their homes since June and over 17, 000 lives pummeled and thousands of houses and property destroyed.”

On February 6 2016, during a condolence visit to Dalori village where 65 persons were reportedly killed (weekend before last by the insurgents), Senator Baba Kaka Garbai, senator representing Borno Central in the National Assembly and a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), told newsmen that Boko Haram still occupies half of Borno of the Northeast, which Buhari had been boastful that the sect had been confined to the Sambisa forest – the terrorists known camp.

“I feel highly demoralised, devastated in the sense that this is the village we visited during the election and they were going about their normal business. The activities that were ongoing were like confidence building.

“They actually got the signal a few days before the attack that the insurgents were likely to attack them, they reported this to the constituted authorities but nothing was done to provide security for residents and their belongings.

“It is very important and more so that this place is porous, so there could be attacks from any direction. It is a wrong assumption that most of the local governments in Borno have been recaptured from Boko Haram.

“In reality, this is not true in the sense… From my count, only three local governments are fully liberated, while 21 local governments remain partially occupied by insurgents – that is, there is still some level of Boko Haram occupation side by side the military or some other constituted authority,” Senator Garbai said.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Boko Haram activities hinder children’s health

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The health of Nigerian children calls for a great concern over Boko Haram-induced violence in the North-east of Nigeria.

Whether openly or obliquely involved, children across the country are susceptible to the sweeping brunt of terrorists’ attacks.

A number of Nigerian children are going through stress likewise their parents. Evidence is that at the end of a week-long visit to Nigeria, the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy to Nigeria, Leila Zerrougui representing the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Children and Armed Conflicts, observed that children budding up in North-east are in need of security from ruthlessness and ailment.

Boko Haram
{Inset: Boko Haram}

In Yola, after meeting with displaced people from the conflict-affected areas, Zerrougui, said, “I witnessed people’s shock and disbelief at the devastation suffered by their communities. I saw trauma in children’s eyes. The scale of the suffering is way beyond what I anticipated to find. The people I met demand and deserve urgent protection.”

The UN envoy further exposed that over 900,000 people, many of them women and children, have fled their homes in the North-east; over 300 schools have been rigorously destroyed, and hundreds of children killed, injured or abducted from their homes and schools.

There is palpability that many children and young people are separated from their parents and families in any attack. For example, in April 2014, Boko Haram abducted over 200 schoolgirls at Chibok that are yet to be found. Many children have been dislodged, kidnapped, killed, wounded, and made to be orphans, assaulted sexually, and others because of ghastly attacks by Boko Haram. The disgusting aspect is that some children who have language barrier do not comprehend with what to do when terrorists attack. Children with pre-existing mental health problems, attacks worsen their situations. Caseworkers or doctors and others are often aloof to attend to emergency.

Aliyu Ndajiwo who’s a medical student in West Indies in a contribution made available to Nigerian audience last year, argued that many Nigerians are paralyzed by fear of Boko Haram. Ndajiwo’s anxiety was that unremitting fear has disadvantageous effects on health, particularly in children, with heightening of several stress chemicals in the body.

“The release of such stress chemicals or hormones like adrenaline (as well as noradrenalin) and cortisol is essential for survival. Prolonged release of one of those hormones, cortisol, can have long-term effects on the body by suppressing immune response, altering the function of some neural systems and causing damage to certain brain structures such as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and the amygdala,” Ndajiwo reported.

Examining the adverse effects of terrorism on Nigerian children last year, a 9-year-old Nigerian girl, Miss Splendour Joe Abisoye who resides in Abuja with her parents, wrote a book titled, “Effects of Terrorism on Children”. What the intervention of the girl through a book meant was that her mental stability was exposed to the severe stress that Nigerian children are developing in addition to psychological symptoms over terrorism.

Many children like Abisoye are pronto experiencing mental health challenges – intellectually or irritatingly – with the attendant incessant terrorists’ attacks that leave scores of people dead and numerous property destroyed. Children in the country came to the awareness of terrorism after the terrorists’ atrocious acts on the New York City World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Nigerian children are vulnerable as news of disasters continues to filter into the air.

The worse is that there are scarcities of pediatricians-volunteers at hand to serve as expert advisors to local children across the 36 states of Nigeria. Ndajiwo would say, “Children and adolescents inflicted with trauma are more likely to show suicidal tendencies and some of them eventually end up committing the act.”

Nigeria’s lackadaisical approach is not the same in the USA, where different associations like the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, National Center for PTSD, American Psychological Association, National Institute of Mental Health, Center for Mental Health, Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, American Academy of Pediatrics and others, are ever ready and on ground to counsel children in order to balance their mental and psychological states over disasters.

Since this is rarely in place in Nigeria, many children are recruited into terrorism and many others think that it is nice to be a terrorist. The aftermath is that Nigerians have been experiencing situations where children are used as suicide bombers and what not, in the hands of unrepentant Boko Haram fighters. It is evidence that Nigerian children do not get the right answer they deserve after a terrorist attack, hence they suffer emotionally.

Zerrougui said that in 2014, the armed conflict in the affected areas in North-east was one of the world’s deadliest for children. She wept, adding, “The beginning of 2015 brought again relentless violence with the appalling suicide bombing committed by a girl allegedly as young as ten, killing several people in a market in Maiduguri, as well as what some organisations have termed as Boko Haram’s deadliest attack in Baga.”

Psychologists have said that children who hear the news of disasters suffer more than the people that were injured or killed. This is the reason in a country like the USA, the Mental Health Association NSW prepared hand books solely to help people living with the trauma of terrorists’ attacks and other human-made disasters.

“The information aims to address the anxiety that can affect people in the face of impending terrorist attack, and what to do after such an event,” reported D’Arcy Lyness, PhD, in January 2014.

Unlike in Nigeria, the source added, “The attacks on the US, Bali and London, together with other terrorist incidents in recent years, have caused many of us to think about our personal safety and the risk of terrorist attacks.”

Conversely, when there is a terrorist attack in Nigeria, children who are not with their parents or loved ones do not have a telephone counselling service, such that obtains in the USA at “Kids Helpline”, “Young Diggers”, “local community organisation”, “local service clubs”, “local council” and others. The true nature is that when there is a terrorist attack in Nigeria, individuals offer help to others, before any disaster emergency units would arrive hours later.

There are often unreliable news sources with the government saying a different thing from the situation on the ground. In short, there is always conflicting reports. Local Members of Parliament are even farfetched to ask questions. It is appalling that there is no record telling Nigerians the number of children that are undergoing the following: Numbness, shock, traumatic stress, flashbacks and nightmares, grief, loss; anger, despair, sadness, hopelessness and others in this era of terrorism.

Many children in Nigeria invariably walk in fear with a feeling that they could be the next to be attacked. According to Ndajiwo, “On the other hand, excessive and prolonged activation of the body’s stress response system could lead to what is referred to as toxic stress. This type of stress can hinder healthy development in children by affecting the child’s cognition and behavior, and can also alter the expression of stress regulatory genes, thereby increasing the risk of stress-related physical and mental ailments later in life.”

The authorities in Nigeria could learn from the USA, which after the September 11 2001, terrorists’ attack, has been in pursuit of best way to talk with her children about disaster and potential threat. Although, Erlanger A Turner Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist in Houston, Texas, said in a forum, “These conversations are not easy and may cause some children and adults to worry about their safety. In children, increased worrying or anxiety can also cause difficulties functioning with daily activities such as school.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

Looking beyond exclusive breastfeeding

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and some international bodies have always spurred for crusades to encourage mothers about the need for exclusive breastfeeding, at least, for six months. One body that is in the forefront for the promotion of the concept is the World Health Organization (WHO).

But what these organizations are yet to deafen the people’s ears with is that breastfeeding mothers experience different sensations while breastfeeding. Many mothers believe that even though that breastfeeding is a wonderful experience, it is then-again emotionally and physically hard with the attendant stress and sleepless nights it gives; no matter the taboo the notion of ‘breastfeeding is being hard’ is in the traditional homes.

{Breastfeeding mother culled from Internet}
{Breastfeeding mother culled from Internet}

Many mothers would want to breastfeed for one year and as well give their children formula, but there are cases where the child does not suck, or the mother’s breasts are cut off as a result of ailment. There are indications where some women avoid breastfeeding for the fear of their breasts sagging.

But in an angle, Remy Melina who was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012, and holding a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University, reported that some breastfeeding mothers expose that the process bedevils them with a bumpy feeling and sore, therefore they prefer bottle-feeding as it offers them with a sense of reprieve.

The health communication specialist intoned that many mothers choose not to breastfeed because of other family or job pressures. Findings further revealed that upon the sermonization for exclusive breastfeeding, most mothers bottle-feed their children with a glaring excuse that when they are restricted to diet, the food and medication that they take-in might be sucked through their breasts by their babies, hence portending danger to their kids.

Most women who smoke or take coffee heavily are not comfortable breastfeeding their children with the conviction that their breast milk might contain nicotine and caffeine, therefore they prefer baby formula. It was on this reason that health experts have warned breastfeeding mothers to eschew the use of alcoholic beverages.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this is necessary “because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use can inhibit milk production.” Nevertheless, breastfeeding mothers are advised to give two hours after they drink before breastfeeding. But the alcoholic drink should be in a small quantity and taken occasionally.

Women with Mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue are advised against breastfeeding. There is also a yeast infection (called thrush when it occurs in the mouth) that can be passed back and forth between the mother’s breasts and the infant’s mouth. Against this backdrop, a nutritionist who would not want the name in print said, “The nipple of an infected breast becomes red or very pink and sore. If the infection extends into the milk ducts, it may cause pain throughout the breast and a sharp, burning pain in the breast while breast-feeding or between feedings.”

Checks disclosed that this can occur to any woman whether she is an experienced mother or not. There are numerous problems that can make a newly breastfeeding mother to keep away from breastfeeding the child. When this arises, it makes a mother to see breastfeeding as a very appalling process for the baby and her. Evidence is that many mothers are not happy after breastfeeding their children due to the feeling of sore on their nipples.

In most cases, the nipples are red, spiky, inlure of being on-all-sides-of the breasts and smooth. Some health experts have argued that this occur when a baby is not ‘latched on’ properly. Pat Sterner, a lactation counselor at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has been in this line of argument.

Sterner said in a round-table, “The “latch” as experts call it, is the way your baby connects to your breast. When your nipple is sitting way back there in the hollow, there is nothing to pinch, so it should not cause any nipple soreness at all. Many women find that their nipples not only feel sore after every feeding, they are red and pointy instead of round and smooth – all indications that your baby is not ‘latched on’ properly.”

Some breastfeeding mothers use “Cup feeding”. Health specialists have said that this is used in the event where the infant is premature or with cleft lip or palates The Cup would be used pending when the infant is strong enough to start breastfeeding on his or her own. A report by Breast Feeding Problems, said, “Cup feeding can only be used on babies that are past 32 weeks, as they have not yet developed their suck, swallow and breathing reflexes; as a result, babies born before 32 weeks are fed through a gavage tube.”

But complimenting breastfeeding, the management of Promasidor Nigeria Limited, for example, recently introduced infant milk formulas – Cowbell Tina 1 and Cowbell Tina 2 – at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Mr. Olivier Thiry, Managing Director, Promasidor, would say that the company produces first-rate nutritional products that are good for all categories of people.

What that meant was that the company’s products are supplements to breast milk that contains one million and one nutrients, but certainly not when the breast milk is soiled. The company’s products invariably accolade water, fat, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, some hormones, enzymes, growth factors, essential fatty acids and immunological factors.

Nutritionists like Dr. Abieyuwa Emokpae, a Consultant paediatrician and medical doctor at Massey Street Children’s Hospital, at a symposium organised in Lagos by Promasidor with the theme, “The Nutrition Wisdom of Infant Feeding Choices”, have said that the human milk contain those nutrients. The products that Promasidor is producing to assist breastfeeding is apparently like what In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is doing to assist women that cannot conceive on their own. What that meant was Promasidor is not only in business to succeed, but also to show hi-tech assistance, severe investments, managerial culture and practice to circulate its products through diverse marketing means.

One of the Directors of Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Mr. Keith Richards said in a civic presentation that the company is not sleeping on its oars to promoting and grow Nigeria’s dairy subsector with investments worth $2bn. That was exemplified in 2013, when stakeholders in the health sector charged governments and communities in the country at a programme entitled “Improving nutrition in the first 1,000 days; Setting the future’, organised by Nestle Nutrition Institute Africa at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan, to participate in the exclusive breastfeeding advocacy for newborn babies.

In all of this, many mothers are looking for substitute feeding techniques that can avert their babies from experiencing the unenthusiastic effects of using artificial nipples. Hence, some of them are mystified and would hire a lactation consultant to help them avoid making mistakes that pertain to breastfeeding.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (apoet_25@yahoo.com). Tel: +2348057778358.

The lifeless girl lying on the road (Poem)

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Have you seen the little girl

Lying lifeless on that road

Riddled by the pellet

Of the rulers hounding her father?

{PIc: Trending online}
{PIc: Trending online}

She lay on the ground haplessly

Passed by many, cared by some,

Not making headlines in the media

Because her father is seen as outcast.

She is not the child of the mogul

Who killed her because her father

Wants to break out from the country

He does not share cultural and traditional

Conformities with.

Though she has been killed,

But her death strengthens the spirits

Of those whom she was killed because.

Her death brings to live

The struggle of her father

That will not be deterred by such killing.

Have you seen the girl?

(c) Odimegwu Onwumere, February 4 2016.