Ever since the US and UK branches of the Anglican Church agreed to ordain gay Bishops against the biblical stand on homosexuality, the Nigerian Church leading the rest of the world have witnessed more acrimonious relationship with the west than unity in God's house.
With the appointment of the new Bishop of Canterbury in its final stage who will take over from, Rev. Rowan Williams? the Primate of Nigerian Anglican Church, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh believes it's high time the appointment of the head of the world Anglican Church is liberalised. Paul Obi writes from London
Religion in many respects is a delicate issue. Unlike other areas of human endeavours, cases of religious differences in most instances rarely have a definite arbiter. Rather, and if man's reasoning is adopted, it might end up in confusion, since the Supreme Being, the Almighty God is not physically present to adjudicate issues of controversy. It was in this light that Karl Marx termed religion as "the opium of the masses". One Christian denomination that has witnessed many controversies in the light of the above among its ranks is the Anglican Church, whose head is the Bishop of Canterbury. A position, that is politically inclined within the British political system. Beside politics, the church had had to fight over the issue of homosexuality, an issue that has driven its members apart than unite them.
Till date, the issue of homosexuality has divided the church more than create the much sort-after unity among its members. The climax of that crisis would surface in 2003, with the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, United States. Since then, the situation between the west and south in the Anglican Church has gone tattered. The opposition south, first championed by the then, Nigerian Primate, Peter Akinola went further to create what is today termed Anglican Realignment. The disagreement also affected the International Lambeth Conference, where most clergy from the south boycotted the event. Though, nerves appeared to have calmed down, there appear to be some degree of a silent battle within.
Ten years after nerves were raised, another controversy is now on. This time, it cuts at the centre of the Anglican Church-the mixture of the state and religion. Succinctly, an area that have left intellectuals more confuse than any other scholarly issue. The issue squarely lies in the appointment of the Bishop of Canterbury. The appointment is to be carried out by a 16 member Crown Nomination Committee where at least two names will be forward to the Office of the British Prime Minister for ratification upon the final approval by the Queen of England, who also doubled as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. As at the time of going to press, and as reported by The Telegraph, two names remained prominent, they include the Bishop of Bradford, Rev. Nick Baines and Bishop of Durham, Rev. Justin Welby. In a couple of weeks, the political intrigues surrounding the selection will be fired up even as critics of the selection process question its credibility.
That aside, critics explain the selection process is over politicised and secretive. Taken together, the Primate of the Nigerian Anglican Church, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, last week addressed journalists in Abuja, where he presented the position of the Nigerian Church vis-a-vis the south. According to Okoh, "The Prime minister of Britain will have to appoint (the Archbishop of Canterbury), whether he is a member of the Church or not. When you consider the political involvement, you can see the point we are trying to make, In other words, we are trying to say the Anglican Communion should be separated from the politics of Great Britain."
Explicitly, the Nigerian Anglican Clergy is not even saying the Church of England should be stripped of such responsibility but rather, the politicisation of the Office of the Bishop of Canterbury and the running of Lambeth Palace should be a private prerogative of the church. The Primate explained that since the Bishop of Canterbury likewise stands as the Primate of the Church of England, it beholds that Anglicans in United Kingdom should be free to choose their leader without the interference of the British political class represented by the Prime Minister and the Royal Family. He was quoted to have told journalists that, the British people are better placed "to choose their own method of selecting him".
As part of the strategy in resolving the difference, Okoh stated that "what we have asked for is that for the fact that most of the churches that make up the Communion were part and parcel of the British Empire before, the original British Empire has changed method, which is now the Commonwealth, the same thing, the leadership in the Church should equally change." Asked if the Nigerian Church has made its case known, he added that, "We have made our input; whether the input will be taken is another matter. But for the kind of person we will want to see; somebody who will bring unity to the Church, particularly in the areas of doctrine. "We will like somebody who will be biblically based not somebody with wide theologies."
Okoh maintained that, the thinking of the Nigerian Church is that the Archbishop of Canterbury runs a single term of five years. "The historical position of the Archbishop of Canterbury is alright and he should be entitled to respect and dignity of office. "But the leader of the worldwide communion should change in the sense that we would prefer a situation whereby we have the president of the group or chairman who will run office for about five years and hand over to another person." Okoh is not alone in this counter-offensive against the appointment of the Bishop of Canterbury.
An Anglican clergy in the UK, Dr Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, was quoted by a national daily to have criticised the selection process of the head of the Anglican Church. Fraser was said to have told the newspaper that there was "no good reason for secrecy," adding that the process "always looks like an establishment stitch up, we ought to have open elections," he observed.
All effort to speak with officials at Lambeth Palace, London, the Office of Bishop of Canterbury proved abortive. Calls made to the office, including mails were neither returned. This came as the appointment of the Bishop of Canterbury is now in its finishing touches, an appointment that has widened the gap of unity between the west and the south. It is also not certain whether the Crown Nomination Committee would heed to the request of the rest of the world Anglican Church, represented by the likes of Archbishop of Okoh by moderating the appointment of the Bishop of Canterbury to look like the selection of the Catholic Pope, where the Italian Government neither interferes nor intrude in the appointment of the Pope.
That duty is solely the responsibility of the Council of Cardinals or Conclave.
There have been some delays with the committee forwarding the names of the candidates to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who would then; approach the Queen for final approval. Even with this delay, the coast is now clear for the 80 million Anglicans around the world to welcome their spiritual leader. What is not clear is whether the emergence of the would-be Bishop of Canterbury was in unison with the rest of the world or whether they concurred.
Whatever the outcome, unity between the west and the southern hemisphere within the church remains botch and promised to be a fiasco if things continue in this pattern. For the Anglican Church, the situation appears to be very apt to what the Irish Poet, William Butler Yeats observed in his poem the 'Second Coming' that "the Falcon, cannot hear the Falconer."
Bamaina: place for the Gifted Northern Child
The Gifted Academy in Bamaina, Jigawa State is turning out to be a model for other states in Nigeria to emulate. Stanley Nkwazema had an encounter with some of the students from the school
While many people from the Northern part of the country still believe that education is not a priority, some have also not yet been convinced that the place of the girl child should not be in the kitchen. Ironically, while the trend goes unabated, some states are quietly working on the psyche of its people and gradually revolutionising the education sector. They are moving ahead by embarking on projects aimed at taping the best brains and moulding them into future leaders for the country.
In Bamaina, a town in Birnin Kuddu Local Council Area of Jigawa state, a quiet revolution is going on to bring together children who have not only been identified to be gifted and talented, but also have convinced people that they can go places if adequately exposed and given a little more than they are receiving presently in their present schools.
The State Government has not only identified these kids that want to be leaders, they now have a special school that can give them that which is lacking to enable them realise their ambitions in life.
Bamaina Academy for the Gifted and Talented is not meant for the children of the nouveau rich in the country. Even children of farmers and the down trodden in the state, who have shown exceptional traits, can now be assured that it is no longer a problem.
The school is for both boys and girls and every child is there purely on merit. It is not reserved for the members of the state executive Council, or the wealthy but the admission is purely based on merit.
For instance, the teachers who are equally there as the best from their various disciplines are not part of the admission process. Consultants handle the job of picking pupils and student into the School after conducting a tough exam in Mathematics and science-biased subjects.
Teachers in the school are also not handpicked based on favouritism by the state Government and sent to the Gifted and Talented Academy. They are hired based on their experience and qualification after an examination, by the external consultant, to hire the more intelligent ones who can cope with the demands of the schools curricula
The Director of the School, Alhaji Muhammad Idris is also convinced that based on the admission policy of not letting any teacher from the school or the state to be part of it, the students picked are of very high standard. The appointment of the teachers also takes the same procedure. Their salary is also based on performance. If found wanting, these teachers are returned to their former schools.
Besides, when a child is admitted the assessment does not stop there. It is continuous and if at the end of each session they are either found wanting or the results show that they have been placed in the last two brackets of their class, they would be recommended for another school where they would properly fit in.
The Academy would not be a place for them. At the end of the 2011/2012 session, two students were shown the way out while others continued the battle.
Presently, the gifted Academy has a population of just 160 students with 35 teachers whom the Director of the school described as competent. The student population comprises of senior Primary (6) and a Junior Secondary School JS 1 and 2. The second intake into the JSS resumed on the 23rd of September 2012.
Interestingly, the Governor of the State, Alhaji Sule Lamido is from Bamaina, where the school is located. But the Governor in an encounter is quick to tell you that he has no hand in the selection of either the teachers or the students and pupils.
Ironically, his son is the District Head of Bamaina and each time he gets to the place he drops all the garb of Excellency and pays respect to his son which is the tradition and must be followed no matter how highly placed you are in the society. This is in obeisance to the culture of his people.
Again you are told that he did not in any way influence the appointment of the District Head. It was done before he became the Executive Governor of the state in May 2007. He explained that indeed he has noticed that the school actually has kids who are intelligent.
"Brains are there. If you invest in children you are saving your future talents The former Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Olusegun Obasanjo says though he has no hand in the selection of the teachers and the students of Bamaina, it still remains his idea of how a school should be run. He is quick to remind you that shortly after he took over the reins of the state from Senator Saminu Turaki who ruled the state from 1999 to 2007, he almost wept when he visited the Primary school where he learnt the rudiments of how to read and write.
"I toured the school where I started my primary school and what I saw almost made me weep. In our time we had 30 students per class all seated and with roofs over our head. But when I got there, about 240 where seating on the floor. Some where even hanging like butterflies."
He said, "It is a crime to fail to maintain the schools. We confined their future into oblivion. What do you expect to get from a child who studies while seated on the floor or hanging on the window?
Lamido disclosed that being a beneficiary of the visionary exploits of late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, he had no option but to replicate and improve on the system which helped many Nigerians attain lofty heights in different fields of human endeavour.
"I am not boasting. Nigeria made benefits from the visionary leadership of Sir Ahmadu Bello. I am a beneficiary. I draw a lot of inspiration from his leadership. During his time, all through the North, he had three Post Primary Schools that look like what we now have in Bamaiana. The Barewa College in Zaria, the one in Keffi and the other one. The late Premier invested in human talents and the bulk of the Northerners then enjoyed his wealth of experience and vision. Go and check it, most of the educated Northern Nigerian men attended the school in Zaria and Keffi. They had the best of education and even went abroad and obtained Higher Education in some of the best schools in London and the United States of America."
He said it was a conscious effort he made to get the best and give them quality education because there were not many schools then and not so many people had the opportunity of furthering their education after Primary school. So the ones who had opportunity then had the best and excelled in their various fields of human endeavour.
Human talent is something you cannot exhaust, he said. "Korea has the largest ship building industry in the world but yet they don't produce the iron which is the major raw material needed to build the ships. Hyderabad in Indian is the Silicon Valley where all the computer software and hardware are put together. The best brains are there. Raw material is immaterial could be extracted from several places but human material is the most important thing. We are investing in the state education. Those children are our future leaders."
On why none of his children or grandchildren, even relatives are in the school, Lamdio said "this is a worthwhile investment. Let me rescue what I can. We looked for those with innate quality, gifted, nothing like social barrier. We are investing in the state. They are our future leaders. So, there is no need for nepotism. The purpose will be lost if we meddle into the affairs or admission of students into the school. You only get to that school on quality of your brain. There are no fees of any form or disguise paid. The teachers are better remunerated too. You just walk in there and all that is needed will be given to you from clothing to the shoes you wear. We have seen the potentials. We will expose and develop a new set of human species to be exported to all parts of Nigeria, and the World, humane, loving and caring people. If you noticed, they are not shy or showing any sign of complex which is the most important thing for them to overcome obstacles. It is a not closed".
The 19 Northern states also have spaces if their children make the qualifying mark. One of the students was confirmed to have come from Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau state.
None of the members of the executive Council of the state or even the teachers in the institution has any of his wards in the school. The Director of the school informs you that it won't be possible because once the admission is completed by the consultants the system is closed up and monitored closely to avoid the problem of smuggling in names. And even those that are dropped and sent to other schools are not replaced due to the continuous assessments
Indeed, students of the Gifted Academy are getting exposed. During the visit to Baimana they were not intimidated but where even quick to ask you questions and tell you why they have chosen to work hard and remain in the school. Some even explained why they want to study medicine, Aviation (Pilot) and, don't be surprised, Mass Communication so that they can improve the quality of broadcasting not only in the state but in Nigeria. They have a thriving Press Club saddled with the responsibility of listening to radio and watching television to monitor in turns and report on the news and trends of the day.
For Instance, Hauwa'u Lawal is one of the few who wants to be a medical doctor "to save lives and help people". She won the Sule Lamido Spelling Bee Competition for the Northwest States. The second position also went to Umar Mohammed Dauda, an aspiring pilot and JSS student of Bamaina. The third positions also was from students of Bamaina Gifted and talented Academy. The trophy is conspicuously displayed by the Director of the school, Alhaji Muhammad Idris in his office situated just after the school gate.
There is also a conscious effort to educate the children on some foreign languages like French. A qualified teacher is in charge of the language laboratory. The facility complete with translator equipments was donated by Zenith Bank as part of their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) Although the children do not undergo any sporting activity or learn any other local language, apart from French, the Governor has awarded contracts for the construction of a mini stadium and other sports facilities behind the school premises, while promising to liaise with the school on how to introduce Nigeria's three major languages Ibo, Yoruba and Hausa. At least they will interact easily and bond with others when they understand and speak language other than their native dialects
The Governor is quick to tell you that any leader who fails to invest in the education of the citizenry should not expect the best from his people.
"You see, I won't run away from the truth because of anything. This issue of MEND or the Boko Haram of a thing is a germination and maturity of our failure as Leaders. They are People who have no future. Their future has been truncated and they now turned on us.
Governance, according to Dr Lamido "should be clearly defined. What is leadership? There is no more trust on our leaders. Over the years Government has become alienated from the people. No trust and when there is no trust the person becomes agitated. There is an extent which you can tolerate agitation. Government is for the people and ownership must be given back to the people. If you are transparent, observe due process, they can trust you. And whatever you say they will trust you. Before we had a strong culture. There must be collectivity of purpose and intention. We must keep on building and then they can call the government their own Government.
According to Lamido, who said he learnt a lot as a Foreign Affairs Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo, "all human beings have sense. But you see, when you tend to put so much emphasis on money, we lose sense of humanity. What is Government all about? It is trust. I think it is all about application. The resources available may not be enough, but it is adequate if you give service, you give health. A sick society can't work."
The Governor explains further. "All human beings have sense. But you see, when you tend to put so much emphasis on money, we lose sense of humanity. What is government all about? It is trust. I think it is all about application. The resources available may not be enough but it is adequate if you give service. We are coming from a history and value system. Whatever we are enjoying today as democracy, there are people who made sacrifices. It is challenging, I feel compelled to do something to rise."
Lamido said, "in the country, Government has lost meaning. People in Government are high-handed. Doing the normal thing does not call for celebration. It does not make sense today that the service which is yours is now reduced to a privilege. You don't need to thank a government official for doing his job."
In Jigawa, however, it is an unwritten agreement among the people of the state that one councilor from the 27 Local Government Areas must be a physically challenged person and it is also the same story in the state House of Assembly where a physically challenged represents a Local Government.
According to Lamido, "The physically challenged are human beings like us. Look at them and thank God for being what you are. How would you feel if you have reverse roles? Afflictions are also a culmination of our failure from the very beginning. We (apparently refereeing to past Governments) failed to provide water, vaccines, adequate medical services, lack of hygiene. Forty to thirty years ago we failed to address the problem and they became crises. We need not herd them like animals. You can't run away from your failure. They are your embarrassments"
Indeed, Lamido is not running away from the problem. In Jigawa, there are no people on the streets with bowls in hand begging for arms or moving up and down. Every month the Governor pays each physically challenged or the aged the sum of N7000. This is captured as each Local Government provides the figure and ensures the money gets to the right persons.
"The resources are their own. The money is there. When you are appropriating funds in the budget you should capture them. The blind man that is 60 has no training and at that age he can't be trained again. We should not be callous. We need deep well thought-out leadership. We must intensify immunisation and have an effective healthcare system and strive to ensure that people are born free of affliction. Train the young ones and don't abandon the aged."