By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) welcomes a petition calling on the Scottish government to pardon those accused and convicted as witches under the Witchcraft Act of 1563. This initiative is significant because it underscores a well-known fact that persons accused and convicted of witchcraft in Scotland were unjustly treated.
It is pertinent that this historic miscarriage of justice is acknowledged and remedied in some way. The petition asks the parliament to memorialize the victims of witch hunts in Scotland. One hopes that the Scottish parliament would answer this call.
AFAW applauds the Scottish lawyer, Claire Mitchell, who is championing this effort. Claire launched the “Witches of Scotland” campaign to rehabilitate witch-trial victims in 2020. She claimed that the Metoo movement emboldened her to seek a redress of this historic injustice. It has been noted that “Scotland’s parliament in March will debate a blanket rehabilitation for the thousands of people, mostly women, executed for alleged witchcraft. In the late 16th century, Scottish monarch, King James VI participated as an interrogator in witch trials and wrote a book about how to detect and prosecute witches. For generations, almost no one in the country defended alleged witches or acknowledged a family connection to them”. As Claire rightly pointed out, “We feel strongly that there needs to be a reckoning”. Indeed there is.
AFAW is delighted by this campaign to redress the injustices that alleged witches suffered centuries ago. Unfortunately, alleged witches have continued to suffer unfair and unjust treatment in many parts of the world today. Although, accusation and conviction of alleged witches belong to the past in Scotland, witch persecution rages in many places across the globe- from Africa to Oceania to the Indian subcontinent.
In Ghana, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Malawi, Kenya, and South Africa, thousands of alleged witches who are mainly old women, and children are routinely attacked, lynched, stoned to death, banished, or imprisoned. In most cases, efforts to redress the unjust treatment of alleged witches are few and far apart, if at all, because the state is often complicit in the miscarriage of justice. States fail in their responsibility to prevent witch persecution or to protect alleged witches. They turn a blind eye to the persecution of alleged witches and sometimes indulge in prosecution and conviction of accused persons.
In cases where states intervene, it is usually too little too late. The police arrive after the alleged witch has been murdered; they make some arrests, or they claim that the suspects are at large. In Nigeria, the government has yet to arrest and prosecute those who set ablaze 15 suspected witches in Boki, Cross River State in Southern Nigeria. The incident took place in May last year and no steps have been taken to ensure justice in the case. In Ghana, the government has taken no measures to remedy the injustices against suspected witches. Thousands of them are languishing in various ‘witch camps’ in the Northern region. Instead, the government of Ghana is threatening to shut down these places of refuge for the accused. It must be noted that in some parts of Nigeria, suspected witches are subjected to post-mortem witch trials. And if confirmed as a witch, the body is burned, buried in a forest or thrown into a river.
So injustice against alleged witches did not only take place in Scotland and did not happen only centuries ago. Injustice against accused persons is not only a thing of the past; it is also a thing of the present. Any campaign to remedy the historic injustice against accused and convicted witches in Scotland should be used to highlight contemporary manifestations of witch persecution including other cases of miscarriage of justice against suspected witches in other parts of the world.
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Where Are The New Notes?
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
It was with mixed feelings that Nigerians first received the news in October last year that the federal government was redesigning certain denominations of the nation’s currency. From December 15, 2022, the new notes would be in circulation, the CBN governor Godwin Emefiele promised. It was also announced that by January 31, 2023, the current N1000, N500, and N200 notes would no longer be legal tender. Government explained that some unscrupulous politicians had accumulated billions of naira in private vaults and would deploy the illegal funds to compromising the general elections scheduled to start on February 25th. What has become of those billions?
Owing to the level of distrust between the government and the people, conspiracy theories surfaced with ‘stupendous alacrity! The Minister of Finance did not help matters when she openly disassociated herself from the new policy announcement. She asserted that her ministry ‘was not consulted before the policy was announced and she believes the policy is wrongly timed’. CBN Governor countered by saying that he did not need clearance from the Minister to initiate new policies, adding that he was accountable to the President.
This aspect of the controversy was only laid to rest when President Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu issued a statement that ‘the president said the CBN’s decision had his support and he is convinced that Nigeria will gain a lot by doing so! The government explained that the policy would compel persons who had stolen monies and had hidden same in vaults, septic tanks, and warehouses to deposit same in the banks before January 31. Limits as to how much could be deposited per day by individuals and corporate bodies were specified. The National Assembly had tried on different occasions to make the CBN extend the deadline. They have not succeeded so far. What exactly is going on?
Suddenly, Emefiele became a target of arrest for possible prosecution by EFCC. A narrative that he was a financier of terrorism was pushed into the national space. He was accused of massive corruption. Push backs came from counter forces. Emefiele was being persecuted because he had hit the big money bags in society with a harsh policy. It was reported that Emefiele was on the run like a common criminal. A court refused to grant an order to EFCC for the arrest of Emefiele. The general question on the lips of everyone was: what exactly is going on? While this charade was ongoing, news came that the CBN governor had secretly returned to Nigeria. Men of the DSS raided the governor’s office but did not arrest him. Another report came out that the Chief of Defence Staff had deployed soldiers to guard the embattled governor. Two arms of security fighting a battle of arrest and protection? Who gave orders to the Army? Who gave orders to DSS? Is the president aware of the madness at large? Who wants the head of Emefiele and why?
The uncertainty and controversy around the CBN governor are unsalutary. In other climes, the economy would take a nosedive. Perhaps because the economy is already sick, there is nowhere to fall into. He that is down, like the Nigerian economy, needs fear no fall! But there is great confusion in the land that foreign investors no doubt would be watching out for what would happen next. Emefiele himself had got himself into many controversial actions, one being his attempt to contest for the office of the president while heading the Bank of bankers. It seems that because he is in the good books of the powers-that-be, no harm can befall him.
It’s a few days to the deadline. There are still many questions. The most important question right now is: where are the new notes? As a corollary to this question, why are the banks reluctant to dispense the new notes? Is it true that some Point of Sale (POS) operators have the new currency while banks claim they do not have the same currency? How much has entered the banking system since the October announcement? How can the banks be monitored for compliance? What are hard hit politicians planning to do next?
APC presidential candidate Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu recently cried out that the currency and fuel scarcity was met to sabotage the February elections. Buhari has asserted that he wants to leave a legacy of free and fair elections, not tainted with money. He has somewhat withdrawn himself from the political fray and directed that money should not be allowed to determine the winner. Some irony here. Our president now wishes to distance himself from the system which gave him the presidency and sustained his rule for some eight odd years. How the politicians will react is not clear yet. But it is possible to become a statesman after experiencing the rot of the system at close range.
For the common man, the main question is: where are the new currency notes? I am yet to set eyes on the N200 notes. I didn’t have access to the N1000 note until two weeks ago. This has exacerbated the level of desperation in the land. Suddenly changing the currency has its advantages especially if the security of the nation is threatened. One of the first groups to ask for extension of time was Miyetti Allah. They claimed that because they keep a lot of cash, they would need more time. Fittingly the government has stuck to its guns. No compromise. Kidnappers and bandits who keep huge sums collected as ransoms from their victims must be caught in the web.
The Central Bank of any country is insulated, should be insulated from politics and politicking. It ought to be the last economic institution standing tall even when all others collapse. But the CBN under Emefiele has been hijacked by powerful interests who do not have the common good at heart. Emefiele symbolizes that takeover. History will judge him harshly. But for now, Mr. CBN Governor, let hapless and hungry Nigerians have access to the new currency. If the CBN is unable to enforce its directives to the banks, it will be because the bankers see that institution as a weakened and weak one that can only bark without the capacity to bite. Let us end the uncertainty now!
. This article was sent in before the Central Bank of Nigeria on Sunday, January 29, 2023 extended the January 31, 2023 deadline for the withdrawal of old naira notes from circulation.
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Post-2023 Policy Advisories: Youth Unemployment And Job Creation
By Tunji Olaopa
In this piece, the focus of my policy advisory will be on the critical connection between education, unemployment and job creation as fundamental elements in the transformation of Nigeria’s economic growth and development. And this is crucial because of Nigeria’s low-employment intensity and its collateral effects on the non-inclusive growth of the national economy. Over the years, so much analytical ink has been spilt over the largely uneven, unbalanced and socially non-inclusive growth trends of the Nigerian economy, deriving essentially from the unimaginative monocultural dependence of the economy on oil. This is further aggravated by several deep-seated structural debilitations at the heart of national low development policy performance over the years. I have in mind, first, the crippling national infrastructural deficit which is now estimated at $100m yearly, and requires $80billion in financial commitment over the next ten years to build up. There is also, second, the cost and ease of doing business. In the 2022 ranking by the World Bank, Nigeria currently stands at 131 out of 190 countries. This simply implies that the regulatory environment for doing business in Nigeria is not friendly enough to boost the economy. Nigeria’s heavy dependence on the oil and gas sector is also inhibiting because it is not a labor-intensive sector in terms of its production process and the dynamics of its capital formation.
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All this has grave implications for the chances of the Nigerian economy to achieve a robust diversification through a multi-pronged and strategic policy rethinking of the developmental components. The resolution of this problematic is inherently connected with the governance imperatives of a restructured Nigerian federation that has the capacity to harness the non-oil resources of its federating units based on comparative advantages. It is easy for the reader to immediately discern how such a critical move, especially the unbundling of the agricultural sector, can easily alleviate the lingering unemployment tension. This policy challenge has consistently been crucial to the social inequality which has instigated the unbridled draining of human capital made up of essentially young Nigerians who cannot be blamed for choosing the Japa option in privileging their life prospect rather than be undermined by a state that is not rethinking its potential.
What is also immediately certain is the significant role that education and training will play in arresting the drift in Nigeria’s human capital and workforce dynamics. This is because the challenge of unemployment is complicated by (un)employability as a result of various levels of skills deficiencies and mismatch. And this not only demonstrates the defectiveness of the educational system skewed in favour of formal certification, but also points at the urgent need for an education reform as a critical part of the larger development equation in driving Nigeria’s progress. On the other hand, and also quite unfortunate, the informal education sector is not only disarticulated, the policy innovation that ought to creatively reconnect it as a structural base for productivity has been scant and far-between. And when successive governments have been earnest in their investment in technical and vocational education and training (TVET), it has also been to the detriment of the proper structural reprofiling of the traditional apprenticeship system and non-formal training models as equally fundamental elements in the education provisioning that generates productivity and human capital for jumpstarting Nigeria’s development. And this is not to say that even TVET itself has been properly grounded since there is still a serious gap between the available opportunities and the skills and competences the education made possible.
We are then sensitised to the creative policy direction that the new administration needs to pursue—an urgent and comprehensive re-articulation of the education sector in ways that (a) strengthen the formal education and certification process to fit into the industrialization objectives of the Nigerian state; (b) connect the formal and the informal education sectors together on a continuum of learning and training; and (c) leverage the traditional apprenticeship, informal and vocational training and formal certification into a reprofiled human capital development policy. Such a proactive policy strategy will surely be a significant complement to the Nigeria’s 6-level National Vocational Certification Framework (NVQF) which links the education and training systems in terms of industry and competence-based qualifications. This has the advantage of facilitating a strategic collaboration between the higher education and industrial dynamics in Nigeria; in terms of connecting the dots between theoretical and practical realignment to rejuvenate the workplace for national development. The trajectory of the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) is also lamentably stalled due to the total lack of synergy between students inchoate theoretical learning and workplace demands.
So, while the incoming administration crucially needs to start mapping the policy framework for a proactive education reform that will connect learning and training to human capital development, at another fundamental level, there is also the critical imperative of land reform as part of the development reflection. Here, land reform relates to leveraging land and agriculture as development complements for rejigging job creation and youth employment. This calls for the meeting of governance and constitutional reforms to facilitate land reform as a legitimate means of aggregating and expanding the means of production that Nigeria needs to achieve economic growth. The focus of this governance and constitutional alignment is the repeal of the Land Use Act of 1978. This has an immediate relevance of freeing up land use in ways that aggregate it for economic development. The Act contradicts all the critical norms of land use for economic growth anywhere on the globe. And its logic is only due to the lopsided unitary federalism that is suffocating developmental initiatives. Whereas land is supposed to belong to local communities in terms of customary and legal dynamics, Nigeria’s anomalous federalism gives all lands to the Nigerian government. And this becomes an immediate constraint on the socioeconomic dynamics of national development.
It not only undermines the subsidiarity principle that engineers the grassroots as the context for a people-centered development initiative, it also fundamentally ties landholding to the tough and debilitating environment of doing business in Nigeria. Unfortunately, however, when farmers—the fulcrum of any agricultural resurgence—fails to hold the titles to the lands they farm, then the agricultural unbundling will be affected in ways that prevent their being coupled to the governance reform to activate development. More important still, as Hernando de Soto argues, in most third world countries, land and other critical resources for development are held in “defective forms”. In other words, “houses built on land whose ownership rights are not adequately recorded, unincorporated businesses with undefined liability, industries located where financiers and investors cannot see them.” The problem of this observation for farmers and agricultural investors in Nigeria is therefore that any land that is not properly documented cannot be capitalized for investment and national development.
We then turn back full circle back to the governance challenge of the ease of doing business in Nigeria that links landholding to the surveying and regularizing land use for investment purpose. Nigeria needs a land development policy, with an institutional framework, that frees up land use for investment and development purposes. But in the long run, the land reform must be insinuated into a broader and more comprehensive local government/governance reform that will tap into the larger objective of restructuring of Nigeria’s federalism and all its debilitations. At this point, we have a confluence of reform fundaments—democratic governance, national development, local governance, federalism and education. And they are all intertwined into a policy framework that the next administration must be willing and politically courageous to hold together. Federalism speaks to a local government/governance imperative that instigates grassroots development founded on social capital and the subsidiarity principle. When development is genuinely taken to be about the people, then its dynamics must emanate from below, and within a rural and local governance context that unbundles the growth possibilities that could radiate democratic governance. This includes the traditional and informal apprenticeship system and the non-formal vocational training that could complement the formal educational training for the harnessing of Nigeria’s human capital for development.
The Igbo apprenticeship system is a good case in point. This singular example brings to the fore how a local innovation can serve as the nexus for developmental policymaking. It is an educational initiative that brings a solid entrepreneurial spirit into the development equation. This provides a leeway for undermining the vicious cycle of unemployment, while also redirecting focus away from the government as the sole provider of everything. And this is just one example, among many, of how the government can harness the social capital and subsidiarity represented in the local government arrangement that has already been, to all intents and purposes, excised from the federal dynamics and the framework of stultifying centralization.
The next government has a lot on its plate already. And what must be done must be dictated by the agonies of Nigerians who have had to suffer too much for the simple fact of being born into a country that lacks developmental leadership. The flash point of the urgent policy intelligence and direction are already clearly outlined in painful reliefs in the lives of Nigerians. Unemployment is not something that can be subject to bad politics that kills Nigerians. This is the politics that past governments have played. The next government cannot afford to do the same.
. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. email@example.com
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Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
By Tony Afejuku
It is time for me to wake up in the New Year in my waking mind to catch the pictures of the unseen and seen inhabitants who help to make this column the stuff of dreams. These inhabitants are my readers whose words see me any time they come to me or are called up by music of words, showers of encouragement, that help to seize and define the column.
My readers help me to see and feel the beauty and truth, ever bright, ever potent, ever lovely, in the things I set my mind to all the times it tip-toes to the rosy sky with its lure of some-thingness. I quote now select readers:
On ASUU and the “conquistadors.”
Professor Ademola Da Sylva
TA, our TA! Your resilience is amazing, your uncommon focused energy and optimism have continued, so far, to serve as essential fuel that keeps the ASUU collective struggle steadily on course, and very assuredly to the expected end. There are tricksters and there are tricksters: when a trickster-character attempts to make a society worse than he meets it, the trickster always ends up unwittingly, burning its own boat! Ditto the Speaker of HoR under reference, a chief trickster indeed, and his current ruling Party. No country’s leadership treats its academics this shabbily and disdainfully with impunity without serious short-term and long-term repercussions. Any further delay on the part of the society in taking decisive actions against these clowns and self-styled “conquistadors” could lead to a permanent and further irreparable damage to Nigerians’ warped psyche, and any meaningful development in the country. TA, the payback time is surely nigh. Cheers.
Professor Ademola Da Sylva
TA, our TA, ageless and timeless! When this current ASUU struggle shall be over, predictably victoriously, and hopefully pretty soon, either the principalities in the current government like it, or not, your adorable portrait, and name written in bold gold, shall surely adorn a conspicuous place in the nation’s Hall of Fame!; but the tricksters, interlopers, who constitute themselves, lately into a bunch of elitist-Boko Haramists, shall similarly have their names in the nation’s Hall of Shame! Kudos for an essay well thought out, and lucidly crafted! My 2 Kobo appreciation! Cheers.
Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano
Ha! Ha! Ha! You nailed the imbeciles once more. You’re quietly gathering a reputation as the Jonathan Swift of terrorist academic journalism or is it you as the columnist-academic-Professor terrorist? A student of mine said sometime ago that he would soon begin imitating your writing style. I told him in response that he should wait until he has mastered the language well enough. It’s not easy for a PG student to imitate a Professor!
Dear Mr. Afejuku, good morning. I am always eager to read your write ups. You are among the three highly rated journalists in this country. I have learnt so much from you in both content and form. I am an Associate Professor in the Arts Faculty in UNICAL. Keep feeding our brains and minds with your grip of the language, your knowledge and your expertise in journalism. God bless you immeasurably. The unfortunate thing is that you are speaking to minds that are depraved and have been inhabited by demons. Demons know nothing but wickedness and oppression. However, there’s always a day of reckoning, where the chicken will always come home to roost. Thank you profusely, Sir. Accept the expression of my esteemed regards. Have a useful and fruitful week ahead, while I await your next write up, Sir.
A Reader from the Diaspora
Good afternoon, my dear Brother. Thanks for your usually brilliant piece. It is obvious that the intent of the Buhari administration is to drop the ASUU file for its successor. Perhaps a bilateral conversion with each of the leading presidential candidates should be considered. Have a Blessed day and weekend.
Good morning, Sir. I appreciate your thoughtful article on the trickster beggars, and I love the inclusion of the allegories from the erstwhile FIFA World Cup, where professionals behaved like true professionals, upholding the integrity of the game by employing the best human and electronic resources to get the best out of the game. In our national climate, the different interest groups and personages in government and not in government, who begged ASUU to call off or suspend the strike, suddenly went mute. Even press and media personages involved in the begging charade are now fully engrossed in the flimsy stories of distraction created by the CBN sector and the Naira. The courts, which were employed by the FGN to force the lecturers to pick up their chalk by force, have ceased from advocating for the truth regarding the debilitating decay in the educational segment. A handful of those columnists, like you, who maintained a respectful distance and wrote about it truthfully, decently, genuinely, are now vindicated for writing objectively and absorbingly about the subject of begging and taking a stand. CONUA or whatever the alleged traitors of academics are called, are allowing themselves to be used to be playing a nauseating game against their mother union and colleagues.
SSANU members did not get their due for listening to the beggars. Now we are all waiting… Waiting… waiting…, while the present administration prepares for their swan song by inflicting financial pains on the populace with un-thoughtful money policies.
On Pele: World King of Football
Professor Owojecho Omoha:
Were you there at the invention moments of capture theory? You theorize the admiration of King Pele to recapture the attention of the world on coach Izilien. This vibrancy of your memory lives in poets, and only poets memorably work passionately to capture the attention of readers, the way you do, Afejuku. The year has begun with your poetry. Hold further passionate lyrics till you capture the attention of the world on Nigeria, when Coach Izilien and the rest of us shall dance gracefully turning backs on the criminals in February. This happiness makes greater sense, when you shall turn the attention of the world on Nigerians who survive the dark years in our history.
On Pele’s Warri ancestry
Professor Owojecho Omoha
A true African writer must be traditional in spite of the burden of modernity, from the ancestry, and again, back to the traditions that we know. This piece scores high on both points.
Passion and passionate passion! Now to our Waffi enclave. Pele was a Waffi Boy? This is a bad suspense and only a poet does that! I have started counting the day, to next Friday! Good morning, Sir.
Suyi Ayodele (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Nobody, I repeat, nobody can dispute those revelations. I sat in divination sessions with my late uncle. Reading this piece brought back graphic images of those times. The Ifa priest was right, is right and will eternally be right. This is one of your best I have ever read. How did we abandon that plain religion, IFA? And about your younger brother, pity that you folks did not do what Ifa prescribed. It is always like that with Ifa, the Atori Eni ti o suhan se (The repairer of humanity). I would have personally ‘bewitched’ you if you have not written this! VINTAGE AFEJUKU!!!!!
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Professor Olu Obafemi (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
This is a very fascinating treatise, especially because of its crisscross transcendent of the abstractive ineffable to the physical/archaeological referents. The narrative’s rhetorical strategy is suspenseful with the capacity to provoke insatiable yearnings for the remit of the story. These days Africans in the Diaspora are Evoking DNA identity/Descent retrieval. Unfortunately, Pele has left.
Professor Sony Awhefeada (On Pele’s Warri Ancestry)
This is thoughtful, enriching and instructive. I wish you published this when Pele was alive he would have come home. And how is your younger brother now? I am really moved.
Nonso, Owerri resident (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Good evening, Afejuku. I am totally intrigued by your write up on Pele’s Warri ancestry. I am enchanted with the eloquence of your pen that glides through the white sheet of paper and the attendant satisfaction that gladdened my heart to have stumbled upon this great literary work. Allow me to say that the article is un-putdown-able and the accuracy of the Divine revelation of the Ifa Priest should be announced to the world. Who knows? Or may-be Pele’s offspring may be interested in knowing the tree they were carved from … Thank you for the great work.
Professor Dan Chima Amadi (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Good, good historical touch. I could not stop.
Roland Uyimulam Aleshi, from Calabar (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
Greetings, Mr. Afejuku, I read your well researched write-up on Pele’s Warri ancestry. You impressed me a lot with useful information and updates on Pele’s Warri ancestry ties. Well done.
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Professor Mabel Evwierhoma (On Pele’s Warri ancestry)
I agree (from personal experience) that the art of divination is a means of finding out deep truths. We could know more, from such researches, but how can they be untainted by the factors of selectivity and monetary inducements? – May we know that which will not lead to perdition.
What do I say other than to thank my readers and readers, listed and un-listed, whose words charm me beyond any measurable afflatus? My nib gives applause to your lovely music of words – whose peroration I charm myself to let be.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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