Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Port Harcourt : A State of Emergency

I was already late. So after waiting a while for a taxi and seeing none, I "climbed" on an Okada to the park where I was to join a bus to Owerri. But I couldn’t make it to the park. A series of sporadic and close-sounding gunshots make sure of that! Preferring not to be the subject of a tragedy, i quickly scanned the surroundings for a concrete post or wall. Not finding any, i hugged the murky ground at my feet and with this action went my precious white shirt and my traveling to Owerri that morning. Everything happened in a split second; in emergency mode.

That’s the nature of living in Port Harcourt these days. You can encounter danger in the next minute and equally lose you life if your chi is not awake. The city is now a state (city) of emergency. Though everyone still pretends it’s not. But when I think of it now, I ask myself, when has the city not been tethering on the brink of strife since I grew conscious enough to make my choices. Back then it used to be one of the numerous inter-ethnic conflicts: Andoni –Ogoni, Ijaw – Okirika, Ogoni –Andoni etc.

It’s only enjoying attention because it now involves the kidnapping of expatriates and the direct threatening of governance. When it happened only at the “watersides” – the slums, nobody paid any attention or when attention was paid, it was out of political expediency. Now all those who killed and maimed in the name of ethnic conflict has drank the concoction of penury, vengeance, criminality and of course, courage. They are attacking the larger community. Its just an example of what happens when politics is played with just about everything, from checking religious fanatism to tackling poverty. Peace takes a walk when this happens, and unfortunately with it my precious white shirt. But I am too glad it was only my shirt.

Monday, August 06, 2007



I’ve been off the blogging circuit for a while and though I’ve been itching to lend my voice to issues, somehow, I’ve been cocooned off by constraints. But when this issue of subjecting would be graduands of Covenant University to compulsory HIV screening before the award of degrees to them came up, it also drove up a couple of latent questions from the depths of my mind.

Not to bore you much, I helped myself to the answer to one of the questions that plagued my mind. It’s about Character. What’s Character? The dictionary says that character is “all the qualities and features that makes a person, a group or a place different from others”. Character is the reason Covenant University is doing what it’s doing. We all know that an awardee has to be found “worthy” in “learning and character” before a degree is awarded him. But that is where my dilemma steps in. What constitutes Character? …all the qualities? Tallness, Thinness, HIV status? What? So my questions began.

Does the health status of anyone contribute to character when viewed in the light of the education environment? If a person is dying, and insists on acquiring formal education, does anybody have the right to deprive them of such? Where the persons health status (You might want to read “HIV status”) does not affect their physical, mental and emotional strengths, does that state of health merit being used as a tool as against such individuals in their pursuit of academic glory?

Who has the absolute right to condemn someone by such standards and thus deprive the person? The Chancellor, Registrar, Senate….? Who? Does it mean that if somebody makes straight As or a First Class, the person would not be given a certificate, just because of their HIV status? Please.

Probably, the University authorities believe that whosoever got the virus had it as a result of the sexual promiscuity while forgetting there are tens of ways through which the virus can be contracted. I ask again, within whose purview does the right to administer spiritual cleansing fall? Chancellor Oyedepo or God through Christ (when you sincerely seek His face). So whats the news that they would not be allowed to graduate except they undergo spiritual cleansing about? To me it sounds like info straight out of Gulu, Uganda (apologies to the people of Gulu ).Christ! Even Christ didn’t discriminate!

A persons HIV status does not stop them from contributing positively to society. Rather by depriving someone who has studied for 4 years of their right to a certificate, you would be encouraging them to become bitter and vengeful. They might even want to spread the virus around in order to spite the earth that treated them badly.

A judge, administrator or someone with the responsibility to make decisions that drastically affect peoples lives has to look at the bigger picture, and in an instance where such a person is a minister, he has to be careful not to sin and be seen to sin! Deprivation of civil liberties under whatever guise is a very sensitive issue especially when such deprivation inspires one to criminality and hate. In more radical societies, The Covenant University authorities could easily be in trouble.

I implore them to show the students all the Love they can and stop this issue about HIV screening before graduation. I wonder what it’s meant to achieve, anyway, because the positive still moves into the wider society, screening or no screening. It’s Ok to screen before you admit, though. That in my opinion can help save the lives of the other students. Somehow.

Mr. Nathaniel (I think that’s his name) the Registrar was on TV last night dousing the flames of this controversial issue, but Sir, am sorry to say this. You did not convince me of the rightness of your cause. And oh, for the denials, there is surely no smoke without fire! My constraints are still here, so I will rest my case for now.