TALES OF A WORRIED SPERM

​By D. F Effiong

Reuben was born on the 19th of November 1982 to the family of Utom Emmanuel. I remember very well how his father grasped his then girlfriend’s butt and drew maps on her navel. “Please baby, let me just enter, it doesn’t mean much.” Had Utom knew that Reuben did mean ‘a much’ he would have withdrawn his ‘fragile and helpless penis.’ I saw Reuben even in his third birthday collecting biscuits from girls his mother had invited from the neighborhood. Unfortunately nature have not always supported me to raise my eyebrows on occasions like this. He was a bloody three years old boy, yet I knew the battle that would await us in future. Meanwhile, there had been cave dwelling machinations under the sag humans called scrotum. At age fourteen, my neighbours began to raise, alongside myself, from slumber. Reuben’s voice became deeper, his armpit grew some strands of white comatosed hairs and my backyard started growing shrubs. I would laugh each time Reuben would deceive himself to believing he was already an adult. His friends had even suggested he bought a beard-growing cream from the pharmacist opposite his secondary school. He had however, forgot that I was yet to be fully awoke!

It was 10:55 am on tuesday, when Reuben caused a riot. A riot that would taunt him for the rest of his life as a boy. “Guy, don’t you want to have a girlfriend?” “Why don’t you go and tell Expeno that you love her?” These were the voices Reuben started hearing as he planned to write his WAEC in 2000. This riot began when he went into the bathroom that evening. For some unknown reason, Reuben’s hands found its way to touching my expeller. Be rest assured I rose from the dead. Finally, in less than 5 minutes, all the energy I have kept for the past 15 years would now be out. I felt the sensation, the power, the sweat and the confused joy in Reuben’s face as he discovered a new way of urinating.

For the next four years, the bathroom had become his favourite project. No, actually! He moved this project to his bedroom. And Yes! He would lock himself till am satisfied. I can’t forget the many times Reuben prayed to God for forgiveness and the times he had a knee-jerk reaction in Ekpeno’s presence. Ekpeno had the most beautiful oval eyes in school. Her clinical and calculated steps mistook her for a model. The dimples on her face and her broad nose was matched by her ever attractive smile. The only day I smiled in Reuben’s scrotum was when he struggled to read Sigmund Freud psycho-analysis. The same book Peter had studied himself.

Oh, I wish Reuben knew that each self-juicing experience was part of his growing up process. He should know that masturbation, “has its own appealing statistics – 92% adult men and almost 62% adult women masturbate; it is popular among everyone including celibates. It has a lot to do with the prostrate and helps with menstrual cramps.” (Sarcasmlol.com). I wish he could accept the experience and live above it maturely. He never even knew that I could smell Ekpeno’s desire for him as well. How could he? When his own father refused to give him a guiding idea to accepting himself.

******

Be present to your son/daughter. Always!

ABORTION POSITIONS AND YOU

​By D. F. EFFIONG

Much has been written on the issue of abortion both in the popular press and in the philosophical literature (especially gender studies). Gender studies which includes examination of problems of gender, including conceptions of power relations in various social contexts, such as family, corporation, politics; evaluation of feminist philosophies and perspectives. It is this problems of gender that exhumes ethical debate and the problems of choice, in respect to the acceptability or permissibility of abortion. These debates focus on two distinct issues: (1) whether a human fetus has a right to life, and, if so, (2) whether the rights of the mother ever override the fetus’s right. Often the issues are discussed independently of each other. Discussion of the first issue, regarding a fetus’s right to life, usually draws on the concept of moral personhood.

A being is a morally significant person when it is a rights holder, and we are under moral obligation to that being. For example, I am a morally significant person and am entitled to the right to life, which others have a moral duty to acknowledge.The criterion of personhood selected has decisive implications on the morality of abortion. If personhood is conferred on a being at the moment of conception, then, all things considered, aborting a fetus is immoral. On the other hand, if we select a criterion such as self-awareness, then, all things considered, aborting a fetus is not immoral. The challenge is in providing reasons in support of one criterion over another. But even if we all could agree on a criterion of personhood, such as the moment of conception, the abortion debate would not be over. For, questions arise about whether the mother’s right of self-determination overrides the rights of the fetus. It is the mother’s body that is affected by the pregnancy, and it is her emotional and social life that will be drastically altered for at least the next nine months and beyond. These factors carry at least some weight. Other potentially overriding factors complicate the rights of the fetus, such as whether the pregnancy resulted from rape, or contraception failure. Arguments are required from both camps to establish the relative weight of these factors.

Historically, attitudes about abortion and the moral status of a fetus have fluctuated. Aristotle endorses abortion when writing that “when couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun; what may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation” (Politics, 7:16). The Hippocratic Oath states “Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.” The Jewish Talmud, compiled around 600 CE, holds that “an embryo is a limb of its mother” (Hulin 58a) and for the first forty days after conception, the embryo is “simply water.” A fetus’s life is of equal importance to that of the mother’s only “once its head has emerged (from her body)”. Medieval theologians address the question of the moral status of a fetus by examining whether the fetus has a human soul. Aquinas held that the fetus only gradually acquires a human soul, and in the early stages of pregnancy is not technically human.

There are many-sided and complicated Religious Traditions on Abortion. When religious positions on abortion are discussed, we usually hear how abortion is condemned and regarded as murder. Religious traditions are more pluralistic and varied than that, hence, it is important to understand these traditions because not every religion regards abortion as a simplistic, black and white decision. From the political/religious right comes the argument that the miracle of life is in God’s hands and God’s hands alone. From the political/religious left comes the argument that with the gift of life comes the God-given responsibility to care for that life, a responsibility that can only belong to the woman who carries the life within her own body. While opponents of abortion urge women with unwanted pregnancies to consider adoption rather than abortion others would not.

Roman Catholicism is popularly associated with a strict anti-abortion position, but this strictness only dates to Pope Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical “Casti Connubii.” Before this, there was more debate on abortion. Early Church theologians by and large allow abortion in the first 3 months and prior to quickening, when the soul supposedly entered the foetus. For a long time, the Vatican declined to issue a binding position. It can be said that the Catholic Church says artificial birth control is a sin, but Catholics do not (from personal opinion). Likewise, the official positions held by various religions concerning abortion may not reflect the views of a number of their adherents.Protestantism is perhaps one of the most diffused and de-centralized religious traditions in the world. There is no single Protestant position on abortion, but Protestants who oppose abortion sometimes portray themselves as the only true Christians.

Ancient Judaism was naturally pro-natalist, but without a central authority dictating orthodox beliefs, there has been vigorous debate on abortion. The only scriptural mention of anything like an abortion does not treat it as murder. Jewish tradition allows for abortion for the sake of the mother because there is no soul in the first 40 days, and even in the latter stages of pregnancy, the fetus has a lower moral status than the mother. In some cases, it may even be a “mitzvah,” or sacred duty.Many conservative Muslim theologians condemn abortion, but there is ample room in Islamic tradition for permitting it. Where Muslim teachings do allow for abortion, it is generally limited to the early stages of pregnancy and only on the condition that there are very good reasons for it.

Buddhist belief in reincarnation leads to a belief that life begins at the moment of conception. This naturally inclines Buddhism against allowing abortion. Taking the life of any living thing is generally condemned in Buddhism, so of course killing a foetus would not meet with easy approval. There are, however, exceptions for there are different levels of life and not all life is equal.Most Hindu texts that mention abortion condemn it in no uncertain terms. Because the foetus is endowed with divine spirit, abortion is treated as an especially heinous crime and sin. At the same time, though, there is strong evidence that abortion was widely practiced for centuries. This makes sense because if no one was doing it, why make a big deal out of condemning it? Today abortion is available pretty much on demand in India and there is little sense that is treated as shameful.Sikhs believe that life beings at conception and that life is the creative work of God. Therefore, in principle at least, the Sikh religion takes a very strong position against abortion as a sin. Despite this, abortion is common in the Sikh community in India; in fact, there are concerns about too many female fetuses being aborted, leading to too many male Sikhs.For Taoism and Confucianism, there is evidence that the Chinese practiced abortion in ancient times and nothing in either Taoist or Confucian ethical codes explicitly forbids it. Though treated as a necessary evil, it is rarely promoted, for example if the health of the mother requires it. Because it is not forbidden by any authority, the decision about when it is necessary is left entirely in the hands of the parents.

Reviewing the diverse religious traditions above, we can find a great deal of agreement on when abortion might be permitted. Most religions agree that abortion is more permissible in the early stages of pregnancy than in the later stages and that the economic and health interests of the mother generally outweigh whatever interests the foetus might have for being born.

Having looked at the different views of certain religions, we can also summarily relate them thus:

Abortion is wrong under any circumstance: This view is in strict opposition to abortion.

Abortion is wrong unless the mother’s life is threatened: This position considers some exceptions. Some add that the rape of the mother justifies abortion.

Abortion is allowed up to a certain point of fetal development: This position (held by Sikhs and some Muslims, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States) considers a Middle ground.

Abortion is a decision best left up to the mother: This is a Pro-choice Position.

Get informed by reading more in John Ifeanyi Okoro, “Life is More Than Living: Metaphysical and Bioethical Challenges” Abuja; Nigeria: Ugwu Publishing and Co, 2011, pages 64 & 70 – 72 and

Jim Willis, “A to Z of World Religions: Places, Prophets, Saints and Seers.” Delhi; India: Jaico Publishing House, 2007, pages 4- 6.

HETERO-PATRIARCHY

By Gab Francis

”Hetero-patriachy” enslaves not only women.The system is threatened today by a changing socio-political system. Higher rate of divorce is not a by-product of an eroding moral standard. Rather, it is a consequence of holding every one-regardless of gender-to the same standard of morality and social accountability. Patriarchy must die in order for humanity to progress. Patriarchy is an anachronism. If we don’t bury it as a pattern of thought, it will sink humanity along with the planet- as western notions of hetero-patriarchy and certain aspects of our cultural norms that are moribund cannot allow healthy marital relationships to flourish. In 2016, a post industrial jet age, we cannot, and should not, hang on to the relics of the pre-industrial agrarian. Africa is no longer what it was in 1816 or even 1916 for that matter. We are designed by nature differently but equal in spirit and the laws of nature.

Viewing patriarchy as the natural order is toxic. The design is artificial and not natural. As a male, it is clear to me that the need to control women comes out of acute insecurity. Women liberation doesn’t only free up women but it frees up the entire family from the chauvinistic roles imposed to perpetuate and maintain hetero patriarchy. The debate is not about gender competition. Rather it is about what social model is appropriate for a progressive family in the twenty first century and beyond. Those supportive of hetero-patriarchy would, invariably, support domestic violence in as much as it’s a means, or tool, to impose male dominance and control over women. Feminism, as an emancipatory concept, stripped of its Eurocentric biases, is a reaction to the confluence of capitalism and post industrialization. Women are graduating from colleges and professional schools, at rates comparable, in some cases, higher than males. That fact, ‘ipso facto,’ supports their intellectual competence to be accorded equal treatment. To ignore the intellectual abilities of women would set society back to a pre-industrial agrarian age where apartheid-like-laws have to be created (as is the case in Saudi Arabia) to maintain the second Class status of women.

Families where men and women maintain equal partnership are healthier, more prosperous and more sustainable. Nations where women have gained greater freedom and equality, are more prosperous and advanced than those where the men act like neanderthal, having objectified women to objects of sexual pleasure for males and reproductive tools. It is the height of blunder to equate a woman striving to free herself from the yolk of male dominance with aggression; that is tantamount to accusing black abolitionists in America such as Frederick Douglass, Harrie Tubman and Sojourner Truth as aggressive. Laughable!

Would any one expect a slave fighting to gain emancipation to be non-aggressive? Oppression of women is real. None of us is free if any of us is still oppressed- Dr Martin Luther King.

THE LIES OF MARY SLESSOR

​I have been in the South East in the past one week, meeting and interviewing Igbo identical twins. Enthralling experience. I’m making a short documentary called Ejima: Two Bodies, One Soul. It’s a personal narrative about identical twins in Igbo land and the telepathic connection between the ‘two.’ One other thing I will be doing is to rewrite the lies about Mary Slessor. As a child, in primary school, a certain lie was told to us that a certain Scottish missionary was credited with having stopped the killing of twins among the Efik, a particular ethnic group in Nigeria. Because of naivety, one had to believe this, but as I dug deeper, I found out that in Igbo land, the twins had always been revered and respected, just as they are in Yoruba culture. In Igbo cosmology, identical twins are known as One Soul, Two Bodies. This film will try to decipher the mystery and telepathic connection between these two bodies: why they must feel each other’s pain, cry when the other is crying and feel hurt when the other is wounded. Would it be wise to separate identical twins and don’t expect a repercussion?

They are called ‘Ejima’ in Igbo and ‘Ibeji’ in Yoruba.’ Ji’ in Igbo can be said to be ‘hold’, which makes it more meaningful, by suggesting that we can say, ‘Ejiri mara.’ Or ‘e ji mmadu abuo’ – that is to say, ‘ejiri mara’ (personification) and ‘e ji mmadu abuo’ (holding two people together). The Igbo people have long abandoned the ethos of their cultures and traditions and values. They revel in the cultures of the West, thereby, thinking theirs to be absolutely archaic and primitive. The aim of this film is to reposition the twins in the world where they belong and to disperse the long-held notion that Mary Slessor, a colonialist, ‘stopped the killing of twins.’ There is no historical proof that twins were ever killed in the Igbo land. The Europeans made up the lies. What we are aware is that twins were seen as mysterious, dangerous and very spiritual. They were the sort who were called to sit beside sickbeds and by just holding the hand of the sick person, one got healed. Could it be that they have lost their powers? No. Twins who still understand their spirituality are seen as miracle workers. No doubt the Igbos were quick to accept the lies of the colonialists. Looking back, the twins were honoured and revered just as other people, even people with albinism.The stories recorded by the colonialists were blindly accepted, to mete out hate on twins.

EDUCATIONAL DEGREES NOT AN END IN THEMSELVES

By Dr. Charles Uzor

​In the United States of America, Nigerians have the distinction of being the most well educated immigrant community. For Houston resident Damilare Oluwaseun, having a master’s degree in Economics was not enough for his relatives, hence he got a doctorate. His wife did not stop at earning a bachelor’s either. Indeed, the same obsession with obtaining university degrees runs in many Nigerian families. Many a time, this is a thing of pride for families. Compared to only 8 percent of native White Americans with master’s degrees and 1% with doctorates, 17 percent of Nigerians held master’s degrees and 4 percent had doctorate degrees, according to the US Census Bureau.

Sometimes however, immigration problem compel undocumented young people to stay in school. One commenter put it this way: “In a way, it is a catch – 22 – because you are forced to remain in school, but then you end up getting your doctorate at 29. If you stay in school, immigration will leave you alone. For yet many others, getting more degrees is a way to overcome the problem of being a double minority – black and immigrant. Being very well educated has its advantages. It is the main reason why the Asian community has been so economically successful in the US, according to Bloomberg. “The Asian American Achievement paradox” by Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, notes that Asian American immigrants in recent decades have started with one advantage: they are highly educated. Remarkably, Nigerian immigrants are significantly more highly educated that even Chinese or South Korean immigrants. The paper recognises that by many measures, African immigrants are as far ahead of American whites in educational achievement as whites are ahead of African Americans.

In the 21st century, getting well educated is an achievement. Yet more than ever before, fostering innovation and development in our communities and countries have become the crucial goal of superior education. In other words, education is no longer an end in itself. Inventors in the United States are experienced and well educated, with most holding advanced degrees in science and technology fields. In fact, up to 80 percent of innovators possess at least one advanced degree, and 55 percent have attained a PhD in a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] subject. Even though immigrants are a mere 13.5% of the US population, they make up more than 35 percent of US innovators. Though most innovators are highly educated and are comprise of a significant population of immigrants when their small population is taken into account, the highly educated. African immigrants are missing in this equation.

 In an interesting twist, immigrants born in Europe or Asia are more than 5 times as likely as native – born US citizens to have created an innovation in the land of opportunities. Though Nigerians are the most highly educated immigrant community in the United States, only 4.4 percent of foreign – born innovators are from Africa. In comparison, 35.4 percent of innovators are from Europe, 21.5% are from India, and 17.1% are from China. The meagre population (less than 8%) of US born innovators who are minorities is story for another day. There is probaly no solution to this puzzle. Why are Nigerians so highly educated yet underrepresented in the science and tech community? Why are Nigerians generally averse to taking those kinds of risks? The largest black nation on earth has struggled with perennial bad governance. There are simply no jobs – white collar jobs of course – and millions of young school leavers earn educational qualifications which their communities do not need. Regrettably, many end up unemployed, frustrated and without hope. Crime is rife. Sometime this year, I sent my 2005 model Toyota sedan to the automobile mechanic, only for the technicians to report hours later that the automatic gear system had failed for some unexplained reason. It was obvious that operator mistakes were to blame. For a society boasting of tens of thousands of youths trained in polytechnic and engineering schools, such a situation should never arise.

In conclusion, there is a crucial need for Africans and especially Nigerians, to learn to respect the technical professions in both the formal and informal sectors of industry. I hold this view because even in societies where research and development funding and policies are superb, Nigerians are to be found lacking. Innovation incentives such as R & D tax incentives and tax credits, low taxes on information and communication technology products and funding of education and University R and D are absolutely vital, but a paradigm shift, a change in mentality is needed for the Nigerian society at home and in the diaspora to take excellent advantage of them to create value in their communities.