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.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Danger of Religion Devoid of Reason!

It is safe to say that religion just like democracy is madness of many for the benefit of few! It is also a fact that it is opium of the people. I did not invent the latter saying; I think Karl Marx did. Religion could also be a recipe for a disaster if not cooked well with reason. It seems to me that I know exactly what Marx meant when he opined that religion is the opium of the people.

When it comes to religion, the lack of that courage and power to go beyond the boundary of reason and then the presence of devout madness of the followers benefit the few who are the leaders. Often these followers are brainwashed, hypnotized and incited to hate, fight, war, destroy, demolish, bomb and kill in the name of God in order to reap an eternal reward in heaven and hate, fight, war, demolish, bomb and kill they will surely do and often carry it to the next level. The saddest part is that they often believe these rubbishes from their religious leaders for religion itself has beclouded their sense of thinking and reasoning. Do not get me wrong! There is nothing wrong with religion, only that one not tampered with reason is akin to a high-speed train without control! And I do also recognize that there are genuine and outstanding men of God worthy of emulation! I stand in awe of them and eulogize their good works, determination, honesty and zeal!

For these unsuspecting followers, they have to believe because these are the words of their religious leaders who speak in the name of God. This is interesting because these religious leaders who are cowards and are aware of these loopholes will never stop using them to achieve their ulterior motives. These religious leaders will send these poor souls to war but will never go themselves or even send their families as an exemplary act of dedication, sacrifice and service. If they do go to the war at all, they will cowardly be at the back while their followers are in front to receive the bullet for them. They will never lead these wars, for these wars cannot be justified. They are conceived out of selfishness, ignorance, and hatred and for other ulterior motives, just to massage their hopeless and selfish egos. I do not need to prove this, for you need to see these religious leaders and their followers to know that something is wrong. By their fruit, thou shall know them! They are wolves amongst the sheep clothing.

These religious leaders are often very rich! They are rich beyond human comprehension! But they are also very crafty and delight in brainwashing their poor tithe-paying followers into believing that the riches are from and for God and that they should pay more tithes otherwise they stand accused of robbing God. And the poor souls easily believe this balderdash even as these religious leaders enjoy life in the fast lane! They dress well, own expensive cars, have all their families including wives and concubines ordained as pastors and imams as if it is only their family that God found worthy to be bestowed with the mandate to lord it over these poor gullible souls. They have fleet of cars, private jets and houses in various parts of the world whereas their flocks are the poorest of the poor. Even their kids are sent abroad to receive the best education, courtesy of the tithe paid by the poor ignorant followers.

If that is sad, wait until you hear the saddest part, which is that these followers do not even believe that their leaders are exploiting them. In fact, they are ever ready to spill the last pint of blood in their body to defend 'their man of God'. This is exactly what happened when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran placed fatwa on Salmon Rushdie in 1989 for writing the 'Satanic Verses'. Suddenly, every Muslim wanted to kill him in the name of Allah. But it might interest you to know that most of these people do not even know who is Salmon Rushdie, where he came from, where he is living, what he looked like and what the book is all about. In fact, I bet you that most of them did not actually see or read the book in the first place, but they all wanted to kill him so that their reward will be great in heaven. And the Ayatollah was busy living life in the fast lane in a secluded mansion somewhere in Iran.

This type of madness is not peculiar to Islam. It is everywhere. In Africa, religious leaders in Uganda and elsewhere are in full support of the campaign to either imprison or annihilate homosexuals wherever they are found in the continent. This type of call do not often lack support and under the guise of doing the will of God they have taken the law into their hands and began to mete out jungle justice to their own brothers and sisters in the name of God.

This is sad! I therefore call upon governments everywhere to distance themselves from religion and work towards separating the state from religion. Democracy is a public affair; religion is not. It is something that is very personal and therefore should begin and end in the bedroom. Africa is still very much mesmerized by the idea of fusing religion and democracy. That should not be for it is even irreligious to combine religion and democracy. The recipe for human rights abuse is allowing religion to dictate to democracy or be a cornerstone or yardstick by which a country is ruled.

These governments should also monitor closely these religious leaders and if need be regulate them and be ready, bold and courageous enough to bring them to justice if they contravene any law of the land for nobody should be seen to be above the law. The beauty of democracy is better appreciated when everybody is under the law!

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Clueless Arrogant Government!

A mysterious disease is killing Ugandan children but it seems that the government of Uganda hasn't got a clue on what to do or how to tackle the problem! By the way, what do you expect from a government that has channeled all her energy and effort in enacting the world most notorious anti-gay bill? That wasted time, money and energy witch-hunting the country's homosexuals should have been channeled into research on these emerging diseases in the country especially Ebola, HIV and AIDS which are devastating the population. Uganda should learn how to put her priorities right!

The new disease is called ‘Nodding Syndrome’ or ‘Nodding Head Disease’, because those who have it nod their heads and sometimes go into epileptic-like fits. The disease stunts children's growth and destroys their cognition, rendering them unable to perform small tasks. Some victims don't recognize their own parents. Ugandan officials say some 3,000 children in the East African country suffer from the affliction. Some caregivers even tie ‘Nodding Syndrome’ children up to trees so that they don't have to monitor them every minute of the day. What a pathetic disaster!

I challenge the Ugandan government to use same vigour, energy, drive and enthusiasm she manifested in drafting the present Ugandan anti-gay bill to find a solution to this epidemic. I am really concerned that Uganda had always been in the news lately for wrong reasons especially for the violation of human rights of its citizens. The infamous anti-gay bill is just one of them but then when it comes to using same energy, she lacks a clue and becomes helpless like a clueless child beggar. The story of how the country was helplessly devastated by both the HIV and AIDS virus is still fresh in our mind; the response of the Ugandan government was very poor, inadequate and no where near to the vigour shown in the present anti-gay bill.

Let me reiterate that African countries have no need for all these anti-gay bills. They are a pure violation of human rights and a distraction from the main thing; the building and development of their continent. More energy should be focused on substances and not on shadows. Homosexuality is the least of African problems; corruption, poor infrastructures, high maternal mortality rate, teenage pregnancy and the likes of them are and should be our main focus. It is sad indeed that we are leaving all these areas that demand an urgent attention to focus on what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms. That should not be our problem; it should be theirs!