Archive for January, 2017

Helping Feed the World’s Fast-Growing Population

Towards food security and sufficiency!

iMFdirect - The IMF Blog

rabah-arezki-imfBy Rabah Arezki

Agriculture and food markets are plagued with inefficiencies that have dramatic consequences for the welfare of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Globally, farm subsidies amount to over $560 billion a year—equivalent to nearly four times the aid given to developing countries by richer ones. Major emerging-market nations have increased subsidies rapidly, even as rich nations cut theirs drastically. Meanwhile, tariffs on farm products remain a major point of contention in global trade talks.

One third of global food production goes to waste, while food insecurity is still rampant in developing countries. Even with the explosion of agricultural productivity since the middle of the 20th century, food security remains a challenge for much of the developing world. Food-calorie production will have to expand by 70 percent by 2050 to keep up with a global population that’s forecast to grow to 9.7 billion from last year’s 7.3 billion…

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The Fruits of Growth: Economic Reforms and Lower Inequality

Inclusive growth, Yes! But have policies that do better targeting and BIA! A worthy read.

iMFdirect - The IMF Blog

Lagarde.2015MDPORTRAIT4_114x128By Christine Lagarde

Versions in: عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese), Français (French), 日本語 (Japanese), Português (Portuguese), and Русский (Russian)

Growth is essential for improving the lives of people in low-income countries, and it should benefit all parts of society.

Traveling through Africa in the last few days, I have been amazed by the vitality I have witnessed: business startups investing in the future, new infrastructure under construction, and a growing middle class. Many Africans are now making a better living and fewer are suffering from poverty. My current host, Uganda, for example, has more than halved its absolute poverty rate to about 35 percent from close to 90 percent in 1990.

But we have also seen a flip side. Poverty, of course, but inequality as well remain stubbornly high in most developing countries, including in Africa, and too often success is not shared by all. 

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Tackling Inequality in sub-Saharan Africa Could Yield Mileage on Growth

Useful Read.

iMFdirect - The IMF Blog

Antoinette Sayehby Antoinette Sayeh

(Versions in Français and Português)

Rising inequality is both a moral and economic issue that has implications for the general health of the global economy, and impacts prosperity and growth.

So it’s not surprising that reducing inequality is an integral part of the Sustainable Development Goals  adopted by world leaders at the United Nations summit in September. I often discuss with my colleagues where sub-Saharan Africa stands with respect to these objectives. Unfortunately, the region remains one of the most unequal in the world, on par with Latin America (see Chart 1). In fact, inequality seems markedly higher at all levels of income in the region than elsewhere (see Chart 2).

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Inclusive Growth and the IMF

Facts made easy. Great presentation, wonderful packaging in digestible sizes! Compulsory reading for All

iMFdirect - The IMF Blog

prakash-loungani-128x112-72By Prakash Loungani

Four years ago, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned of the dangers of rising inequality, a topic that has now risen to the very top of the global policy agenda.

While the IMF’s work on inequality has attracted the most attention, it is one of several new areas into which the institution has branched out in recent years. A unifying framework for all this work can be summarized in two words: Inclusive growth

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Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics – a series of duets with the poet Susan Daniels.

by

Susan Daniels @susan_daniels and Noel Ihebuzor  @naitwt

 

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: # 9 Friction

By Noel A. Ihebuzor and Susan L. Daniels

In every straight and curving path of life
the interaction of opposites flows, friction,

its opposition
a delicate assurance of traction,
resistance and grip, always present
allows us to stand and move

same resistance slows and stops us
allowing motion, yet retarding it

the rasp of surface against surface,
smooth against rough,  rough to rough,
smooth to smooth; each raises heat,
awakens a force
moved into being by edge scraping  edge

the gliding plane
our movement through air as friction

the soaring heart,
the pounding heart, ventricle and atrium
pumping, pulsating and pushing life blood,
in never stopping motion,
constantly overcoming friction and resistance,

harp strings tremble, plucked and stroked by knowing
fingers
, the wailing saxophone,
the streaking trumpet,
the tickling tinkling piano strokes,
slides, glides, and breaks its chords
all raising hammers to strings
and frictioned strings to sound

the whispered violin

all engineered friction fusing with air,
music born of friction, peaks and troughs of sound
throb in our ears

the ship slicing through waves,
opening and parting them in bowed surge
the wetted measured friction
has the waters parting, gushing, rushing round
singing in joyous roars that fill, fulfill, and enflame
basking mermaids slithering and lulling in the waves
of plunging passion

our fingertips, too, on skin, are friction
we call pleasure, touches we arch under
the language of groans and sighs also moaned friction
of heated air rasping vibrating cords
in the throat, just so

and then tensing to yes.

the pleasure of the plough plunging deep,
digging deep into gripping soil
gratefully opening up to tilling, for seeds of life
to be planted, so that in season, a rich harvest would birth

and how our voices rejoice, secret yielded as fruit
the shared complicity in
friction and pulling,
plowing, plunging and planting

the stone grinder, the blunt edge,
engage in perfect frictional resistance,
sharpening, short lived stars shooting and flying dazzle,
heat rising to combustion points,
sparks flying with each roll, the spinning grind

the resistance of the pool
the waiting surface tension
the perfect contours of its ribbed surface
 pierced by the perfect dive,
the ripples and return heave of frictional resistance
the suckling suctioning into parted spaces, bubbling,
warming and enfolding heat, in the cool dive defeating friction, thawing,

how resistance melts down
into dissolving softness,
like a warm bread knife,
pressed deep into yielding butter,
soon bathed in golden cream…. 

the touch as fingers run through skin tense,
the kissing caress
lips slowly rubbing singing skin
bodies locking, unlocking, interlocking,
passions painted in colors of friendly wrestlers
locked in a tussle of mutual entanglement and enlargement,

grasping, clutching, gripping
skins toned, glistening, unchaining and liberating
expanding voices, accelerating motions of
perpetual ebbs and flows, surges and suctions
hurrying to a waiting harbor, destroying energy in liberating bliss

and incomprehensible scribbles
on the resisting vibrating surface of the bewitched air

all need your collaboration
demanding energy to overcome
though energy would be felt,
drowned in flowing pleasures

without friction there can be no pleasure
stuttered, stalled, sullen and static
journeys without boundaries

life a languid limp limbo
resistance and restrainer
you increase work and heat
liberating positive energy in seasons of amity
but when time and pride corrode the good
and anomie sets in
and thorn weeds sprout and spike in polluted hearts
painful friction, spawn and install in stubborn hearts
spout-spawning spiraling masses of negative energy,
spurning joy, acerbic simmer, toxic swelters, choking
as corrosive friction multiplies and you deepen your roots
the good begins to dissolve, the ugly enlarges

our edges dry and wear down;
stripped tongues heavy and cracked like warped wood,
hearts unmoved,
and our communications collapse

as enlarging frictions fetters and freezes the feet of amity
to resist and retard the swelling of heart
and bodies that once vibrated and throbbed as one 

***And here we are, at our last piece in the fizzy feelings/fuzzy physics series and Susan and I close it here with a flourish.  The theme friction is one that lends itself to diverse explorations and exploitations and we have not stinted in any way here in these :) and we hope you will like what we have tried to make of it!

Thanks again to Susan, my partner in poetry and co-creator, for challenge, co-inspiration and for such gorgeous use of the language!

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: #8 Particles

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Lately, conversations,
learned or elementary
about quantum entanglements
resonate & bring to mind
you

rich in kinks and curves
to the eyes straight
mirrors of us imperfect in perfection
reluctantly splitting in medium dense
elegance bending in fine angles

And  tonight I lose sleep
to deep speculation

wondering at which point
and  how

particles of pure energy
roaming space free, opening places
penetrating spaces and crevices

the flowing and roaming  particles of 
our matter collided

breaking barriers
upper and lower limit
vibrating stream of energy

yes, streams that crashed
and colluded
to synthesize
this synchronized turn
& counter-turn
between us

how across distances
the color of angel robes
the bow of the sky

this awareness continues
bundles of colors at different energy levels
streaming to lighten, to loosen
a delight

past an elemental level

indefinite until measured

 

** As usual, It was such wonderful fun doing this duet with Susan where we explore the relevance of aspects of particle theory in physics to communication and bonding across space, place and cultures. Susan says it better in her usual eoquence in the words below. Noel

***Quantum entanglements, or the theory of, was the inspiration for this duet between my bolded friend and I (italicized).  I believe it describes nicely a friendship and affinity that stretches across the globe :)

As always, hope you enjoy our fuzzy, fizzy exploration between particles and people — I know I had fun writing it with Noel, hope you enjoy reading it.

Fizzy feelings and fuzzy physics: #7 Energy

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

Raw or refined,
Raging or reclining,

Coiled, uncoiling, recoiled
force and power, taming and untamed , kinetic and potential
constant in final summation
never lost

Eternal borrowed magic
forged once and never destroyed;
only shifting form,
released or recaptured
in new attachments

Transmuting, changing, converting
fields always present
in us, force field, flooding
all life is you, dancing

 Whether rolling, roaming, roaring or lulling, tangible proofs
of your occasional intangible presence
we sense the voice singing you
sketching or announcing your passage
either as silent footfalls or thumping poundings
reminding us to be, that we are,
we are beings because of you,
primal mover at the beginning

and still being, celebrating and echoing the command
to be, and you are and remain
being in your  bounding, binding,
pounding, driving, falling,
tumbling, stumbling, climbing

the invisible hands drawing the earth’s pull taut,
the rise in slopes, hunger also rising;
rivers rush, stream, and sing your name

and here, we pull together in equal force,
meeting and blending these shifting fields
other disciplines call spirit
but I name simply us;

a measurable magic
weighed in breath
and silent singing of neural nets
taking in and releasing

perfection enacted, beauty embodied
tumbles joyfully to waiting limbs of estuaries,
your torrents delighting, passion swirling

and in the heart pumping blood,
necessary and rhythmic expression of muscle
exalting, exulting, and moving 

pure life energy 

beating and pushing
the energy of the heart

and this energy can push, also,
the pulse of hate, the politics of rage
the power to heat up, hurt, harm
and strengthen the impulse to heal, help

raw and caged in dams, you exist, taut, waiting
leaving us free, agents with choice
to channel you for good or for bad or for bland

We  draw from you the means for
tearing down or building
and weeping as our hands itch for and grasp the former 

and you weep in fits at our failure and our fate.

***My co-creator Susan’s voice is in italics – mine is bolded.  Again, we had so much fun with this when we created it–hope you enjoy reading it.  As always, a treat to write with Susan whose energy and creativity added life and flow to what is  difficult concept in physics !

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: #6 – Time

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Monosyllable rich in polysemy
endless, stretching fabric enfolding layers
of meanings, deeper than the infinite
finite, endless, far and near
seamless unity, past, present, future merged
was, is and will, history and hope
defiant of human labels

Eternity the endless is;
neither forward nor back,
but everything now, old and new
the cry of creation echoed
by foothills wrapped in morning mist
reflecting the hum underneath sound,
an ageless shout

Stretched out in space
travelling and rolling
never straight, never monotone, velocity varying
in your kinks and loops,
you dance backwards to lace and trap the minds
of the traveler looking backwards from the present
reaching backwards to embellish images and events
with generous sweet strokes and paintbrushes, dripping nostalgia

We can only chart your path,
a journey from now to the less-now
colored by memory–beautiful,
instructive, instinctive;
more art than accuracy
in the retelling.  Still, we rise
from what we think shapes us
to this moment, the moment now past

The beat of the pounding heart
the chimes of throbbing bodies
measure of rhythmic flows
the pulsing vibrating instruments
ogene, piano, ekwe, flute all sing and hum
with you, imperfect mirrors of your rhythm and soul

Yes, we keep time,
counting in fours and swings
and steps, our imposed order
an accompaniment
to your dance through and with us

Measure of intensity, streaming shooting jet
fast as light, often twice as swift
for those in present passion
crawling slow overweight snail for those who wait
rhythm ancient undying
constant motion, flowing streams
defying all our puny efforts
to trap, define and fix your roaming endless stroll
numberless, units without limits, objective
us subjective
the time traveler’s delight, mind shuttles between epochs
gone to relive, coming to feel and anticipate and feel
through frosty crystal balls,
shady mind prisms and tired eyes permitting
astral and mind travels
mind dragging body

Our error
the attempt to capture
or predict your movements,
when we should simply
play within your loops
that wrap us loosely
and then tighten; you are truly
Ouroboros,
constantly swallowing your own tail

the measure of seasons, defying seasons
ebbing and flowing
value and value, always subjective, never same,
the marriage of intensity, attitude ,
people, person and place parade and prance in your amber
producing passion, patience and pleasure
thundering and thumping

Like you, we should
open these mouths to swallow the past
in endless loops of hunger,
taste what has been
on the way, strengthening us
for the race to what will be

your rolling boundless presence
a glimpse into eternity
no boundaries, binding, bonding
all who live, breathe
feeling raptures and ruptures
departures, returns, beginnings and endless endings without end

the eternal dance and mystery of you

** Susan has wonderfully summarised the genesis of this duet on Time in her post below! Need I say more? Except the obvious – that it is always a pleasure to sing with Susan. My voice is in bold, Susan’s is italicized!

***My duet partner caught inspiration for this jogging on the beach in Dar es Salaam; sent me his lines, and I answered from Eden.  The actual time it took to write this piece together was under an hour, I believe, and I love its spontaneity and movement!  Hope you do too. (Susan)

Fizzy feelings and fuzzy physics: # 5 – Heat

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Dense  with entropy, warm interplay
life’s strumming is thermal,
made in heat and made with heat
beginning in fusion and fission of stars
heat riots everywhere, all ways
stored in bonds and energy fields and folds 

Heat, energy, pure warming
source and inspirer of life
your touch sparks us and enflamed, we glow

the slow movement  to love  is fever, seething
body temperatures rising
(Like cold blooded creatures
Basking on sun teased stone, slowly warming)
and thickening blood like magma;
forest fires on skin

our flowing emotions awakened too;
relationships are about heat energy and transfers
warm glowing when souls converse and caress
when bodies melt, flow and fuse,
the scorching joy song of molten gold passion

yes, the constant shifts within us and without us
in traded heat;
radiations, convections and conductions
we conduct, we conduce the  flow
nodding to the  first law
,
nothing made or lost, only changed
from one form to another

high energy charged points to lower points, 

seeking release
we free and burn slowly
and with caution

Rising beyond limits, you transform to scorch,
burn, melt all matter past form and shaping;
shuddering volcanoes, molten heat as rage reigns  

everything in its path ashes
and twisted metal;
what took years to frame consumed by flames
and past all salvage

Heat energy change
throwing sparks, breath of TOR,
blazing like thunder, causing conflagrations, blazing and burning

Hot burning scorching when hurt installs hate
and envy, spears, poisoned arrows fly, flames burn down

Better flash fires than maximum entropy;
where, lifeless, immobile
we drift further, with no sparking between us
in  slow, heavy heat death;

ice cold and indifferent when  separated lovers, love burnt out,
now strangers co-habit the same space
invade their naked bodies  and feel nothing,

no warmth, no flow, no energy
save ice particles on bodies seeping from the cracks of frozen hearts 

***another in our series from physics, hope you enjoy the warmth of this one!  We certainly did! Susan’s voice is italicized, mind is in bold! Enjoy the heat!

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #4: Motion II

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

All life is motion compelled to move;
you and I, we must move too

even in apparent stillness
our atoms vibrate

past vision and all senses, rearranging with
the simple harmonic motion of elements,
the inner rotation of the subatomic
like mirrored, miniature solar systems
the shift of season into season,
the pulls tides answer, and strokes of waves

all singing life
every motion has brought us
closer to this motion today
where we move in unison 

your voice in mine and
mine in yours

your tongue vibrates, feels
and feeds my throat motion;
fluttering, trembling, all kinetic and stirring
and we move, the rhythm of us a motion

born of force and attraction

by polarities that pull
create this swirl, tremulous gyrations, vibrating, oscillating
where merging in vertical and horizontal flows
we reach forward and beyond
with hastening speed

and now, with vectors charting
direction, force and magnitude
this joined velocity singing and ringing
still accelerating, celebrating
the influx and efflux of creativity,
its season of release 

** Our second duet on Motion! Susan and I hope you will  enjoy reading this duet as much as we did writing it.  Susan is italicized and Noel is bolded.

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #3: Motion (1) – By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Three balls dancing in space
in place lace us to the larger cosmic circles
of perpetual motion

The blue pearl spins on its toes
in never stopping rolls like a top
held in space in distant but constant hug
by the sun radiating
surges of magnetic and force fields 

Locked in predictable patterns
but always surprising us;
the times of sunset known
but not its colors,
the exact flush and spectrum flash of sky
as the axis spins and shifts it to night colors

Rotating and revolving
centrifugal and centripetal discourses
neatly balanced as ordained though slightly inching
imperceptible

Our mother an eye, soft and smiling
a constant blue gaze unblinking,
but kind, a glowing awareness
logical in her turning;
her light beguiles and seduces
in its soft sparkling
as the moon, her hills, and blue seas
use their pulls in equations
to twirl, whirl, and swirl

Caressing and awakening the sleeping ocean
stirring, causes waves, tides, and surges
three balls hanging apart in space, moving
yet linked by invisible forces flowing from them
and causing motions and emotions to rise and ebb

And you and I, also
feel the pull, the irresistible forces
that draw our blood beneath skin,
that grasp our hands to lift and turn us
so we also spin and dance like these,
hoping that our weaker movement  too
will birth waves
and pools 

***Once again I thoroughly enjoyed braiding lines and interlacing voices with my duet partner, Susan, whose beautiful voice shines here and who succeeds to breathe life and plenty of movement into a difficult topics in physics – motion! Susan’s voice in italics and mine in bold!

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #2: Inertia – By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

We drift in habitual wobbling circles
hobbling like feet poorly cobbled, feeling
neither earth nor one another, stranded
arid motion free stretch of ever elongating slippery
quicksand highway, without grip or traction

Smiles stiff and still
not sparking eyes, sparkleless
exhausted, shambling, soulless routines once so fresh
now stale, sour, and old
constant motion long past dancing

Radius, diameter and circumference in grating logic
circling each other in yawning cycles

We roll unresisting into a heavy, unpiloted slide
remaining in these present states easier
as with each change comes resistance
which must be swept across
or persuaded into action

what is held still craves flow,
though frozen and powerless
to break old bindings
and change direction

We shuffle limp on a limping highway
limp unable to rise nor flow, trudging on a treadmill
threadbare, going nowhere

The mournful sky wraps above and around us
mourning our uninspired mornings
soggy flat in colorless monochrome
borderless without hope, our soulless soles
burdened, weighty  and weighed down
at the border of the deadening present and a feared future

Eager to depart, move on and move apart
and resist its own yearning,
and though we have breath and pulse, we lie inert

The half-life of what lived long past
in search of direction,
going nowhere, unable to live
unwilling to leave

Habit a tripwire trapping our feet,
a seething past that teemed,
boiling over, over-run with energy heaves,
now idles
empty of steam and wind

With no wand to wave to will us forward
we live as hollow shells
in endless cycles of repetitions
that weep and
wait for that external force to move us
either backwards or forward,
to push us on or push us over Inertia

 

**While a pleasure, as always, to write with Noel, I can’t wait to move on to more dynamic physical concepts in this series we are working on

Again, Noel’s voice is not italicized, mine is. (Susan)

****Susan and I explore in this duet a concept in physics that dates back to Newton’s seminal work. Inertia is essentially about the inability of an entity for internally generated change and movement in the absence of external impetus.  It is a great joy to feel how in this duet we have been able discover some life and truths about life in Inertia!  Always a pleasure to sing with Susan and to feel her voice, soft and delicate,  blend with mine, gruff and often strident!  (Noel)

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #1, Waves: A Duet

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

I want to ride this wave
suspended in stroking flow, the way a child
rocks to sleep at night, body remembering
the forward shove, the dragging back

The mind surveys, questions the source
the ends, the purpose and where they end
this timeless travel, unceasing pulling
Constant pushing and tugging

Your mind brushes infinity, reflected
In a wave with no beginning
that never breaks, but meets invisible resistance
and release in reactive crests and peaks;
The raw push forward, still with softness,
Rocking and wrapping everything that swims
within light, inside water, coiled inside sound;
all the patterned peaks and troughs that invite and incite
with throb and force, always present within a wave–
should we resist or should we swim inside its logic

There is a logic to its heaves
the pull of the moon
stirring tides, stirring blood surges and longings
in its genteel stare bewitching

Let it come, let us call it forth–
summon it to strike and shape
the substance of song and sighs;
the drag of magnets siphoning bitterness,
drawing pure substance to pure substance,
energy flowing  forward without resistance.

The waves moving, endless motion,
the to and fro of each wave,
each wave inching deeper and closer
moving us and the world with it

If waves are change, let this one birth a tsunami to crush
and carry away the proud
the assured who stand opposed
but a wave that can with tenderness lift up,
splash and cleanse those
who gently cling at her rolling hems, hide their faces
in her soft skirts

Let us then ride and roll on her foaming wings
as the world rolls and spins
and advances  in its waves of ether
moving always and the world forward

***Trying a little something different here with Susan, my duet partner, in a series where we explore the possible applications and implications of concepts from physics to life, living and feelings.  Susan’svoice is the one italicized, and Mine is the one not.  As always, it was a pleasure to co-create with Susan and to blend my voice with hers!

John Cardinal Onaiyekan’s 2016 Christmas message

By

+John Cardinal Onaiyekan

 

NTA, VON, RADIO NIGERIA CHRISTMAS 2016

CAROLS AND NINE READINGS

NATIONAL CHRISTIAN CENTRE, ABUJA, Sunday 12th 2016

Message by +John Cardinal ONAIYEKAN, Archbishop of Abuja

 

  1. We thank God for bringing us together once again this year for the usual annual celebration of the Christmas season. This celebration of Carol and Readings has become a yearly custom of the NTA and Radio Nigeria and I congratulate them for keeping faith no matter the circumstances around us. Despite the economic down turn and recession, we must celebrate and rejoice at Christmas time, because the core of the Christian message recalls the abiding love of God for humanity. This is brought out very clearly in the gospel of St John – “Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His Only son.” John 3:16.

 

  1. First of all, Christmas is a Christian celebration which has a specific meaning for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God made man, an unimaginable doctrine that is tenable only to those who have received the gift of the Christian faith. The Christian therefore celebrates not only the gift of a wonderful child but also the enactment of God’s greatest plan for humanity, His becoming man and living among us. “The word was made flesh, he lived among us.” John 1:13. St Paul made this clear when he said: “When the appointed time, God sent His Son, born of a woman.” Gal. 4:4. That woman is the Virgin Mary, the young girl of Nazareth. Already in the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaias foresaw that a “The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel.” Is. 7:14 Matthew quoted this text in his story of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus in Mat. 1:23, adding that Emmanuel is “a name which means ‘God is with us’”. Mat. 1:24. Christians therefore have a profound spiritual motivation for celebrating Christmas.

Christmas however, is a celebration for the whole world because it is an essential part of the Christian faith that God’s love embraces every human being. That is perhaps why the Christmas mood spread all over the world in these weeks, as we see decorations and shopping sprees in all the great capitals of the world.

 

  1. We should not forget that it was not so at the beginning. When Jesus was born over 2000 years ago, it was an obscure event. Only Mary, Joseph and a few shepherds were aware that a great thing had happened to our universe. But today there is a general mood of joy, of peace and of sharing. Even if for many people, the reason for this season may be forgotten or entirely unknown, our faith in the Lord Jesus is that the Lord of history is in charge of his creation in us and despite us.

 

  1. In Nigeria, we thank God that Christmas has become a popular celebration, involving all our fellow citizens. The government grants a two-day public holiday to enable everyone celebrate, both Christians and non-Christians. It is a good thing that Christians celebrate with their neighbours who are not of the same faith.

Everyone must share in this mood of joy, peace and hope. It is a mood of God being with us. It is joy in the midst of challenges and economic recession, hope against every despair and faith to be able to see light at the end of the tunnel of a rather somber environment. It is a season for sharing, for expressing solidarity and for reaching out to others especially to the poor and needy. Perhaps there will be less heavily loaded hampers flying around this year. But there must not be less generosity among us all. Perhaps we must seriously consider this year those with whom we exchange gifts. Jesus said: “If you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? Lk. 6:33. For the very fact that there are so many of our countrymen who are in situations of distress and poverty, this is all the more reason therefore why all of us, especially we who are Christians, must reach out to them, wherever we can, at our own levels.

 

  1. The nation not only celebrates the Christian festival of Christmas but also the Muslim religious feasts. It shows the importance of religion in our land. This is a spiritual asset which should make a positive impact in our land. True religion must be for peace, for justice, for honesty and harmony. Christmas is a time for us to take up anew the challenges of fashioning good relations among our differing religious communities. And this is not only between Christians and Muslims but also within our various religious faiths. It is becoming more and more clear now that if we do not arrive at harmony within our faiths, it will be difficult to achieve peace between our faiths.

 

  1. This is a task that we must all put our heads to. To do this we must recognize certain realities which are there, not without the permission and the plan of God himself. We must admit that we live in a country where there is a pluralism of religions. It is a fact that we cannot change. The wise attitude therefore, is to cultivate as much as we can respect for our differences and be fair to everyone. Here the golden rule is always valid – “Do to no one what you would not want done to you”.

Our differences however are not the end of story because we do have a lot of things in common. We therefore must try to seek those common grounds in terms of those shared spiritual and religious values which then help us to be able to join hands to face the challenges that afflict all of us, without discrimination or distinction. Whether it is Ebola or Malaria, HIV/AIDS or even corruption, every religious community is challenged to take action with the spiritual resources at its disposal, for the common good of all.

For all this to happen, we need to agree on the place of religion in our nation. The age-old debate of the relationship between politics and religion cannot be avoided. Nor can we make any serious progress as a nation with serious disagreement on this matter. This is particularly crucial in the area of the law of the land. Can we distinguish between the legal civil code that binds each one of us as citizens of the same nation and the religious moral norms which each of us have embraced in freedom as part of his or her own religion? If we sincerely want a nation that is united and integrated, we must work seriously towards one law for every citizen. If we must tell the truth, it must be said that the Sharia issue is still burning. Recent moves in the National Assembly for a drastic review of our constitution to make room for ecclesiastical laws side by side with Sharia is perhaps only the first salvo in a looming religious war that I believe is not too late to avoid. It is therefore indeed about time we begin to think seriously about thoroughly reviewing our constitution in the line of working towards one nation, one law. Despite our pluralism of religions, and maybe even because of this, one law ought to be enough for the entire nation, provided the freedom of everyone is guaranteed. This can be achieved with the following two simple conditions: that the law of the land must not command what religious laws forbid, and that it must not forbid what religious laws command. This leaves everyone to freely follow the injunctions of his or her own religion, without dragging in the state. This is what obtains in many countries which have one law for all citizens of diverse religions. With patience and a modicum of good will, this can be done also in our country, so that we can say good bye to fruitless conflicts over religious laws.

 

  1. We need therefore to promote and strengthen interreligious structures and initiatives. We should be building bridges rather than erecting more walls. Already we have a lot of informal bridges all around us, as most Nigerians relate quite well with their neighbours of other faiths. But formal structures have to be consciously promoted. Here the role of the Nigeria Interreligious Council, (NIREC) cannot be overemphasized. Nor can we delay indefinitely its resuscitation, so that it can once again be a forum for our efforts at promoting national religious harmony.

Interreligious dialogue is very important but not enough. We must also promote intra-religious harmony. Intra-religious dialogue demands that we acknowledge pluralism and differences even within our faiths. The Christian community must accept the challenge of working towards ever greater unity, as much as we can, rather than acquiescing, or even encouraging and maybe celebrating our present state of scandalous dividedness. We ask God to show us the way to sort out the problems that have been bedeviling the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) in the past few years. For this crisis to end, all hands must be on deck, and every stake holder must take up its own responsibility.

Within the Islamic community, I beg to be allowed to strongly encourage that differences should also be recognized and taken on board, within the greater Islamic community. The recent crisis with the Shiite group is a cause for concern, not only for Muslims but for the entire nation. If there are other Muslim groups, they too must have a right to free expression and an opportunity for them to play their own role for the building up of our nation. Every religious group must be seen as seeking ways to serve God and through God serving our neighbor, within the ambit of the law of the land. It is the duty of the state to protect all genuine religions, and be very slow to ban any, no matter how inconvenient.

 

  1. Our country is in serious political, economic and social difficulties. We seem to have remained largely in the mood of political polarization typical of election campaign period. After the election which took place almost two years ago, campaigns are now over and we should by now be fully in governance mode. All hands must be on deck to face the many great challenges that are weighing heavily on our nation. We must forever ban the attitude of “winner take all”, which also tends to provoke in the losers the counter mood of “pulling them down”. The winners cannot rule alone and the losers must be prepared to cooperate with those who now have the duty to lead the nation in the way forward. Our geographical, religious and ethnic identities, all crisscross. This in itself is the gift of God for us to be able to bring down walls of division. The scandalous social disparity between the rich and the poor in our country has led to an intolerable yawning gap crying to be filled. Poverty and unemployment has been growing, leading to despair and frustration in many quarters, especially among the youth. Dishonesty and corruption have hardly visibly reduced. Our overwhelming problems require our common action from the different agents and stakeholders in the society.

 

  1. At this Christmas, we must accept the message of peace, peace by all means, including by the route of love, of humility and simplicity. It is of course the duty of government to make and enforce laws. But the endemic corruption in our land may be calling for some amount of negotiation towards repentance, refunds and possible amnesty. The limits of the route of tribunals are getting more and more obvious. The war against corruption must be waged with all possible weapons.

 

  1. It is the duty of the government to secure the land against armed insurrection. We congratulate our government for major progress made in dealing with Boko Haram crisis in the North East. Mr. President has reason to boast that Boko Haram, from the Military point of view has been “technically defeated”. But it is not yet all over. This is because there is a limit to how much arms and guns can do in this matter. We need to put more efforts in dialogue and political discussions leading to reconciliation. Here the role of religion for positive action must be more consciously exploited. Religious communities and leaders must come out to play their role, which is often very efficient and very cost effective, in comparison with budgets for military action.

We pray that soon, the millions of our country men, women and children still living in camps as Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs) will be able to return home, a home that will be secure and ready to receive them. At the same time however, more should be done to give them a viable option of settling elsewhere in the country. For example there are many IDP camps all around Abuja. Those who have been languishing in these camps for more than two years have every right to ask for resettlement within the Federal Capital Territory. It is affront to human dignity to leave people to rot away in such camps. After all, almost all of us here have come to settle here from different parts of the nation. Why not them the IDPs? There is certainly enough space for them within the FCT, and the funding can be sourced if government would only muster the political will to embrace them, as fellow Nigerians.

  1. In the meantime, however, while we thank God that the Boko Haram in the North East has been “technically defeated”, another almost equally serious security challenge has been building up all over the nation. I am referring to the bands of heavily armed bandits who have gone on rampage for the last few years. They are often called “Fulani Herdsmen”. At times, we are told that they are foreign bandits who have invaded our nation. Whoever they are and wherever they are coming from, they have now constituted themselves into a major national security menace, which requires an effective action from our armed forces. They have been destroying farmlands, attacking villages and settlements, occupying captured ancestral lands and they have killed thousands of Nigerians. For example, only recently, my Episcopal colleague, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Bagobiri, Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan, in the South of Kaduna State, issued a very moving press statement with the following gruesome statistics, for only within his ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan: 53 villages torched, 808 lives lost, 57people injured, 1422 houses destroyed, 16 churches demolished, 1 primary school knocked down, and property “conservatively” valued at 5.5 billion Naira destroyed or looted! This is horrendous. No wonder that my friend and brother, the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohamed Sa’ad Abubakar, has been quoted to have compared them to terrorists.

Reports from kidnapping victims have also confirmed the rumours that they have been responsible for much of the kidnappings going on in many parts of the country. This must stop. The authorities must take effective action, so as to defuse the rising tide of resentment and hatred in many communities against the Fulani herdsmen and all who are considered related to them. More ominously, some communities are already thinking and talking of arming themselves for self-defense. This is very bad news. May God show us the way forward.

  1. My dear listeners and viewers, fellow Nigerians, we all come from families. In our families, which are the most important social unit, we accept one another; our parents as well as our siblings, as gifts of God. We have not chosen them. God has given them to us. The same family attitude ought to be extended to our national belonging. Despite all debates about whether or not it was a mistake to have put us together in one country in 1914, the fact is that we are already together. To separate ourselves now would be indeed a herculean task. It would be wiser, and far less cumbersome and problematic to put all our efforts together to accepting one another as God’s gift, in the same nation given to us by God. We must do our best to live in peace and harmony, not only despite our differences but also because of our common values and common challenges.

 

  1. Let me conclude with the wise words from a great politician, diplomat and intellectual of our neighbouring nation of Benin Republic. His name is Professor Albert Tevoedjre. He says:

 

 

“Faced with the impossibility of placing a soldier behind each citizen to guarantee his or her safety, the only credible sustainable option is to strengthen all the mechanisms that enable us to LIVE TOGETHER, despite all our differences.”

Happy Christmas to everybody.

And may the Lord God bless our nation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

House with many rooms

By

Noel Ihebuzor

 

In Baba’s house are many rooms

Kitchen, bedrooms, sitting room and

no room for doubt since Baba said so

 

each room with clear functions

with defined assignees…..

all who enter know the rules and their roles

though some daintily feign ignorance

 

room access is defined by gender

walls though thin are not permeable,

partitions incapable of shatter

 

room for roaming arguments

for roaming hands rejoicing

at successful negotiation and fresh possession

 

room for seasoning, for sliced rumps,

for tenderizing thighs and breasts

room for romps

 

No room for reasoning, these

function rooms with known functions

mixing or ignoring functions amounts to treason

 

In Baba’s house,

there are rooms for men only,

women only rooms

and unisex rooms for celebrating new acquisitions

strategic additions

 

we and all must respect….

 

rooms for duty bearers and service providers,

rooms for husbands, rights holders,

where lambs yield passage,

sob and go, broken,

rapture almost for one,

rupture for the other

 

All appears well

for and between two bodies,

strangers in one room,

on one bed

 

Almost, except that after exchange 1

hungers now elongate in one,

fatigue grows in the other,

meal share now a fatigue

 

for the first meals in this room

(shearing for one,

cheering for the other)

are not cooked

in the kitchen but

in this same room, the other room

the leveler room


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