Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Government of Benin republic has ordered the upward review of petroleum, electricity and water tariff by 18% (eighteen per cent) with effect from the first week of July 2009. This was announced Wednesday by the Minister in charge of Energy and Water Mr. Sacca Lafia. To the average Beninese, this is a disastrous phenomenon occurring at a time when people are still battling to cope with the dividends of a global economic crunch. Following this announcement, there has been restiveness among the populace as not everybody is prepared to bear the burden of increased water and electricity bills just yet. In effect, people are obliged to fall back to traditional habits of fossil fuel consumption using firewood and charcoal. Fortunately, charcoal and firewood exploitation are neither prohibitive nor scarce. There is abundant supply of shea tree in all regions of the country. This abundance has been helpful to consumers in past years, and will prove very feasible this time around. Apart from the numerous uses to which the Shea tree is being employed dating back to centuries, Climate Change Advocates (and that includes all of us); will soon discover that there is more to the tree than just its food, medicinal and industrial value. Industrialists will need substance extracted from the seed of the Shea tree for soap and cream production. Even the bark of this tree has also been employed in medicinal soap production in most West African countries. Most importantly, the wood has been exploited for ages in the production of high quality, long lasting charcoal. Before one thinks of deforestation, it is pertinent to note that the people of Benin republic are not unmindful of the effects of destroying their eco-system through deforestation activities. In effect, for every single Shea tree that is hewed down, at least ten more are planted in its place thus ensuring continuity of exploitation vis-à-vis regeneration. Moreover, the tree is never cut from the root; so that it has chances of sprouting more stems that can be trimmed to rear up another forest in the near future. The charcoal which burns without emitting the much talked about carbon or fume is almost absent in this specie of charcoal from the Shea tree so that not much harm is done to the ozone layer. This charcoal is being used for heating the room, cooking at various levels, large-scale fish drying and fueling industrial furnace. Local restaurants also use it for their beef and chicken barbecue which adds some appetizing and mouth watering aroma to the roast.This product is produced in commercial quantity and is good for use in Europe where there is more cold weather condition for the greater part of the year. Government argues that the reason for the increase is to guarantee uninterrupted water and electricity supply, but most members of the public do not seem to agree with that excuse.
Monday, July 20, 2009
There is widespread belief among Africans on the existence of ghosts. Popular religions (including the writer’s), do not ascribe to such beliefs. But in the light of the endless debate and counterclaims bordering on this ghost phenomenon, I am persuaded to share the following stories:
“Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Damn me, if I don’t, because that would amount to not believing in oneself.”
“As a matter of fact, I have come to prefer living in this ‘ghostly’ state of freedom
than being perpetually trapped in the filthy solid called ‘human’ form.”
“By the time the officials would come to remove that body,
they will be sorry to realize that we have since freed ourselves.”
This was part of a conversation heard by a condemned prisoner from his inmates who had passed on during the previous night. And they continued thus:
“Imagine I couldn’t be stopped by any of the sentries at the three fortified
gates as I passed without having to have the shackles unlocked.”
“I have taken advantage of my freedom to visit just anywhere
I desired to, including my family and my friends.”
“The only sorry part of my interactions with the people I met
was the fact that each and every one of them thought
that they had had what they call a dream.”
To ghosts as to humans, each existence is considered to be the real while the other is the unreal. Both cannot be true for there be only one reality. When considered from the standpoint of metaphysics, it does appear that that which we call material existence is but a counterfeit of the world of substance.
Back to the prison:
When the authorities were alerted to the sudden death of two out of three inmates awaiting the hangman’s noose, undertakers were promptly dispatched to evacuate the unsightly corpses.
Little consideration is given to the fate of condemned criminals, let alone their dead bodies, hence there was no call for autopsy to determine the cause of their untimely death. However, upon the insistence of the surviving prisoner, one of the undertakers dared listen to his detailed account of how his now dead partners-in-crime had poisoned themselves with some overdose of cocaine usually smuggled to their cell by some prison officials.
The drug trafficking part did not interest him as it was already an open secret. The dramatic manner of their death and the subsequent conversations and apparitions was as thrilling as a good movie.
According to this eye-witness, it was one of the suicides that resurrected first on the night of their tragedy. This eye-witness was woken up by a glow at the far corner of their unlighted cell. Initially, he thought it was some security men that had come with torchlight to inspect the cells. This soft light gradually assumed form like human frame and angled itself at different dimensions as it spindled and finally floated out of the cell through the concrete deck above their head. Goose pimples enveloped this witness’s entire being. He became momentarily dazed and dumbfounded. He thought he was in some sort of trance. When he eventually came to, he tried to talk to his cell-mates, but no voice talked back to him. He tried to feel his way through the darkness to where his friends are supposed to be staying. His hands touched two cold lifeless bodies. It was then that it dawned on him that he was the only living being in that prison cell.
Since the day his death sentence was pronounced by the Judge at the Armed Robbery Tribunal, he had developed thick skin and could hardly wait for his execution. Every passing hour was as agonizing as the stings of a million scorpions. He once boasted to his mates that he no longer feared death. But as his hands felt the lifeless and cold bodies of those two malfeasants, his entire system reverberated with such strange timidity that surprised even him. For a moment, he became aware that he was afraid of nothing but death.
In the News:
It was when this story was published by a journalist friend of the undertaker that government became interested in the matter and had to order for autopsy to confirm the drugging angle. The startling revelation triggered off a nationwide crackdown on prison drug cartel which smartly went underground, only to surface after the security agents had been bought over or wearied by fruitless efforts.
After that publication many unsolicited correspondence bearing witness to authentic accounts of apparitions began to pour into the journalist’s mail box. Being himself an investigative journalist, he did not just take in those stories on their face value.
The following accounts are the result of an in-depth research work, vigils or surveillances, interviews and interactions with religious authorities, institutional doyens, historical and traditional heavyweights of various ethnic representations in and around Africa.
Definition of Terms:
Before arriving at conclusions, attempt had been made to draw a distinction between 'ghost' and 'spirit.' The Encarta Dictionary describes ghost as: supposed spirit remaining after death; supposed spirit of somebody who has died, believed to appear as a shadowy form or to cause sounds, the movement of objects, or a frightening atmosphere in a place; an entity that seems to exist but does not.
It describes spirit as the vital force that characterizes a human being as being alive.
The Nicene Creed formulated in AD 325, which constitutes the formal statement of Christian beliefs, refers to The Holy Ghost as the third person of the God-head. Recent translations of the Scriptures have interchangeably used The Holy Ghost to mean The Holy Spirit.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the distinguishing features are:
► Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit refers to the third person of the God-head. It is always written with an initial capital letter. It cannot be rendered in plural because there is only one Spirit as there is only one God.
►Ghosts cannot be said to be 'spirits' because the Encarta has defined it as “supposed spirit.”
During the research work and interviews, these clarifications were shared with resource persons with a view to keeping within bounds.
Not long ago, there lived a young man who was untimely snatched away from his loved ones by the wicked hand of fearless death. Mr. Obele had just graduated from the university and was about to enter into the labour market. He was the only son of his parents amidst five sisters. Expectations were very high on him as the first fruit of that family. His early graduation meant that he would soon be helping his parents in the upbringing of his younger ones as soon as he landed a reasonable job. It was for this reason that the parents made sacrifices and compromised the early education of his sisters to ensure that he got the best possible education. He was not unaware of the demands upon his life, and endeavoured to excel in his educational career through diligence and striving for high ethical and moral standards. True to type, he bagged first class honours in Banking and Finance.
In the very moment of his triumph, the greatest tragedy that he would not be alive to recount had befallen him and every hope he and indeed every member of the family cherished, fizzled out like the morning dew when the sun begins to blossom. At the end of his National Youth Service Corps, Obele was returning home to share the joys with family members when the minibus he boarded got stuck in a go-slow caused by a rickety slow moving truck that would not make way for other vehicles to move ahead.
The driver crawled behind that truck for miles before being coerced by impatient passengers into attempting to overtake it. Many of the passengers resorted to calling him ‘madam’s driver.’ Some called him apprentice driver. Others even cajoled that he was following a funeral convoy. Most disturbing was the fact that other vehicles, which looked, outmoded than this bus overtook both his bus m and the truck in front.
The driver seemed to have run out of patience when all of a sudden he decided to overtake the never-ending convoy. Just then, that truck which had no rear-lights tried to overtake another truck further ahead thereby pushing the minibus into the counter-traffic lane. Here was where they kept date with destiny.
The three vehicles ended up on the body of an oncoming trailer on the Lagos-Benin highway in western Nigeria. Sixteen passengers lost their lives in that tragic incidence. Two survivors from the minibus lived to tell this story – a pregnant woman and her baby that was born on the scene of the accident.
One of the obituaries read as follows:
"With gratitude to God for a life well spent, we mourn the untimely death of our son and brother, Mr. Obele who died last Saturday in a ghastly road accident along Lagos-Benin highway. Obele was a graduate of Lagos University. He was aged 21. His remains will be buried in his father’s compound next Saturday. May his gentle soul rest in the bosom of the Lord, Amen. He is survived by his parents and five sisters.”
On a daily basis, pages of newspapers in Nigeria carry similar obituary inserts. One would therefore ask why this particular incidence should make news headlines. Is he the only future hope of the family that ever died prematurely? Is he the only one ever to graduate at the age of twenty-one? Alternatively, is he the only lone son of a family of six ever to die in auto-crash? More pathetic incidents than this happen on Nigerian highways almost every passing hour. These reasons are therefore, not enough to warrant recalling the obituary.
Ghost in Bank:
Fact is that barely six months after his death; Mr. Obele was spotted by one of his university mates working in one of the popular banking institutions situated along Allen Avenue, Lagos Nigeria as a Cashier. His friend had come to cash a cheque given to him by one of his benefactors as he was still searching for employment. He congratulated Obele for having already found a good job. It was when he ran into another schoolmate of theirs and shared the news of Obele having secured a job that his unbelieving friend argued that the very boy he was describing had died, and that he even attended his funeral. The argument that ensued made them fix a hurried rendezvous to visit the bank the following day.
Fortunately, Obele was seen flesh and blood by the doubting ‘Thomas.’ His shock came when his host evaporated before his eyes as he rushed forward to call out his name. Thomas slumped right on the banking hall and shortly passed away. There was stampede and uneasiness within and outside the bank premises. Some customers who could not immediately comprehend what had transpired ran for cover thinking that some robbers were carrying out their usual daylight raid on the bank. The bank supervisor who suspected the same robbery operation discretely set off the alarm system, which brought armed combat police officers promptly surrounding the bank and cordoning off the entire street to forestall any attempt to escape.
When Thomas came to, after having received some first aid treatment, he was whisked into the bank manager’s office for questioning amidst tight security. The initial apprehension and disbelief that met his story soon gave way to another pandemonium when the Security men that were dispatched to invite Obele to come and identify Thomas who claims to be his schoolmate reported that he was nowhere to be found. His jacket, lunchbox, and valise, which he left in the cloakroom, had all disappeared. The column where he signed on the attendance register that morning remained blank. No Security staff saw him leave the bank premises, which were immediately sealed off as soon as the alarm went off. Worst of all, his entire personal file had also disappeared from the file cabinet. The only thing the bank authorities refused to disclose was whether the cash he had drawn from the strong room to commence the day’s business as well as the transactions he had made with customers prior to the drama were intact.
Further investigations that took a combined team of the bank’s anti-fraud squad and men of the Police criminal investigation bureau to his last known address at Aguda area of Lagos and subsequently to the hometown of late Mr. Obele in Isele – Delta State, only confirmed Thomas’s story. Neighbours at his Lagos address confirmed that he had moved in barely six months ago which coincides with the same period he started work at the bank. His girlfriend, Florence, confirmed that Obele had come home that ill-fated afternoon and collected all his belongings claiming that the bank was sending him on some training. He left some money with Florence and promised to come back for her as soon as he checked into the lodging at the training centre. She confirmed that they had met at a nightclub some four months back and that she was already carrying his two-month pregnancy. Upon this confirmation, the Cashier’s cage from where Mr. Obele made his dramatic exit became a ghost cage with no staff agreeing to enter therein.
The Ghost Question:
This is only one of many stories of apparitions of dead people among the living. This gives rise to the question of whether people really die in the sense of the world’s understanding of the phenomenon. Alternatively, do they just change form, location, and name; carrying on with their day-to-day activities wearing the same physical appearance? Is this state of existence applicable to a select type of people or is it an experience involving everybody?
In most African environments, interments of beloved ones are not concluded without special rituals or fervent prayers purported to persuade or pacify the ‘spirit’ of the departed to “Rest in Peace.” In the same vein, some families would enlist the intervention of religious priests or traditional medicine-men to exorcise the spirits of their departed ones, especially when things seem to go wrong in the family. Such instances that call for spiritual intervention range from childlessness, infant mortality, and mysterious sicknesses to unprogressiveness among family members. The widespread nature of this practice only confirms the extent of belief on ghosts.
A grandfather once explained about the spirit world, how the souls of our ancestors continue to need love and attention and devotion. Given these things, they will share in our lives and they will bless us and even warn us about disasters in our dreams. But if we neglect the souls of our ancestors, they will become lost and lonely and will wander around in the kingdom of the dead no better off than a warrior killed by his enemy and left unburied in a rice paddy to be eaten by blackbirds of prey. Such conversations can only allude to the widespread and deep-rooted belief in life after so-called death.
In the Republic of Benin, for instance, the 1st and 2nd days of the month of November are observed as national work-free days. In anticipation of this holiday, people would go to or hire labourers to clear grass, decorate, and refurbish the tombs of their departed ones at the public cemeteries around the country, well in advance. Come the D-day, family members would throng to the graveyards to hold prayer sessions preceded by anointing the tombs with fragrances, lighting candles, incense and, according to individual family disposition, offering sacrifices of various kinds in honour of the departed ones. To round off the occasion, parties are held with lots of eating and drinking. Some families even hire live bands as if in a real funeral. This practice, alludes to the widespread belief that the ‘spirits’ or ‘ghosts’ of their loved ones are still present somewhere around our earth; and by these rituals, are being reassured of the families’ attachment and love.
From the Archives:
Lopsang Rampa, the author of “Cave of the Ancients,” in one of his series is being credited with negotiating with a certain frustrated but ebullient looking young man about to take his own life; who willingly shifted from his body and allowed Rampa to take it over in exchange for his own frail and disease-stricken frame. Rampa in essence had his mystically advanced mind intact, but only expressed through the young man’s borrowed shell. The story continues that way back home, the other man’s wife continued to behold the face and frame of her husband, but could not comprehend his strange behaviour and utterances for the rest of their cohabitation. Neither did she realize that she was in fact, living with a complete stranger.
A Living Witness:
A widow who is still alive today was sick and bedridden. All medical and therapeutic remedies rendered to her only drained the family’s lean resources. It got to a point that no further help could be given and she was left for dead. Her children were too young to offer any assistance, as she was rather their breadwinner. One night, as in a trance, she picked up a shovel and a head pan and followed an old man who guided her through some familiar bush track to some very strange environment where the king of the local village only touched her on the shoulder restoring her to instant state of healthiness. The same man whom she later recognized as her late husband had escorted her back to a point where she could recognize her way home. It was daybreak by the time she got back into the village having trekked all the nightlong. People were surprised to see an almost dead woman go back to her farm work tilling the ground and cutting overgrown grass with the strength and vigour of a teenager.
The sorry twist to this experience is that she still has a vivid picture of the environment where she received her healing but no known community within their locality fits into her description. Her experience started like a dream where her late husband came to visit her on her sickbed and said to her that she needed to be alive to continue to fend for their three children. He then offered to take her to the man he said was a native doctor who also was the king of that mysterious village. This story can be verified by anybody who doubts its authenticity because the woman in question and her children are still alive up to the time of going to press.
There was another woman who lived in a popular part of Lome in Togo republic. She operated a roadside restaurant, and her food was said to be exceptionally delicious and much sought after. One day, someone identified her as a woman from her far-away town in neighbouring upper-volta region of Ghana. He knew she had died some years back. He boldly walked to her front and called her by name. She looked up, waved her long spoon across his face, and felled him to the ground right on the street.
In a twinkle of an eye, she evaporated carrying all her pots of variety of food. As if that was not enough, she took with her the young girl that was her helper. When curious neighbours who witnessed the spectacle hurried to where she lived to arrest her for causing public disorder, they received the shock of their lives on discovering that she had also packed all her belongings, which could hardly fit into a pick-up van. All these happened in less than fifteen minutes, which is too little time for anyone to have gathered as much household utensils and furniture to escape.
A young man who lived in Port-Harcourt Road in the commercial city of Aba in Abia state Nigeria once contracted a prostitute with whom he spent the night at his residence. The next morning, he asked the girl to accompany him to his business place in what is called cemetery market. This locality was a one-time burial ground that the government cleared to construct one of the very busy markets in the state for want of space. They both walked hand-in-hand and side-by-side until they got to a culvert that needed one person crossing at a time. The man was the first to cross. As he turned back to grab his girlfriend’s hand once again, she was gone. It was early in the morning and there was not yet the normal crowd that could hide anybody. The man raised alarm and his shop neighbours joined in a frantic search, which yielded no results. The only answer to her sudden disappearance was that she was a ghost. When the man ran back home to check whether she was there by any chance, he met his room still padlocked. He had the only key to his room. The girl’s vanity bag and underwear that she had washed and hung in the man’s bathroom earlier in the morning were all gone.
Cote d’Ivoire Resident:
What about a young man who had a wife and two children. They had spent four years in Cote d’Ivoire before he consented to taking the family to his hometown somewhere in Ngwa-land near Umuahia the capital of Abia state - Nigeria. When they arrived within earshot from the man’s compound, he alighted from the chartered vehicle and directed the driver to carry the family to a compound he indicated to them feigning that he wanted to inform a relative of their arrival. That was the last they saw of him. When the wife met with members of the family and identified her husband from the family photograph that hung on the wall, one member of the family was invited after another until they had almost the entire village in session. The woman apparently overwhelmed was full of joy that she had such a large number of in-laws. After protracted consultations, the grave of the man she claimed to be the father of her children was shown her. The woman and her children are still living and have put the nightmare behind them.
During the oil boom era in Nigeria; Nigerians acknowledge that what they now have is a ‘doom,’ some undergraduates used to travel abroad, during long vacations, to as far as the United Kingdom, to buy various items which they sold to raise money for their next tuition, board, etcetera. One of such girls had met a white man at Heathrow airport who offered to chaperon her around popular shops at the end of which he offered to accommodate her for a couple of days in his apartment in central London. This was not an unusual gesture as most tourists always appreciated anything that would make them spend less on hotel bills. The girl returned to London three weeks after her last visit, and headed for her lover’s residence. She stood at the gate and knocked frantically, pressing the doorbell endlessly, until some neighbours came to inquire what the matter was. When she announced the name of the man she was hoping to meet and confirmed that they had been together some three weeks back, she was told that the man had been dead about a year ago. Moreover, no one was known to have entered that apartment for quite some time. Upon hearing that revelation, the girl slumped to the ground. Ambulance service was called up. The girl was later handed to the Nigerian High Commission that assisted to fly her back to Nigeria.
At the Morgue:
Let’s be patient to share this last testimony of an old man who slapped a mortuary attendant and got his neck twisted. His wizardry was an open secret. His eyes continued to blink after his heart had stopped beating. Autopsy report confirmed him dead while the blinking eyes proved otherwise. As his body started decomposing, his kindred conceded that he be buried like any dead person. During his burial ceremony he had the hands and feet of his coffin bearers twisted in unimaginable manners until there was a consensus to delay the interment for another couple of days. While the corps lay in the morgue, attendants reported of endless shuffling of feet and collision of caskets especially during the nights.
One of the attendants tried to ascertain what the matter was. What he got as a report was dirty slap on his face from the man with blinking eyes. He was busy scattering the other caskets and corpses to create a distance between them and him.
Flesh and Blood:
There is no scientific explanation to the fact that a body can remain fresh with blood still flowing in its veins after it had been buried for more than six months. Science describes decomposition as the process of breaking down complex matter into simpler form through the action of fungi and bacteria. This process can commence as early as forty-eight hours in the case of vegetables and animals once the life giving source is disconnected. But this natural law was violated by a woman from the same locality as the man at the morgue earlier spoken of. During her life-time, she was known to be a devout member of the Women’s Guild in her local church. That devotedness earned her a befitting and well attended church burial. According to tradition, she was buried on her undeveloped piece of land within the outskirts of the village. Her frequent and unceasing appearance at her former house especially at eventides became a source of worry not only to her immediate family members, but to the entire community. A group of clergies did whatever they could, but she would not be assuaged from making those nocturnal visits. As a last resort, a traditional medicine-man had to be consulted. His two initial visits to the grave proved futile. The woman seemed to have eavesdropped on the discussions preparatory to nailing her down and had decided to play hide and seek with the BABA as he was fondly called. Himself being an adept in the craft, got himself dangerously fortified and enlisted the services of two aides, just in case.
During the next three days, BABA and his assistants were on fast; eating only a morsel of roasted plantain soaked in raw palm oil by midnight. On the high-day and at the high-hour, the trio set off and stealthily barricaded the graveyard, making any intrusion or escape very dangerous and impossible. After carefully studying the situation, BABA ordered his assistants to clear off surrounding weeds and start digging the grave with the intention of exhuming the corpse. When they struck the deck, lo and behold, they came face to face with a casket glittering with polish and ornaments as on the very day the woman was buried. The screws which held the cover were already loose, indicative of the fact that they had been previously tampered with or had never been fastened in the first place. While they were trying to contemplate this anomaly, the woman emerged from inside the casket, shelving the cover aside in a very casual manner. Her clothes were as fresh as ever before. She engaged BABA in a long dialogue which heightened with threats, abuses, allegations and counter-claims and finally mellowing down to compromises. When BABA had succeeded in putting her to sleep, he had her head severed from her neck, and handed it to members of the woman’s family for reburial on her living room which was one of her grievances for frequently coming back home. The family would rather take the fresh cut head to the Police and lodged a complaint of murder against BABA. He was promptly arrested, and would have gone to jail if not for the intervention and testimony of a cross-section of the community and the church authorities.
So far for this drama. Dwelling long on evil tends to give it some air of prominence, which is not the intention of these write-ups.
These and other verifiable evidences of appearances of people that were once dead amongst the living begs the question as to whether people really do die, whether reincarnation is still an issue for debate, or whether all those apparitions are only some hallucination of some sort, or proof of man’s immortality. Whatever it is, these appearances have neither ceased nor have people found any clear-cut explanation to the phenomenon.
Suspicion amongst Neighbours:
It is becoming even confusing to tell whether one’s next-door neighbor at the place of business, in the churches or even at home is not a phantom from a nearby or distant location seeming to be a living human. The danger lies in the fact that their true identity only becomes obvious when they happen to be identified by some earlier acquaintance, and they vanish. Everybody seems to be a suspect. Or are we not? If we are not, what evidence do we have that we can even vouch that our parents or grandparents were not such-like beings?
The only argument that can stand the test of time in this regard is the common belief among certain occult or secret societies that their adherents, who fulfill the requirements and obligations of their membership, can be sure to have as many as seven lives or levels of physical manifestation either on this earth or in some regions only known to them. For the love of these earthly material exigencies most Africans especially business executives and some government officials or politicians are known to belong to one or more of these secret societies. Apart from using their membership to intimidate and threaten non-adherents, most of them have used it to attain levels of affluence and influence. Little is known of their involvement until at death when their members usually come to hijack the funeral to the exclusion of other members of the family.
To such group of humans, their life is ever shrouded in secrecy, scandal, and accusations. There are endless mysterious deaths of family members, which are linked to the demands of their cult. It is alleged with absurdity of evidence that they do pledge the lives of those family members in exchange for riches and promise of long life or life after death.
But ghosts do not and CANNOT cause physical harm to any living person. What can be attributed to physical injuries sustained by people who lay claim to having encountered a ghost is the scientific fact that some people make themselves vulnerable. They lack courage. They harbour fear. They fail to exercise control over their Solar Plexus, and thus allow it to contract in the presence of any form of threat. It is evident that non-resistant thought expands the Solar Plexus; resistant thought contracts it. Pleasant thought expands it; unpleasant thought contracts it. Thoughts of courage, power, confidence, and hope all produce a corresponding state, but the one arch enemy of the Solar Plexus which must be absolutely destroyed before one is immune to so-called ghostly attacks is fear. It is capable of making men tremble at the contemplation of their past, present, and future; fear themselves, their friends, and their enemies; fear everything and everybody including ghosts.
During such encounters, the victim has been known to slap, kick and scratch himself under the illusion that he was wadding off a ghost. This accounts also for the physical injuries sustained after such encounters.
The Scriptures say that, “where a man’s treasure is, there he focuses his heart.” This ‘heart’ is synonymous with soul, mind, spirit; whatever faculty that constitutes an embodiment of or manifestation of that personality or individuality called ‘man.’ A further understanding of the activities or preoccupations of those aforementioned apparitions will reveal their strong attachment to materialism.
Some schools of thought will also attest to the fact that one of the factors that compels them to constitute a coven or congregation is not only the material allurements but also the alleged physical manifestation of their spiritual Masters.
All human activities emanate from thought. Thought originates from the Mind – the Universal storehouse of all information. Even when people tend to forget their actions or thoughts, the Mind continues to retain these information. That retention is otherwise known as Consciousness.
Duality of Being:
Man is both physical and spiritual. Physicality has its shortcomings and hindrances. The spiritual is uninhibited. Hence, when the physical body becomes inanimate, has passed through the death experience, the spiritual continues to exist, carrying with it all the embodiment or characteristics of the personality through which it had expressed.
If prior to passing on, a person had been malevolent, vindictive, hostile to others, wicked, a murderer or thief, quarrelsome, alcoholic, adulterer, liar and full of all the vices the world ever knew, he does not suddenly transform into a benevolent, gentle, loving peace maker. The same is true of a person who, by universal standards could be adjudged a good person. Personality or character traits are carried over to the next level of existence.
Ascension to higher levels will depend strictly upon the degree of refinement or reformation of the individual, hence the Scriptural injunction to work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling. Phil.2:12(b).
The distinction, therefore, is that whereas benevolent spirit persons move closer to celestial level of tranquility, serenity and bliss, wicked ones continue to hover around dense regions as ghosts.
When some people die, their mundane inclination attaches them to the physical world. This attraction motivates the “ghost” to draw Etheric Energy from their surroundings at will, thus keeping them grounded to the material environment rather than allowing them ascend to finer astral levels of existence.
Seldom do most dead people come to terms that they are no more dwelling in flesh and blood. Such ghosts tend to continue to dwell in their familiar native environments such as the offices, market place, personal rooms, trying to communicate with former acquaintances, and stupidly engaging in physical life activities such as drinking, eating food, having sex; in fact, engaging in all manner of physical life trappings. Some lurk around in the hope of trying to settle scores with enemies or reconcile with people they had regrettably offended, or still, trying to put finishing touches to unfinished business; though these are not possible without a physical body.
People have often come back to life after several hours or even a couple of days in a state of comma, resulting from fatal accident, influence of anaesthesia, hallucination, or having some dose of astral travelling. They have been consistent in their accounts of near-death experiences, which coincide with some of the accounts herein given.
Curiosity and excitement at the prospect of unrestricted movement compel some of these dense spirited persons to wander into the river. Some experiment with living among wild animals, reptiles and domestic animals. Others prefer to dwell among the birds of the trees. Others, still, maintain their physical body and carry on as if they had not died. It all depends on the overbearing inclination of the person during life time.
A developing baby in the womb tries to mimic the mother’s movement as transmitted via the umbilical cord. As soon as the umbilical cord is severed at birth, the baby is liberated to begin to mimic other people that surround it. This includes learning to smile, eyes movement, crawling and walking and talking with increasing number of days of its earthly existence. The same is true of a traveller who, for instance leaves what we can call a 19th century “third world country,” who, wearied by the long distance, sleeps off, only to arrive in a 21st century “developed world.” This traveller is one that is passing through what we call ‘life’ to what is termed ‘death’ which is marked by the severance of the silver cord. This severance of the silver cord which marks the final stage of passing through the threshold between earthly physical existence and extraterrestrial sojourning, accounts for the rolling upwards of the eyes of a departing soul as it trails the blaze along its enchanting trajectory beyond the horizon.
Such a sudden change of environment will certainly confuse the traveller. The initial reaction will be that of unbelief, confusion, and disorientation. But with time, he will begin to mimic other beings within the environment. He will make new acquaintances, initially with timidity, until time and circumstances enliven his response. He then will begin to exercise his sense of discrimination, liberty and choice.
In this state of consciousness, everything is possible including transmigration, teleportation and transformation.
The following photograph depicts a man-eating vulture which is believed to be an embodiment of a one-time cannibal. This man and his wife were lynched in a mob action instigated by the village youths after they have been substantially linked to many mysterious disappearances of children within the neighbourhood of Onitsha in Anambra state of Nigeria. Shortly after the death of the couple, people started noticing this pair of vultures at the refuse dump near one of the road-side markets after the Niger Bridge. Naturally, vultures congregate around butcheries where they can get enough meat to each. But this pair had insatiable preference to human flesh. Children who occasionally went to have a bowel movement at the dump seldom returned to their parents. These disappearances ceased only after the vultures were tracked, killed and burned to ashes.
Interestingly, what people regard as ‘invocation of spirits,’ is nothing more than tuning up oneself to a rate of vibration, launching out, attuning to a frequency of higher electro-magnetic charge otherwise known as the sixth dimension. Spirit CANNOT be ‘invoked’ – that is, called down to earth. Rather, humans can raise consciousness to a level where communication with spirit becomes possible.
Conversely, according to the Epistle of St. Paul to the people of Corinth “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:47 – 52.
Evidently, spirit-filled persons can hardly be counted among those apparitions. Their abode is in the spiritual realm as promised by Jesus the Christ when he said, “In My Father’s house, there are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you so that wherever I am there you will also be; if it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2).
Humans have a Choice:
And God says, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. (Deuteronomy 30:15 – 20.)
Little wonder the wisest man in recorded history wrote:
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say; I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 – 8, 13)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
To be or not to be is no longer the question with regard to acceptability of GM or not. Just a few years back, it was like a taboo for journalists to discuss issues encouraging the adoption of GM cropping in so many African environments. But with the passage of time, consciously or curiously, many of us have consumed and come to appreciate GM products.
Chief among the many factors that have encouraged GM acceptability is the economic advantage it has over the conventional food production methods. And since there has not been any reported health related cases associated with it, nobody seems to complain any more. Gradually ignorance is giving place to experience, thanks to the media enlightenment programs.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
In a recent report published by the International Food Production Research Institute (IFPRI) titled “Lang Grabbing” by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries, other factors contributing to the ongoing food price crises since 2007 include increased pressures on natural resources, water scarcity, export restrictions imposed by major producers when food prices were high, and growing distrust in the functioning of regional and global markets which has in turn pushed countries short in land and water to find alternative means of producing food. The report also argues that these land acquisitions have the potential to inject much needed investment into agriculture and rural areas in poor developing countries, but they also raise concerns about the impacts on poor local people, who risk losing access to and control over land on which they depend.
The research identifies two major categories of the so-called ‘Land Grabbers.’ which are food-importing countries with land and water constraints but rich in capital, such as the Gulf States. The second group is countries with large populations and food security concerns such as China, South Korea, and India which are intensifying land acquisition overseas. Their targeted victims are naturally the developing economies where production costs are much lower and where there is abundant land.
Even as the issue is still being discussed, many developing countries have already swallowed the line, hook and sinker dangled by their would-be tenants. One only hopes that the Zimbabwean saga of chasing out authentic farmers should not repeat itself by the time it is realized how lucrative the business of farming can be especially when handled by experts with the advantages of advanced technology. History, they say, repeats itself because people refuse to learn from it. Methinks, one way we could avoid a reappearance of past ugly incidents is for the indigenous farmers to form co-operatives and enter into alliances with the foreign farmers which will afford them the opportunity of not only being co-partners in farm management but would over a period of time acquire the much needed technology that would make them truly independent in the long run. By so doing, they should be able to produce enough food for local consumption while the expatriates are concerned with producing for export.
Given that the food price crisis has increased competition for land and water resources for agriculture, it is not surprising that farmland prices have risen throughout the world in recent years. In 2007 alone, farmland prices jumped by 16 percent in Brazil, by 31 percent in Poland, and by 15 percent in the Midwestern United States. In many countries, developed water sources are almost fully utilized, but agricultural demand for water is expected to increase drastically in the future.
Curiously, of all the land deals already signed, Africa accounts for more than seventy percent spread between Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Nigeria; with less than ten percent involving Pakistan and the Philippines.
Because of the urgent need for greater development in rural areas and the fiscal inability of the developing-country governments to provide the necessary infusion of capital, large-scale land acquisitions can be seen as an opportunity for increased investment in agriculture. Proponents of such investments list possible benefits for the rural poor, including the creation of a potentially significant number of farm and off-farm jobs, development of rural infrastructure, and poverty-reducing improvements such as construction of schools and health posts. Other possible positive spillovers include resources for new agricultural technologies and practices as well as future global price stability and increased production of food crops that could supply local and national consumers in addition to overseas consumers. Though some of the land-lease agreements make provisions for investments in rural development, these deals may not be made on equal terms between the investors and local communities. The bargaining power in negotiating these agreements is on the side of the foreign firm, especially when its aspirations are supported by the host state or local elites. Smallholders who are being displaced from their land cannot effectively negotiate terms favorable to them when dealing with such powerful national and international actors, nor can they enforce agreements if the foreign investor fails to provide promised jobs or local facilities. Thus, unequal power relations in the land acquisition deals can put the livelihoods of the poor at risk. This inequality in bargaining power is exacerbated when the smallholders whose land is being acquired for foreign investment projects have no formal title to the land, but have been using it under customary tenure arrangements. Since the state often formally owns the land, the poor run the risk of being pushed off the plot in favor of the investor, without consultation or compensation. Land is an inherently political issue across the globe, with land reform and land rights issues often leading to violent conflict. The addition of another actor competing for this scarce and contested resource can add to socio-political instability in developing countries.
The ecological sustainability of land and water resources slated for foreign investment is another important issue when considering large-scale foreign investments. Introducing intensive agricultural production can threaten biodiversity, carbon stocks, and land and water resources. Converting forests or rangelands to monocropping reduces diversity in flora, fauna, and agro biodiversity, as well as aboveground and subsurface carbon stocks. Many tropical soils are unsuited for intensive cultivation (one reason for long-fallow cultivation cycles in many tropical areas that are considered “unused”), or there is insufficient water for intensive cultivation. Although fertilizer use and irrigation can overcome some of these limitations, these activities can lead to long-run sustainability problems such as salinity, water logging, or soil erosion if they are inappropriately designed. These problems are most likely to occur if the outside investors focus on short-term profit or lack a sound understanding of the local ecology. Irrigating the landholdings of foreign investors may take water away from other users in the area or from environmental flows, and intensive use of agrochemicals contributes to water-quality problems in groundwater and runoff. Foreign investors with short-term leases may have a short-term perspective on the sustainability of intensive agriculture and less identity with the area than local residents. Thus, it is important to conduct a careful environmental impact assessment that not only looks at effects on the local area, but also considers off-site impacts on soils, water, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity. Land-lease contracts should also include safeguards to ensure that sustainable practices are employed.
The IFPRI report has not left us without some useful suggestion which, if properly adhered to, will eliminate the much-detested incidents that usually arise from transcontinental marriages of this nature. Among some of the suggested elements of a code of conduct include:
1. Transparency in negotiations. Existing local landholders must be informed and involved in negotiations over land deals. Free, prior, and informed consent is the standard to be upheld. Particular efforts are required to protect the rights of indigenous and other marginalized ethnic groups. The media and civil society can play a key role in making information available to the public.
2. Respect for existing land rights, including customary and common property rights. Those who lose land should be compensated and rehabilitated to an equivalent livelihood. The standards of the World Commission on Dams provide an example of such policies.
3. Sharing of benefits. The local community should benefit, not lose, from foreign investments in agriculture. Leases are preferable to lump-sum compensation because they provide an ongoing revenue stream when land is taken away for other uses. Contract farming or out-grower schemes are even better because they leave smallholders in control of their land but still deliver output to the outside investor. Explicit measures are needed for enforcement if agreed-upon investment or compensation is not forthcoming.
4. Environmental sustainability. Careful environmental impact assessment and monitoring are required to ensure sound and sustainable agricultural production practices that guard against depletion of soils, loss of critical biodiversity, increased greenhouse gas emissions, or significant diversion of water from other human or environmental uses.
5. Adherence to national trade policies. When national food security is at risk (for instance, in case of an acute drought), domestic supplies should have priority. Foreign investors should not have a right to export during an acute national food crisis.
Given the unrelenting level of corrupt practices in most if not all African countries, one can only expect that these investments will last but a few years before they get messed up in the quagmire.