Thursday, 13 September 2012

HIV Epidemic In Nigeria…A Good Example Of Nonchalant Attitude Towards A Serious Problem!

I am appalled by the fact that despite the continued rising threat of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, the effort of the Nigeria government to match the virus is nothing to write home about. About 3.6 million Nigerians are living with the virus today and that is one out of every 11 people living with the virus in the world. It seems that the Nigerian government is not perturbed by these figures. The government seems very much interested in politicking and looting the commonwealth than taking a decisive, strong and confrontational approach to deal with the virus. This is a very bad way to tackle a pressing problem!

The implication of this nonchalant attitude towards the virus is that a lot of people especially the young people who make up the bulk of our population and work force and of course the future of our country are daily succumbing to the virus, not even in tens but in hundreds. I am scared that there will be a time in future when there will be no more young people to take over the mantle of leadership of this country but God forbid we will ever get there. This is scary indeed and that should scare a hell out of every living creature and right thinking person in Nigeria. The picture I am looking at now is very bleak. It is nothing to write home about and will become hydra headed and monstrous if this nonchalant attitude of the Nigeria government continues.

The implication of the poor quality of this picture is that Nigeria is today bearing one of the highest burdens of the virus in the world and that burden is still appreciating instead of depreciating and that is exactly what makes the whole story so sad. This is not good news and should be a source of concern to all of us and I mean it. The saddest part is that the Anti-Retroviral Therapy that is meant to manage the virus is nowhere within the reach of the millions living with the virus. Even the little in circulation is being hindered by injustice in the circulation and distribution system. This has led to the exclusion of those who are in genuine and urgent need of the drugs even as those who do not need them smuggle them and make thousands in profit in the black market. This is unfortunate, completely unacceptable and somebody must bury his or her head in shame!

It is scandalous and even sadder to know that patients still die of HIV today in 2012 in Nigeria. Elsewhere HIV could be perfectly managed to allow those living with it to live almost their full lifespan. In fact, in the United Kingdom today, you could just go online, request a free kit that will be sent to you, take a swab of your mouth and send it back in an included prepaid envelope and your HIV status result will be with you in less than a week! Why should this case be different in Nigeria? I have seen people living with HIV for over 25 years here in the United Kingdom and they are very healthy and doing their everyday normal job and even having babies born free of the virus. Would it be a sin for this bright picture to be exhibited in Nigeria?

And if you think that what I have been saying is very shocking, wait until you here the next thing I am going to say and that is the fact that 1 in 3 of those living with the virus in Nigeria today do not even know they have the virus. How would they know if they do not go for regular tests? Due to the ignorance of their serostatus, they will go on to infect others or get married and infect their wives who will in turn pass it on to their kids. This is sad and people should be encouraged to go out there and have the test even as the Nigeria government must make itself accountable to these people and pretend at least to be a responsible government for once. Those who are positive should take good care of themselves and ensure that they do not pass on the virus to others while those who are negative should strive to continue being negative and always having protected sex is the key!

Above all, everyone should play a part by ensuring that condoms are always used during sex and that should be the right condom size too.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

What is the point of studying law?

Yesterday, a young college graduate held me to ransom! He wanted to know why I chose to study law and not History, Physics, Mathematics, English Literature or something else. It was a fascinating intellectual lucubration. By the way, the young man was actually wrong in assuming that I did not read something else before delving into law. In fact, before going to the law school, I had already studied Mass Communications majoring in Print Journalism and also practiced as a journalist for over five years. Being a journalist, I thought that a career in law especially Mass Media law might be a very good idea. I did not tell the young man this, however I did promise to get back to him in a very formal way as soon as possible. This blog is therefore a fulfilment of that promise.

For majority of those wanting to explore a career in law, we could fairly argue that the main motivating factor is to contribute towards building a just, free and fair society. The often repeated cliché amongst lawyers is the burning desire to see a future fair to all and a world where justice and fairness must appear to the right thinking members of the society to have been fairly dispensed without looking at the wherewithal or status of parties to a dispute.

Right from the time of ancient legal philosophers and jurists, law has always been associated with justice and fairness and since the year 1543 when Lady Justice was first blindfolded by a German Sculptor Hans Gieng on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen in the city of Berne, law has also become not only a symbol of blind justice, objectivity, impartiality and truth but also a driving force in the maintenance of law and order hence the full sense in arguing that law is the soul of the society. It is principally because of this reason that successive generations had continued to reserve a pride of place in the society to the study of law bearing in mind also the role law could play towards safeguarding lives and property, rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad ones. It is purely because of these reasons that I chose to study law; I want bad guys to be punished and good ones to be rewarded.

Before going further, it is pertinent to point out that finding an acceptable meaning of the term ‘law’ is a controversial one and indeed an uphill task. Finding a common ground in understanding the meaning of the term ‘law’ is very difficult and depending on who is being asked, the term ‘law’ could mean different things to different people. It could symbolise an honour or class elevation for those involved; I do not subscribe to that! It could also be a force for good and deterrence to evil; this is where I stand! And yet to others it could be a symbol of oppression or even misuse of power and disorder rather than order.

A young Blackman in Peckham High Street in South London will definitely give a different meaning to it from a young Whiteman of same age in a High Street in Cornwall. How about looking at law from the perspective of different world religions? Would a western law on divorce mean same thing to Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews? How about looking at it from the angle of customary laws of Asian and African countries? And how would you explain to a secularist that Sharia and Canon laws are also laws or that the ancient pagan Roman law played an important part in shaping the meaning, development and contemporary understanding of law in the west and the rest of the world? Such definitional and ideological struggles are exacerbated by discrepancies between different religious systems and their competing truth claims. The study of law therefore becomes imperative in order to make the crooked way straight!

Am sure that by now that you must have agreed with me that these perceived controversies as to the meaning of law makes it not pointless but reasonable for a pride of place to be given to the study of law. Ever since the Roman Catholic Church used her monopoly of the Canon Law to uphold and justify the doctrine of inquisition, many world religions, states and tyrannies have continued to compete ferociously to outdo each other in totalitarianism and autocracy in the name of law. The Jewish Pogrom, the South African Apartheid, the Armenian Genocide, the American racism, the on-going shooting of protesters and killing of innocent citizens in Syria are just some of handy examples of evil being perpetrated in the name of law. The consequence of these developments is obvious; it is increasingly becoming difficult to know what exactly is lawful and what is not or the boundary between legality and illegality. Situations like these make the study and knowledge of law very imperative and more urgent than it has ever been and that is the reason why I joined the bandwagon!

Law is therefore very essential in order to set a boundary and standard for human conducts and even as that point is noted, we should also not overlook the importance of law as a potent instrument in defending the rights of the people, safeguarding the life and property of the citizens as well as arbitrating over disputes and assuring the commoners, the poor and the oppressed that the law will always be on their side as their last hope against the ‘brutal hands’ of the mighty and the rich. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A balanced justice!

Many people were definitely shocked with the sentencing of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik who killed 77 people in a bomb attack and gun rampage just over a year ago. For these atrocities, he was handed 21 years imprisonment and must serve a minimum of 10 years. He would have been committed to a secure mental health unit if the court had accepted the prosecutor’s plea of insanity.

Following the massacre Breivik was charged with voluntary homicide and committing acts of terror over the attacks in Oslo and Utoya Island on July 22, 2011. His sentencing generated loads of comments from both sides. Those in favour of harsh sentencing condemned the verdict as a mere pampering of a criminal who deserves to be killed or serve a very long sentence with a hard labour while the liberals welcomed it as a giant step for humanity and a great leap for civilization.

But, however you see it, the question of modern criminal justice system has become a perennial one; it will never go away. The intensity of the debate surrounding this topic has been getting too hot lately, polarising the community into two opposing factions. On one side are those who feel strongly that the criminal justice system has become so soft due to the continuous ‘decline of the rehabilitative ideal’ which has resulted in hard criminals like sex offenders, drug addicts and violent offenders being let off the hook instead of being made to face the consequences of their actions.  

On the other side however are those who feel strongly that the criminal justice system must be dispensed not arbitrarily but with respect and in accordance with the principles of human rights, rule of law and protocols especially that set down by the European Convention on Human Rights in order not to appear deliberately retributive. The opponents of this type of soft approach to the justice system are not convinced. Their argument is that criminals committed crime and by so doing deprived others of their fundamental human rights and as a result the right thing would be to deprive them of their own rights too. They contend that things have got out of hand in the name of human rights and to show how far the situation has deteriorated they cited the introduction of private prisons and contracted prison warders both of which effectively commercialised the criminal justice system.

But it is also not amusing that the system on the other hand had become so severe to the extent that a country like America is not bothered that she holds two million of her citizens in confinement on any given day. It is because of this that I am using this platform to ignite a debate to see how we are a going to strike a reasonable balance to solve this perennial problem. Breivik sentencing may have been too lenient but then something more than that may end up being too cruel and work against the gain we have made so far in giving dignity to humanity.

Do we really need to punish an offender cruelly to teach others a lesson? I guess the answer should be no! How about his human rights and the fact that any form of inhuman punishment would mean a violation of his person and the whole humanity and would surely work against the spirit of Article 3 of the ECHR? It does not really matter what people say but the main thing that should preoccupy us is the fact that these offenders’ actions are tempting enough for us to unleash our primitive uncivilised behaviour. That will be a disaster if we succumb to the temptation for it would mean taking humanity hundreds of miles back to the Stone Age. The zeal to punish should not make us forget the need to treat humans with respect and dignity. The fact that we are poked in the eyes should not be a reason for us to overact. The balance has to be maintained at all time. The maxim in criminal has always been proportionality and we should keep it that way!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Those women with extra male hormones perform wonders…Please let them be!

I understood that sometime ago, just before the commencement of the London 2012, the Nigerian national female football coach sacked all the lesbians and 'tomboys' in the team. Her reason was that lesbians and 'tomboys' have no place in Nigerian culture and by extension in the female football in the country. How she arrived at who is or who is not a lesbian is still a puzzle Okumephuna is yet to understand!

For 'tomboys', definitely when you see one, you will know! They behave like men, hence the name 'tomboy'. But does being a 'tomboy' translate into being a lesbian? For those who are educated, enlightened and are at home with the science of chromosomes, the answer is obvious and it is NO! And that should be in capital letters!

The reason why some men behave like women or appear very effeminate or some women appear like men or behave like 'tomboy' boils down to one thing and that is our sex hormones. We have three of them and they play various parts in both men and women's sexual development and maturity.

The hormones made by the ovaries are known as female sex hormones and the two outstanding ones are the oestrogen and the progesterone. The ovaries also produce some of the male hormone, the testosterone. In a nutshell, women sex hormones are mainly oestrogen and progesterone while that of men is called testosterone.

From the above, the implication for a woman who is unlucky to produce too much male hormone called testosterone would be that she will mostly likely end up appearing more like a man than a woman or what we call today a 'tomboy'. This will not mean that she will be a lesbian or that she is a lesbian. In fact, a lady could be a 'tomboy' without being a lesbian just like a guy could be so effeminate and still be a gigolo!

However, I am strongly of the opinion that there is a correlation between too much female sex hormones in a man being responsible for his being gay just like too much male sex hormones in a woman could make her to be a lesbian! This is not a scientific view but I am of a strong opinion that there is a high percentage of truth in this assertion. This situation could also lead to bisexuality and this is a simple science!

Now the main question becomes if the Nigerian coach was right in sacking those lesbians and 'tomboys'? My answer is NO! She was wrong and her decision stinks of ignorance, bigotry, lack of knowledge and not being at home with the science of chromosomes. And we saw the consequences in the just concluded London 2012; a woeful failure by our female competitors especially in games like sprinting.

In some games, lesbians, 'tomboys' and those women who have too many male hormones have more advantage when compared with other women with normal average hormones. Some examples will suffice here. Look at sports like female football, boxing, BMX, javelin and discuss throwing and similar sports, women who are lesbians, 'tomboys' or who have too many male hormones often dominate and the reason is obvious; because they are either lesbians, tomboys or have too much male hormones. This statement however does not mean that all of them are lesbians, tomboys or have too many male hormones. But it is certainly true to a reasonable extent to associate their prowess in the game to these three factors! Believe me!

It is therefore sad that this ignorant coach took such a rash and unwise decision and this action calls for an urgent need for Nigeria to always think twice before taking decisions that will come back to haunt her. We need these girls and please let them be. Those extra male hormones perform wonders in sports! London 2012 is my witness!

This article is highly opinionated and I declare that I have no conflict of interest. Your criticism and contribution to the debate is therefore highly needed!

Monday, 27 August 2012

When the church gets dirty!

The Roman Catholic Church again! When will the Roman Catholic Church stop meddling with politics and state affairs? Yesterday, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland read letters in over 500 Catholic parishes in the country urging them to protest vigorously the plan of the Scottish Government to introduce same sex marriage. I find this deplorable for the simple fact that it is not right for the church to meddle with the business of the state.

The mission of the state and that of religion are two different missions. The religion is here to nourish the spiritual needs of her members while the state is there for the temporal needs of the citizens. While the religions focus mainly on their own members-for instance Roman Catholics for Roman Catholics, Anglican for Anglicans, Quakers for Quakers, Muslims for Muslims-the state is there to offer a level playing ground for all. This is important not only to ensure a level playing ground for all but also to ensure that no one religion dominates and imposes her dogmas on others. It will also ensure that the rights of minority religions are protected in states with majority religion.

It is because of this that the state must strive to maintain a secular stand and work vigorously towards distancing herself from any religion or adopting any religion as the state religion. It is also for this reason that I have been in the vanguard of the call to separate the state from religion and enthrone the American version of First Amendment in the constitution of all the countries in the world! To refresh your memory the first amendment said;

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

This is very important bearing in mind the formidable role the church could play in influencing a government to do evil against its citizens. The 'silent' role played by the Roman Catholic Church during the Jewish Holocaust is still fresh in our mind! And the fact that the Vatican state played a formidable role in allowing the Nazis to escape to different parts of the world is deplorable and shows the danger of allowing the church to meddle with state. Is it also not shocking that a civil case of trespass by Pussy Riots in Russia’s Christ the Saviour Orthodox Cathedral suddenly became a criminal case just because the Orthodox was involved? And think also of the cozy relationship between the state and religion in Iran!

Bearing this in mind, one would have thought that the governments and the churches must have learnt their lesson, but it seems to me that their memory is very short. It is against this backdrop that I am highly disappointed about the news that the New York Cardinal, Timothy Dolan, the nation's most prominent Catholic prelate, will deliver the closing blessing to the Republican National Convention in Florida next week.

This is highly embarrassing! The Roman Catholic Church is a highly respectable church and it will do her more good to still carry herself with some dignity.  The cardinal’s choice is not good for democracy and it is neither good for the church. There is increasingly cozy relationship between the state and the church and this should worry all the lovers of democracy worldwide. It seems to me that the American Roman Catholic Church is working very hard to play the role being played today by the Ayatollahs in Iran! This is very dangerous and you should be scared!

I think that at the moment we are better off and contented living in a secular state where laws are product of rational thinking by rational beings and am pretty sure that we cannot even begin to contemplate or imagine living in state where laws are imposed on people simply because one man claimed that God revealed a book to him in a mountain or a cave. This is 21st century and the idea of theological laws in 21st century democracy is ridiculous and should make us to press the panic button.

Nigeria is in a state of mess today due to where the two main religions of Islam and Christianity have put us. Despite being a secular state, at least in theory, these religions have succeeded in cobwebbing into every sphere of public life in the poor country! Could you believe that despite the fact that people still die of lack of adequate healthcare in Nigeria today, the government still sponsors pilgrimages yearly to Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Rome? Since when did religion become more important than the health of the people? The health of the people should be the supreme law!

I am therefore worried that Cardinal Dolan would appear in Tampa to ‘endorse’ the Republican agenda and I have no doubt that this gesture will cause an irreparable damage to the image of the Roman Catholic Church not only in the United States but across the globe. If the Republicans invade any country tomorrow if they win the next election, the implication would be obvious; the Roman Catholic church endorsed and blessed it just as she did for the Nazis in the early years of Hitler’s government and of course the crusade; Deo volente!

This will also damage the ability of the Roman Catholic Church to be a moral voice for the oppressed and the voiceless and deprive her of the moral pedestal to play an opposition role to the excesses of any Republican government in power.