I will define Community Development as: Any program, plan of action or activity, embarked upon by either an individual, a group of people, or a community as a whole, which will bring some positive changes, enhancement and growth into the lives or life-styles of individuals, families, the community and, thereby, of the society generally. The program, plan of action or activity could be in categories.
I have classified the NEEDS and the CHALLENGES they throw into four categories, as follows:
1. Infrastructures And Physical Facilities.
ii. Social, Cultural, Traditional Activities And the Dynamics For Their
Appreciation And Preservation.
iii. Individual Psychology, Philosophy, Principles And Morality Of Life
Orientations And Dimensions.
iv. Visionary, Revolutionizing And Pioneer Spirit to See Beyond Our Noses, and to do such things as: to Accept And Champion the Cause For the Review And Abrogation Of Inhuman Customary Practices, Ideas, Attitudes And Moral Values.
Community Development is a matter that has engaged the minds, attention and actions of all humankind, with astounding results, since Creation. Humankind includes you, your forebears, families, predecessors and successors in this organization, and my humble self.
MESSAGE: THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!!!
Mr. President, whenever I deal with a subject-matter, I have always liked to deal with it exhaustively. On this occasion, I know that if I do that, this Address will get to be much too long. Therefore, I crave your indulgence, to discuss only one or two of the sub-headings I have outlined in each of the four categories. For the constraint of time, I shall reserve the others for next opportunity. I hope.
The First Category presents the Needs and Challenges for providing:
1. INFRASCTURES AND PHYSICAL FACILITIES.
These Needs are to overcome the lack of such developmental facilities in the Community. Challenges are, therefore, thrown to the citizenry, to find the wherewithal, to:
i. Build of Roads, Bridges and Drainage, And Their Maintenance.
ii. Control Environmental Degradation, such as by Gully Erosion,
Deforestation And Desert Encroachment, Etc.
iii. Provide Portable Water Supply, Distribution Tanks And Pipes,
And Their Maintenance.
iv. Set Up Rural Electrification Network, And Its Maintenance
v. Construct School Buildings; Supply Equipment; Staffing; etc, And Their
vi. Construct Hospital Buildings; Supply Equipment; Staffing; etc, And Their
vii. Construct Town, Village Halls And Playgrounds And Their Maintenance.
viii. Build Open And Lock-up Market Stalls; Motor Parks, etc And Their
ix. Set Up Welfare And Poverty Alleviation Projects by way of: Giving A
Helping Hand to the Poor For Economic Well-being; Donations Of Basic
Needs to Institutions and the Poor; Awarding Of Scholarships For Poor
And the Gifted Children; And by
x. Lifting Others As Go, In Every Way Possible; and the Follow-up.
MESSAGE: WE ARE A COMMUNITY IN A HURRY FOR PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
The Second Category shows up the Needs and the Challenges for the maintenance of:
2. SOCIAL, TRADITIONAL, CULTURAL, REVIVAL ACTIVITIES AND THE DYNAMICS FOR THEIR PRESERVATION.
These exercises are to stem the tide of unwarranted encroachment and threat of extinction of the Culture. They are also for the preservation of the Culture for the people’s identity, which challenges to:
i. Encourage Age Grading For Sons And Daughters Together. Some others do it
ii. Reform Secret Societies And Cults, including Unfriendly And
iii. Streamline the Acquisition Of Titles and the Celebration With Fanfare by
Men And Women.
iv. Reform the Celebration Of Marriages According to Traditional and
v. Encourage Cultural and Development Organizations.
vi. Institute Community Government, the Igwe And the Igwe-in-Council; etc.
vii. Reforming Traditional Burial Rites.
viii. Discontinue with Cultural And Traditional Widowhood Practices; And
ix. Abolish the Osu And Oru Caste System and the Stigma.
MESSAGE: BE PATRIOTIC! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
The Third Category highlights the Needs and the Challenges to review :
3. INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOLOGOCAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, MORALITY, AND CHARACTER DIMENSIONS, WHICH CHALLENGES INDIVIDUALS, TOWARDS:
i. Strengthening Their Credible Psychological, Philosophical, Principles
And Moral Values of Life OR To Reform Them.
ii. Reviewing Their Overall Human Relationships vis a vis Responsible
Friendship, Leadership And Followership, and to Appreciate the Need
For Espousing Better Approaches.
MESSAGE: THE TIME TO FACE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
Then, the Fourth Category points to the Needs and the Challenges to Develop:
4. VISIONARY, REVOLUTIONIZING AND PIONEERING SPIRIT TO SEE BEYOND ONE’S NOSE, AND TO DO SUCH THINGS AS: TO ACCEPT TO CHAMPION THE CAUSE FOR THE REVIEW AND ABROGATION OF INHUMAN CUSTOMARY PRACTICES, AND
5. DECADED IDEAS, ATTITUTES AND MORAL VALUES.
I wish to call your attention to 6he fact that, in as much as the other three categories are important in the life and existence of a community, that this fourth one for the revolutionizing of its life-style is of paramount importance. This is to facilitate the application of the Universal Fundamental Human Rights in the life of the families and the Communities, and to eschew those practices which constitute:
i. Gender Discriminations, Abuses, Violence Against the Girl-Child
ii. Abuses And Violence Especially Against Widows.
iii. Female Circumcision Or Female Genital Mutilations.
iv. Bargaining For And Payment Of Bride-Price.
v. Childhood Marriage.
vi. Total Disinheritance Of the Girl-Child And Women.
vii. Burdensome Child Labour.
viii. Trafficking Of Children And Women.
ix. Maintenance Of the Osu/Oru Caste System And the Stigma.
x. Addiction To Juju, Magical, Mystical Medicinal Arts And Practices.
MESSAGE: ALL OF THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES ARE CRYING OUT TO YOU FOR CONCERTED ACTION FOR CHANGE! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
1. CATEGORY 1: INFRASTURE AND PHYSICAL FACILITIES
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
This is the category that our people have embraced very much. This is due to the fact that the people have come to know, appreciate and live with these facilities in the urban areas. Therefore, they place on them the need to continue with such standards of life in their village homes. There is always the urge to go and set up such facilities in the villages they call home, since the Government is not able to provide it all outside the urban areas. Hence, there is the insistence and rush to set up the physical infrastructures and facilities. The citizenry then collects levies to achieve these projects. The people also pay extra to have such facilities and services extended to their homes. It was very admirable to consider the availability of such amenities as portable water supply, for the benefit of those who cannot afford private extensions.
MESSAGE: WELL DONE! BE STRONG AND ENERGETIC! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO MORE OF THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
2. CATEGORY 11: SOCIAL, CULTURAL, ACTIVITIES, AND THE DYNAMICS FOR THEIR SURVIVAL
This is for the Revival, Renewal, Appreciation And Protection of the Culture, to keep it from adulteration or extinction, and not to lose its communal appeal and identity. Because the aspect, like title-taking, is for individual glorification and exuberance, people rush to do them for themselves. Individuals are also honored with the conferment of titles by the Igwe (king).
MESSAGE: ALL OF THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES ARE CRYING OUT TO YOU FOR ATTENTION. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
3. CATEGORY 111: INDIVIDUAL PHILOSOPHY, IDEALS, PRINCIPLES, AND MORAL STANDARDS DIMENSIONS OF LIFE.
Mr. President, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: This is where individuals hide or expose themselves to public viewing, assessment, and judgment, in the Court of Public Opinion. This is because it gives the yardstick for the measurement of the length and breath and depth of the man or the woman. This gives the totality of the individuals. It gives the general tone and tempo and the disposition of the human elements of the community or society.
I will approach this section by asking a series of questions so that individuals will answer them for themselves and, thereby, categorize themselves as either an asset or a disaster to the community.
111.i. FOR: THE STRENGTHENING OF WORTHY PHILOSOPHY, IDEALS, PRINCIPLES AND MORAL VALUES OF LIFE, I will ask:
What are the values that govern and enrich your life?
Do you believe in God - the God of Christianity, OR: Do you believe in the god of Omenanaism?; Buddhism?; Atheism?; Agnosticism?; Hinduism?; Animism?; Islamism? Any other?
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, OR: Do you believe in Juju/Magical/Mystical Powers?
Do you put your trust in God and believe in the blessings He could shower on you, OR: Do you believe in yourself and have confidence only in your own ability to chart your own course and direct your life?
Do you pray, believe in the efficacy of Prayers, and make direct prayers to God from deep down your heart and soul, OR: Do you only pray as a matter of routine, and read prayers prepared by others?
Do you listen to the small, still, inner voice in your head as the voice of the Holy Spirit and conscience. OR: Do you think of it as disturbing and then dismiss it?
Do you look at girl-children and women and widows as human beings to be appreciated and treated with respect, OR: Do you see them as sex objects, chattels of possession, ridicule and abuse?
Do you believe in the principles of Fundamental Human Rights in the Constitution of Nigeria and their application to people, OR: Do you believe in OMENANA, hook, line and sinker?
Are you the one who tells people what you think they want to hear, OR: Do you tell them the situation as it is?
Do you practice nepotism and defend your actions and those of the people you love, willy-nilly, OR: Are you open to criticisms, corrections and suggestions?
Are you an Optimist OR A pessimist?; An Introvert OR An Extrovert?
Do you show maturity in matters by listening to and considering all the sides of an issue before making a decision, OR: Do you take sides and jump to conclusions on partial information?
Do you waste time and energy bickering, OR: Do you get on with the work that needs to be done?
MESSAGE: THE TIME TO GIVE TRUTHFUL ANSWERS AND INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF, AND TO BEND OR BREAK WITH IT, IS NOW. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
111.ii. FOR: ESPOUSING BETTER PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR RESPONSIBLE FRIENDSHIPS, LEADERSHIP AND FOLLOWERSHIP, I will ask:
Do you believe in the Golden Rule, which is: To do unto others as you would have then do unto you OR Do you ride people slipshod?
Do you believe in Truth and Honesty, OR: Do you believe in Trickery and Manipulations and in the expression: “Agholiam ya”?
Do you present a friendly disposition to people, OR: Are you a bully, cantankerous and quarrelsome person?
Are you a good listener and an approachable person, OR: Are you impatient with people, talkative and boisterous?
Are you understanding and sympathetic with people in their situations, OR: Are you apathetic and oppressive?
Are you a good role-model, OR: Are you a distasteful character not to be reckoned with and emulated?
How do you participate in Meetings? Are you peaceful and generate good ideas for progressive actions, OR: Are you a confusionist who likes to destroy good ideas and plans?
Do you like to cooperate by accepting assignments, also volunteering, and putting in your best in responsible service, OR: Do you swim against the current and cause disruptions?
Are you useful in resolving problems and difficulties, OR: Do you pour water into petrol fire and rub salt into an open sore?
What value do you place on Money? Do you go for fair competition and seeing money as acceptable to you only as a Medium of exchange for acquiring, Cool, Honest Wealth, OR: Do you see Money as the powerful Ruler Of Life And Of the World and, in order to acquire it, you practice the Art of: Ogbu Igbo; Ocha gbute, ocharo gbute?
Do you like people, and to work with them, irrespective of which town or the Quarter of Abatete they come from, their religious orientation, Church affiliation, political persuasion, level of education, rich or poor, OR: Are you a segregationist?
Are you a go-getter who is sought for in challenging situations, OR: Are you the one who scatters everything and sets the hands of the clock backwards?
Are you an introvert, therefore, cagey, secretive and self-serving, OR: Are you an extrovert, open-minded, seeking the common good and direct?
Do you tell yourself the truth, OR: Do you deceive yourself by giving yourself cold comfort?
Are you so envious and covetous of others that you pull the stool on which someone is sitting from behind to make the person squat heavily on the bare floor and to get hurt, OR: Do you strive to appreciate people, learn to co-operate with them and to achieve in a positive manner?
Are you so jealous of people and greedy that you not only steal property from them, you also steal their identity and the benefits of the hardwork they have accomplished, OR: Do you give credit and honor to whom they are due and ask for help when you need it?
Are you a predator who practices the principle of: “Nnukwu azu lie obele azu, o’bue”(if the big fish feeds on the small fishes it will grow) OR Do you go by fair competition and assistance to nurture the young and help the weak gather strength?
Do you practice the principle of: “Monkey work, Baboon chop”, OR: Do you stand up for people to reap the benefits of their labor?
Do you gossip and back-bite, OR: do you respect people’s opinion, human dignity and sanctity?
MESSAGE: ALL OF THESE COGENT QUESTIONS ARE WAITING FOR YOUR HONEST ANSWERS. ANSWER THEM NOW! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
111.iii. THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION IS NOW WELL CONSTITUTED BY THE PRESENCE OF THE WITNESSES; THE PROSECUTION; THE DEFENCE; THE JURY; AND THE JUDGE.
Now, you are the ALL IN ALL: the Plaintiff and the Prosecutor; the Defendant and the Defense Attorney; the Witnesses, and above all, you are the Jury and your own Judge in this Court of Public Opinion.
In a sports situation, you are the: Competitor, the Referee, as well as the Spectators. You have to decide for yourself on which side of the divide you belong. Would you be discharged and acquitted, OR: Are you to be convicted, penalized and incarcerated to do some re-thinking and re-assessment of your self, your attitudes, beliefs and character. You would also be ordered to go do some retracing of your steps backwards and sideways, as in a law court; OR: whether you are to be embraced and congratulated on your performance. Would you, as in a sports situation, be ordered to go and do more well-articulated training so as to be better prepared to win in a competition?
Whichever way you judge yourself, remember the saying that; Ka onye n’eme na ibe fa mali (no matter what one’s character is like, his kindred knows). The ball is now squarely in your court. Enjoy yourself.!!!
MESSAGE: ABATETE IS WAITING, ANXIOUSLY, FOR HONEST, SINCERE ANSWERS AND INFORMATION FROM YOU. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
The fourth Category is :
4. TO DEVELOP THE VISIONARY, REVOLUTIONING AND PIONEERING, SPIRIT TO SEE BEYOND ONE’S NOSE, AND TO DO SUCH THINGS AS: TO ACCEPT AND CHAMPION THE CAUSE FOR THE REVIEW AND ABROGATION OF INHUMAN, CUSTOMARY AND TRADITIONAL PRACTICES, IDEAS, ATTITUDES, AND MORAL VALUES.
The most abused and violated human beings in Igbo land, Abatete inclusive, are children, especially girl-children, women and widows in particular. Simply because they are female, the girl-child and women are abused and violated from their cradles to their graves. The incidences of abuse and violence against them have become so endemic in the lives of the communities and the society that people regard them as the normal way of living. They do not perceive them any more as abuse or denial of universal fundamental human rights. These maltreatment are explained away as “OMENANA”. This means to say that they are: a system of life in the families and communities and the society, as ordained by God, and not to be questioned, altered or abrogated.
This multitude of practices are the actions that constitute abuses; violence; suppression; oppression; subjugation; tyranny; chauvinism; sadism; brutality; enslavement; victimization; cruelty; trafficking of women and children, name it, in Igbo land. In fact, these actions are crimes on humanity.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 contradicts itself in that it provides for equality of all citizens without any kind of discrimination and at the same time, recognizes three systems of Laws which clash with each other. These are, namely: British Common Laws; Nigerian Statutory Laws; Customary Laws or Practices including Islamic Laws, as well as the citing of Judicial Precedents. Customary Practices have, over the ages, acquired the power and status of laws. But they are yet undebated, unwritten, and uncodified. But they function side-by-side with the other two Legal Systems. That is the System that is very detrimental to the universal fundamental human rights of the girl-child and women.
In the communities of Igbo land, any woman who dares question any of the Customary And Traditional practices (OMENANA) or contravenes them in the family or community, does so at the risk of being ostracized, even by her own paternal family. She could also be sent away, by her matrimonial family, bag and baggage, “crying to her Mama”. Yet, in this day and age most, if not all, of these cultural and traditional practices, are oppressive and outmoded and are crying out for reform or complete abrogation.
MESSAGE: WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS TOO. STOP THE ABUSES, VIOLENCE AND THE OPPRESSIONS BY CULTURAL AND TRADITIONAL PRACTICES. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
5. REPUGNANCY TEST CLAUSE:
MESSAGE: LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR DILLY-DALLYING. TIME WASTED CANNEVER BE REGAINED! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
The British colonials saw the oppressive ways of the Customary and Traditional Practices, and instituted the Repugnancy Test Clause, as part of the Nigerian Legal System in 1900. It provides for the overriding of any Customary And Traditional Law And Practice in the Courts if it is in conflict with natural justice and equity. Also Customary And Traditional Law should be overridden if they were in conflict with the written and official law, and the rights of women and children. Unfortunately, the Test Clause was left, by the Law Courts and Law Enforcement Agencies, to lie dormant, for one whole century until 1997, just before it was re-introduced in the 1999 Constitution. It was not only on 10th April 1997, that a Judge of the Anambra State Appelate Court, Justice Niki Tobi, showed a change of heart, by taking the bull by the horns, and come up with a pioneer decision, in his writing of the lead judgment for the ruling. This was in the Mojekwu vs Mojekwu, in the Nnewi Oli-Ekpe Appeal Case, appealed from the lower Court, which was ruled in favor the girl-child and women. He wrote:
“All human beings – male and female - are born freely, without any inhibition on grounds of sex; and that is constitutional. Any form of societal discrimination on ground of sex, apart from being unconstitutional, is antithetic to a civil society built on the tenets of democracy, which we have freely chosen as a people. We need not travel all the way to Beijing to know that some of our customs, including the Nnewi “Oli-Ekpe” custom, relied upon by the appellant, are not consistent with our civilized world in which we all live today, including the appellant. In my humble view, it is the monopoly of God to determine the sex of a baby and not the parents. Although the scientific world disagrees with the divine truth, I believe that God, the Creator of human beings, is also the final authority of who should be male or female. Accordingly, for a customary law to discriminate against a particular sex is to say the least an affront to the Almighty God Himself. Let nobody do such a thing. On my part, I have no difficulty in holding that “Oli-Ekpe” custom of Nnewi is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience”.
This should be the spirit of the bloodless revolutionary initiatives for woman's emancipation always, everywhere in Igbo land and Nigeria. Although, at the time I read about this judgement, it was stated that the case was then before the Supreme Court on appeal, and that until the Supreme Court pronounces on the matter and overrules its previous decisions, we need not jubilate. (Joy Ezeilo). Yet the judgement has been acclaimed everywhere as a landmark decision.
The Supreme Court must have pronounced on the matter since there have been more of such judgments since then. For instance, the instances where the Courts of Appeal declared the custom of disinheritance of women and the girl-child, as discriminatory against women, in Anambra and Enugu States, respectively. Some of these cases include:
Theresa Onwo v. Nwafor Oko and 12 others.
Mojekwu v. Ejikeme.
Alajemba Uke and Anor v. Albert Iro.;
Okonkwo v. Okagbue (1994).
Ukeje v. Ukeje and Anor (February 26, 2001).
In all of the above cases , the judges denounced such disinheritance practices as repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
MESSAGE: WIVES AND DAUGHTERS OF ABATETE (IGBO LAND) NEED MORE OF THESE JUDGMENTS AND REFORMS EVERY DAY. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4. ii. ABUSES AND VIOLENCE ESPECIALLY AGAINST WIDOWS
Widows are, first, accused by the relations of their deceased spouses, as well as by the Umuada or Umuokpu Association, of being responsible for the deaths of their spouses. Then they are put through all manners of abusive treatments, degradation and violence, including actual physical battering, physical and mental torture.
All of these acts of maltreatment could be traced to jealousy, spite and retaliation, at a time when the widows are in need of the greatest sympathy and empathy. The facts of how well the widows had lived with their spouses in their lives-time do not absolve them from these ill-treatments.
Making them drink some of the water used to bathe the corpse of their husbands as well as making them swear by the local deity, so as to absolve them of the accusation of killing their spouses if they did not die within one year, are some of the abusive treatments meted to widows.
The hair of the widow must be scattered by the Umuada/Umuokpu, to be scraped to the scalp after the funeral.
In some communities, she must cry and wail aloud, every night and every early morning, addressing her deceased husband by all of his aliases and nicknames, for all of three native weeks.
Widows are also made to sit at a position in the lying-in-state room, from where they would be watching the bodies of their husbands as they lay in-state, for as long as the bodies are there.
In some communities, the Umuada pr Umuokpu settle in to sleep-over for one to three native weeks, during which period they must be fed three square meals a day plus extras.
The Umuada or Umuokpu, of course, take turns to go and attend to their private businesses during the day.
They give the order not to dismantle the lying-in-state bed until the day they are leaving.
The widow should not to be seen to be having a bath, eating or sleeping on a bed for three native weeks.
Widows are made to sit and sleep on the floor, near the hearth.
At best, nowadays, the concession for them to sit and sleep on mattresses, placed on bare floors, is for cold comfort and a cover-up.
Widows are also made to eat and drink from old, chipped and broken vessels.
They are not allowed to sit outside and look around during the funeral and afterwards for one month.
They are not to talk aloud for one month.
They are to be incarcerated or pulled into a mourning period of one year or six months, as the case may be, as reformed for different communities by the relevant Development Union, Progressive Union or Igwe-in/Council.
They are to be dressed in all black, or in all white as Christians do nowadays.
They are not to wear make-up or jewelry, not even a wrist watch, except the black or white beads, as the case may be.
They are not to travel beyond a certain distance within the mourning period.
A widow should accept a substitute husband nominated by the family if the widow is still of child bearing age.
If she refuses the person so appointed, she should not to be seen with a man or become pregnant during the period.
It also requires a ceremony and ritual to be performed by the patriarch of the family at the end of the mourning period of six months or one year, before the widow could perform her own requirements, so as to be pulled out of mourning and widowhood.
The widow’s part includes going to the bad bush, alone, in the dead of the night, to throw away her mourning clothes and shaven hair, and then to the stream, to bathe. Some widows have been attacked by unscrupulous persons on such occasions.
In other words, to be brought out of widowhood means that the patriarch must do his part before her overgrown hair could be shaven again, and before she would be allowed to sit on a chair, sleep on a bed, and have a bath.
In some cases, the patriarchs are so cruel and spiteful that they refuse to do the rituals for the widows in due time. So, the widows go on in the mourning situation for much longer periods of time than is required.
Oddly enough, widowers are left severely alone, in fact, are sympathized with and absolved from all these practices. There is only one case in Abatete that I know of where the Umuada or Umuokpu Association descended heavily on the widower because he tried to marry another wife before one year of his wife’s death. The exclusion of men from all the abuses makes one think and believe that it must be the men who lay down all these oppressive rules, assign the duty to the Umuada or Umuokpu Association to carry them out, and then turn around to accuse women of being their own worst enemies.
If the men are not the evil geniuses behind these demeaning practices, why should they not call the kindred daughters to order and have these practices stopped, with immediate effect? This could be done through the Family Meetings, Development Unions, Progressive Unions, and the Igwe-In-Council. I will cry FOUL if the men say that they are not the culprits and also that they cannot legislate to stop the practices! After all, it is men that are being mourned by their wives when they die; and it is in their memories that the Umuada/Umuokpu are standing up against their widows. If men do not reform or prohibit these practices in their lives-time, it undoubtedly follows that they are the conniving tortoises who would want to spite their widows after their deaths.
It must be borne in mind that all of these aberrations of human rights are happening in the glare of broad daylight and under the noses and consciousness of the living men. My stance is that widows should be left alone to mourn their husbands the way they feel, and people will, of course, see and assess how she did it. There is no sense in forcing a process of mourning on all widows and sitting on them to do it. Anybody looking into such a personal matter or legislating about how it should be done, is merely intruding.
MESSAGE: WIDOWS ARE NOT CRIMINALS. THEY ARE CRYING OUT, DESPERATELY, AND WAITING FOR YOUR INTERVENTION. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4.iii. FEMALE GENITAL CIRCUMCISION or CUTTING or MUTILATION (FGM)
The most cruel treatment of abuse and violence on a girl-child is female circumcision or female genital cutting or mutilation (FMG). It is defined as: A practice that involves the cutting off of part or the whole of a female’s clitoris and some other parts of her sex organs whether for cultural or any non-therapeutic reasons.
Really, the term circumcision is a misnomer, as Circumcision means cutting around and refers to the operation on the penis of a boy. For a girl the operation is more of an excision, that is, a partial or a total cutting off or removal of the clitoris. It also involves, in some cases, the cutting away of the labia minora, that is the inner lips of the vulva.
MESSAGE: FGM IS BARBAROUS AND CRUEL. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4. iii.a. REASONS FOR FEMALE CIRCUMCISION OR FGM
Among the reasons proffered for the practice of female circumcision or FGM anywhere are for:
Curbing her sexual appetite. (Thereby she just lends her body without any erotic feelings).
Cultural preservation and tradition. (This makes girls and women slaves of tradition).
Religious demand. (This is unfounded belief even in Islamic religion).
Protection of virginity. (Researchers say it does not really protect virginity).
(But what about the man’s virginity, one would ask? What protects it)?
Keeping her from being over-sexed to prevent promiscuity. (One would ask:
what about men’s over-sexuality and promiscuousness)?
Increasing sexual pleasure for the husband. (This is sadism even as the wife is in pains).
Family honour and jealousies. (This is absurd, in defense of which some families kill the girls/women).
Aesthetic reasons. (It should not at all to be compared with the aesthetics of male circumcision which Ndi Igbo describe as Icho Mma).
Purification. (What does the circumcision an excision purify)?
Enhancing fertility. (This is mere superstition as it rather destroys fertility).
Giving a sense of belonging to a group. (This is rubbish! What of facial scarifying; tattooing and teeth carving, which are readily seen for identification, but which have been scrapped long ago, in Abatete and the rest of Igbo land, without any fanfare, for the sake of modernity, because they concern men most)?
Increasing matrimonial opportunities. (This preference is sadistic. (Actually, it is only to deepen men’s control and domination over women).
Above all, rendering women easier prey for rape, even marital rape.
MESSAGE: THE REASONS FOR FGM ARE SADISTIC, SUPERSTITIOUS AND A CRYING OUT SHAME! STOP FGM NOW! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4.1ii.b. TYPES OF FGM
FGM, according to 1995 classification by WHO Technical Committee, is of four main types:
Type I involves the excision of the prepuce (the fold of skin above the clitoris) with or without excision of part or the entire clitoris. It is commonly called "Sunna."
Type II involves the excision of the prepuce and clitoris (clitoridectomy) together with partial or total excision of the labia minora otherwise known as the inner lip.
Type III or infibulation involves the excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching or narrowing the vaginal opening. It is sometimes referred to as "Pharaonic circumcision" or "Sudanese circumcision". To be precise, in infibulation, which is a more severe operation, a razor is used to excise the clitoris by cutting from top to bottom of the small lip (or the vulva). Then the flesh is scraped from the inside of the large lip. Then a paste is applied to ensure adhesion of the large lips by means of acacia thorns. The scar tissue closes the vagina almost completely. When a girl gets married, it has to be opened again, perhaps with a razor blade or by forcing with a penis. This must be very painful for the victim.
Type IV was identified as unclassified by the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria in collaboration with the World Health Organization Nigeria, due to the various forms it can take. It includes pricking, piercing, incising, stretching, cauterization by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue. The form of the scarping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice, is known as Angurya Cuts. The cutting of the anterior and sometimes posterior vaginal wall is called Gishiri Cuts. In all of these, there is the introduction of corrosive substances into the vagina to cause bleeding, or the introduction of herbs into the vagina with the aim of tightening or narrowing it . There are other procedures that fall under the definition of Female Genital Mutilation as given above.
The Type I operation, which is the commonest and the mildest form of all female circumcision, is the one performed on girls in Igbo land. This is done from eight days old to ten years or more of age. As the wound heals, they develop scar tissue, which most often create a barrier to sexual contact and childbirth. It has also been linked to stillbirth. The skin of the vulva and vaginal canal is normally soft and elastic to enable it expand easily during childbirth, to allow the baby to come out without much difficulty. FGM makes the area dense and hard because of scarring and very difficult for the child to come out during childbirth. The consequence is stillborn after all the struggling, causing tearing of the vulva, excessive bleeding and, possibly, the death of the woman too.
MESSAGE: THE PRACTICE OF FGM IS INHUMAN AND VERY HARMFUL. IT IS LACKING IN COMPASSION. STOP IT NOW! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4.iii.c. THE DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF CIRCUMCISION/FGM
Major effects of FGM by the cutting or excision of the clitoris are that it takes away the erotic bunch for sexual enjoyment. It also takes away the elasticity of the outer and inner tissues of the female sexual body
It carries infection due to quack, crude and traditional methods being used.
It gives acute and chronic pelvic inflammation emanating from infection at the time of circumcision.
It causes infertility due to the blockage of the fallopian tube by infections and inflammation.
It forms scar tissue and keloids, narrowing the opening of the vagina, so much that there is painful sexual contact, probably bleeding, due to tearing of the narrowed opening of the vagina.
It creates difficult labor due to the hardening and non-elasticity of the opening of the vagina.
There is the risk of catching blood-transmitted diseases like HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis etc, due to the bleeding and contact with infected persons.
There is loss of normal sexual function and, at times, shock and death due to excessive bleeding.
Reports of studies have shown that the act of female genital cutting or mutilation, in all of its four types, is the root of most of the diseases and sicknesses of women, connected to childbirth. This is from conception, difficult pregnancy, difficult childbirth to severe fistulas or the tearing of the womb, the mouth of the womb, the urinary bladder and the connection between the vagina and the anus and still-births.
It causes infant and maternal mortality.
The female body also gets so hardened by the scarring, as to cause such terrible tearing and bleeding and pain to most of the victims, at sexual contact and childbearing, as may cause shock and death.
In fact, according to a UNESCO report, if a girl survives the operation, there are
further hazards such as:
severe shock from fear and pain;
tetanus and other infections;
painful menstruation during adolescence;
infection when the scars are broken after marriage; and
difficulties during childbirth.
In addition, the permanent changes in the female genitalia,
the growth of dermoid cyst
the development of bladder fistulae,
as well as other pathological conditions
capable of affecting the normal sexuality, and
interfere in marital relationships and can lead to infertility; or may result in divorce.
At times, paste mixtures made of herbs, cow dung, hot ashes, barks and roots of trees or other unknown mixtures are rubbed onto the wound to stop bleeding.
FGM is indeed a very dirty, barbaric and crude exercise on the girl-child and women.
MESSAGE: NEEDLESS TO DELIBERATELY INFLICT DISEASES, SICKNESSES, AND DEATHS ON THE GIRL-CHILD AND WOMEN. IT IS CRIMINAL. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4.iii.d. PSYCHOLOGICAL, SEXUAL, PHYSIOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF FGM
Almost all the types of female genital mutilation involve the removal of part or the whole of the clitoris, which is the main female sexual organ, equivalent in its anatomy and physiology to the male organ, the penis.
Sexual dysfunction in both partners may be the result of painful intercourse and reduced sexual sensitivity following clitoridectomy and narrowing of the vaginal opening.
The more severe types of FGM, like infibulation, remove larger parts of the genitals, and close off the vagina, leaving areas of tough scar tissue in place of sensitive genitals, thus creating permanent damage and dysfunction.
FGM may leave a lasting mark on the life and mind of the woman who has undergone it.
The psychological complications of FGM may be submerged deeply in the child’s subconscious mind, and may trigger the onset of behavioral disturbances.
The possible loss of trust and confidence in those that inflicted the operation and the care-givers have been reported as another serious effect.
In the long run, women may suffer feelings of inferiority, incompleteness, anxiety, depression, chronic irritability, frigidity, marital conflicts, conversion reactions, or even psychosis.
Many women traumatized by their FGM may have no acceptable means of expressing their feelings and fears and, so, suffer in silence.
Unfortunately, inadequate research so far exists to establish scientifically the precise magnitude of psychological and social consequences of FGM, and its effect on child development. (World Health Organization August 1996).
MESSAGE: FGM IS BRUTAL, SPITEFUL AND DEPRESSING. IT RESULTS TO LOW SELF-ESTEEM. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4.iii.e. A LAW PROHIBITING FGM IN NIGERIA IS PASSED.
BRAVO!!! The law prohibiting Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation in Nigeria was introduced by Mrs. Janet Adeyemi in the House of Representatives in the year 2000. It was passed by the National Assembly, assented to by the Senate, and signed by the President in 2002. HURRAH!!!
Reporter Abiodun Raufu of Lagos stated that:
Nigeria recommends jail terms to eradicate female genital mutilation.
The first clause of the Circumcision of Girls and Women (Prohibition) Law says that no person shall circumcise a girl or woman and no person shall abet or aid the circumcision of any girl or woman.
He further reported that: Already, some activists have complained that the two year imprisonment prescribed by the new law is not strict enough, especially as it allows for an option of a fine of only $100 (69; 111) or the imposition of both the fine and incarceration.
I cannot agree more with the observers who say that the punishment for one who breaks the law is not strict enough. However, the new law is a long sought victory in the crusade to abolish female genital mutilation in Nigeria.
According to the Law, circumcision of a girl or woman means cutting off all or part of the external sex organs of a girl or woman, other than on medical grounds.
The Law against female genital mutilation had been operational in five Southern States (Anambra not included) out of the 36 states in Nigeria.
This new Law is the first nationwide Law on female genital circumcision or cutting or mutilation.
What is left now is for every citizen, man and woman, to help the Federal, State and Local Governments to enforce the Law and effect compliance.
One does not need to have been or known a victim of the practice to be sympathetic or empathetic with the girl-children and women who are victims.
MESSAGE: THE GIRL-CHILD AND WOMEN ARE WAITING, ANXIOUSLY, AND LOOKING UP TO YOU TO RUN TO THEIR RESCUE. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
4.v. CHILD MARRIAGE
Another aspect of brutal abuse and violence on the girl-child is being betrothed for marriage, at a very tender age - from birth to puberty or earlier - at about 10 to 12 years of age. This way, the girl has no childhood and no time for growing up.
A Law which prohibits Child Marriage had been passed by the Eastern Nigeria Government in 1956. But, like the Law regulating Bride Price, also of 1956, the people did not take them seriously and both the Courts and the Law Enforcement Agencies also ignored them.
Criminal as they are, some men put such underage girls in the family way, after their first menstruation. Then they expect such girls to carry the pregnancies and give birth to the babies on their own, usually at the backyard, or at the Maternity Home, without adequate medical attention or Cesarean Section.
The result is the tearing of the womb, the vagina, the anus, the bladder and the connecting tissues, called obstetric fistulas, and the death of the babies and, most of the time, of the mothers too. If the girl-victims survive at all, they may never be able to have another child. See The Irish Times of Monday, July 23, 2001 and the Article entitled: Branded As Witches And Left To Die: A Report by Dr. Ann Ward of The Medical Missionaries of Mary, Itam, Cross River State, Nigeria.
Telephone: 087 – 9701819; Website: www.medical-missionaries.com.
MESSAGE: THE GIRL-CHILD NEEDS TO BE LEFT ALONE TO ENJOY HER CHILDHOOD AND TO GROW UP NORMALLY. FIGHT FOR HER NOW! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
5. SOME OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND TREATIES TO WHICH NIGERIA IS A SIGNATORY.
Nigeria is a signatory to many UN Conventions and International Treaties that guarantee women’s freedoms from discriminatory practices. They also guarantee equal universal fundamental human rights for women as for men. These Instruments, which are not adhered to or enforced when adopted into Nigerian Laws by Nigeria, include:
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
Convention of Political Rights of Women.
Slavery Convention of 1926 as amended; and
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.
There is also the Banjul Charter Of the Organization Of African Unity (OAU) now the African Union (AU), called the Charter of African Human and Peoples Rights.
If the provisions of these Charters and Conventions would be complied with and enforced in Nigeria (Igbo land), women would not be complaining at all. But the snag is the unfavourable ideas and attitudes of the dominant group in power - men - towards implementing them. Therefore, the Charters, Conventions and Treaties become mere paper tigers; toothless bulldogs; and the epitome of: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.! A law just on paper is a dead law!
MESSAGE: JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED!THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
6. THE CHALLENGE RIGHT NOW!
I, hereby, challenge you! You are, thereby, challenged! Be you, therefore, challenged RIGHT NOW! Abatete USA Development Union you are, definitely, challenged to pick up the gauntlet RIGHT NOW and get into action, on all fronts, to kill the monster of the stifling cultural and traditional practices in Abatete! and in Igbo land. I, vehemently, challenge you, the members of the Abatete USA, individually and collectively, to make the commitment RIGHT NOW to take up the pioneering duty of bringing about compliance with, and the enforcement, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, of the laws prohibiting:
female genital circumcision and all of FGM at home and wherever you may be!; to weigh in heavily for the promotion of non-violence on, and non-abuse of children, especially of the girl-child, and women!, on children, especially on the girl-child; women; and widows!
MESSAGE: TO LIBERATE THE GIRL-CHILD AND WOMEN NOW IS TO EMPOWER MEN TO LIBERATE THEMSELVES! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
I challenge you to fight to abolish:
Child Marriage!; Burdensome Child Labor!; Trafficking Of Children And Women!; All the Other Issues of Abuse And Violence On Women And Children.
MESSAGE: TIME AND TIDE WAIT FOR NO ONE! DO NOT KEEP TILL TOMORROW WHAT YOU SHOULD DO TODAY. THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!!!
The NEWSWEEK of June 21, 2004 reported that as President Clinton was beginning to address the Annual Convention of the nation’s Publishers and Booksellers, promoting his autobiography: “My Life”, before the publication, he began by saying that people told him that books like this are boring and self-serving. Then he said that he just hoped that his book is interesting and self-serving. The audience roared with laughter. The report continued by saying that, at the end of the session, Mr. Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books in Oxford, Mass., who had made an advance order of 100 copies doubled it to 200 copies. The book which was published on 22nd June, 2004 was reported as having sold 400,000 copies the first day, and probably, that number or more, multiplied by the number of days since then, to date!
In this case, I just hope that you have not been bored with what I have had to say. Above all, that I have not been self-serving, as I have not talked about myself. But I do hope that you would have picked up some of the issues I raised in the Address as good, palatable food for thought, which you must have masticated quite properly, as we went along, for a concerted action of a resounding swallowing.
MESSAGE: STAND UP FOR EQUITY AND JUSTICE. STAND UP WOMEN AND THE DIGNITY OF WOMANHOOD! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!
MESSAGE: THE TIME IS, IN FACT, OVERDUE TO EMPOWER AND LIBERATE IGBO WOMEN AND WOMEN AS A WHOLE! THE TIME TO RISE UP TO THESE NEEDS AND CHALLENGES IS RIGHT NOW!!!
MESSAGE: THE TIME TO ASK TO BE BLESSED, TO BE BLESSED AND TO REMAIN BLESSED IS RIGHT NOW!!!
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