How to Shield Your Children from Corruption

24 03 2019
Robtel Neajai Pailey
Robtel Neajai Pailey

Rife in every section of Nigerian society, corruption is more visible in the armed forces who clog highways with sandbags and drums, and openly extort money from motorist.

I was driving with my 7 yrs nephew, Jonathan, by my side. It was a hot afternoon. We came to a police check.

“Do you want to be a policeman? “ I asked mischievously.

 “No,” the boy answered, without hesitation.

“Why?”

I was curious to know the reason for such categorical rejection. A police job is honored work in many countries.

“They are corrupt!” he quipped with blinking.

The policeman by the car in front crumpled something into his pocket waved him on. We were next.

 I wound down and greeted him cheerfully.

“Anything for your boys?” drawled the officer.

“Nothing today, sir” I said, sheepishly. “May be tomorrow.”

He waved us on.

We drove on in silence. I was wondering how much harm was done to children by witnessing daily daylight graft on our roads by men in uniform.

It reminded me of another story a woman told me, some time ago, about her 7 yr old son, Hamza. He had just joined the boy scouts, the uniform and badges gave him such a trill, he felt like an officer, and like officers do, he wanted money. The next day, on his way to a scouting activity, he stepped into the middle of a busy road and faced a fast approaching taxi. He had seen policemen do all the time. As the car raced towards him, horn blaring, he raised an authoritative hand. Stop!

 The car swerved at the last minute to avoid running him over, the driver spat at him, passengers cursed and showed him their five fingers. Passersby screamed as they hauled him by the ear out of the road and someone whisked him back to his shocked and grateful mother. That was the end of his scouting career.

The difference between Jonathan and Hamza, it occurred to me, was that Jonathan goes to a private school where Christian ethical code were taught every week. During classes, teachers emphasize the difference between good and evil, and how lying, cheating; in word corruption, harms. They help them discover good and do it, the help them uncover evil and avoid it; they learn that they can make mistakes and how to be quick in correcting themselves.

Hamza, on the other hand, attends a public school ill equipped to teach him Math’s and English, but very efficiently creates an environment that makes it hard for him to be virtuous.  He learns from older pupils how to steal, smoke, drink and climb school fences at night to visit brothels. He never been furnished any argument against the corruption he sees.

Yet more Nigerian children attend public schools than private schools, and we cannot have it both ways. Either we teach these children about the evil of corruption now or we have corrupt citizens later.

This troubled Robtel Neajai Pailey, a Liberian academic, activist and author until she decided to do something revolutionary.

 In 2012, frustrated with all the rhetoric about fighting corruption in Liberia she wrote anti-corruption books for kids. The first one, Gbagba loosely translated, means ‘trickery’ or, ‘corruption’

 “I realized that integrity must be strengthened at the earliest stages in a child’s life in order to mitigate the practice of corruption in the next generation” she said.

Gbagba is the story of young twins, who leave the countryside to visit their aunt in the capital, Monrovia. The intrigues of adults in everyday corrupt practices—robbery, bribery, fraud, vigilantism—collide with the children’s strong moral sense of right and wrong.

Immediately after the children arrive in the city, a thief “in dirty clothes” snatches their suitcases in broad daylight. The description of the robber tells us that that the man is poor and desperate. But the idea that it is greed rather than dehumanizing poverty triggers the man’s thievery incites the threat of mob justice

And in no time, the twins later observe their aunt’s driver bribing a police officer. Their aunt’s indifference during this encounter stands in stark contrast to the twins’ sharp perception of the unfair advantage that takes place after the transaction.

You can watch the video adaptation of the book here and please share with your children

Pailey was inspired to write the book in order to give children the verbal tools to question the ethical and moral values of adults around them. The book received critical acclaim and has been adopted as compulsory reading by Liberian Ministry of Education

“Eight to 10-year-old children are the perfect targets because it is at this stage that they begin to form an ethical core,” Pailey continued.

 “In writing Gbagba, I imagined myself a proverbial anti-corruption pied piper, without the instrument of doom…. Even though Gbagba‘s setting is Liberia, it remains a universal tale about children’s emancipation from the confusing ethical codes of the adults around them”

As Pailey says, children are the moral compass of Liberia if not the world. When they start publicly exposing corruption for what it truly is, my hope is that adults will be shamed into living more honestly, with integrity.

The book has been turned into a play and the play was well received by parents, teachers, and school administrators in Liberian and other African countries.  It has also been converted to a play, and 200 theatre-goers enjoyed the performance in the audience on debut day.

A parent of one of the cast members informed Pailey her daughter is now the integrity police in their household, pointing out when her parents and siblings are being dishonest.

This is a worthy investment Nigerian government should consider making, inviting Pailey with her project and give children like Hamza the knowledge they need to fight corruption in themselves and later in Nigerian society . Pailey has since written a sequel to Gbagba called Jaadeh.

By Chinwuba Iyizoba





Boys behaving badly.. By Pius Adesanmi (Professor)

18 03 2019

Today, I decide on a capitalist lunch alone. My assigned driver takes me to a capitalist restaurant – one of the elitist watering holes of anybody who is anybody in Nigeria’s centre of power.

I invite the driver to come in with me. He is shocked. He is used to waiting in the car. Or being given some change to go and find an appropriate Mama Put for his own lunch while the Ogas eat in the capitalist location.

I have no idea why I asked him to come with me. Inside, we strike a picture of contrasts. All eyes raised. All eyes looking at the odd pair.

We are taken to a table for one because the waitress naturally assumes that my driver is just carrying my phone and will find his way out to wait in the car as soon as I am seated.

I ask her for a table for two. She looks at me, looks at the driver, mouth agape. Something ain’t adding up. She takes us to a table for two. The driver is in a strange universe. Fish out of water.

I help him with the complications of the life of the rich: how to order swallow and “protein” from a menu in the ways of the rich instead of barking at Sikira to add more ponmo and shaki at Iya Basira’s buka. I order the same swallow and protein for both of us.

Inquisitive looks. Hostile looks. Querying looks. You’d think we were a black and white interracial couple that had just entered a public space holding hands in America or Canada. It is the same looks of disapproval. But this time, it is not from folks frowning on interracial border crossing. It is from rich Nigerians, big Nigerians, Ogas at the top and their accent-forming sophisticated mistresses, feeling that their space has been violated by the presence of my driver.

Much to my disappointment, nobody says anything to us and I miss the opportunity of a fight. However, I’m extremely pleased with what is going on – this sense that I am violating that space gives me immense satisfaction. I am also pleased that once he attacks his food, the driver no send anybody again. He eats with the natural noises of his normal buka environment – sneezing, belching, guffawing, etc.

There are moments when one has to be a strategic agbaya if it serves the purpose of getting on the nerves of a certain class of people so I join in the bad behaviour, also belching loudly and drawing satisfaction from the disapproving looks on the faces of some of the accent-faking sophisticated ladies and their male company at other tables.

We walk out royally after our meal. I can sense the happiness which engulfs my driver. We strike a conversation about it all on the way to the airport. He tells me that the most painful part of it for him is that all those madams and ogas spending about N10,000 for a meal for two are often people who owe their drivers, cooks, houseboys, house girls, gardeners, maiguards and nannies salary arrears and refuse to pay.

That is when it occurs to me that he probably would have appreciated the cash equivalent of what I just spent on a single lunch for him.

Our bill was N8000.

At the airport, I give him N4000.

His profuse prayers are the last words I hear as the airport terminal swallows me on my way to Lagos………
~~~~~~~~~***~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pius Adesanmi is a Nigerian Professor with Carlton University in Canada that is among those that died on the ill fated Ethiopia airline

Rest in Peace Professor Pius Adesanmi…..🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾





Breadseller or model, a good job is attractive

15 03 2019

by Chinwuba Iyizoba

Jumoke the bread seller whose ordinary work turned her into a model has uncovered how extraordinary and attractive an ordinary work done well, with love and a smile can lead to success.

In 2016, 27 yr old breadseller, Olajumoke Orisaguna—Jumoke, a mother of two was pounding the streets, carrying her wares on her head, eking a living to save her family from starvation.
Unawares, she walked into a street photo-shoot and was caught in the background. While editing the pictures later, the female photo-journalist was so smitten by her photogenic beauty and determined to find her, she posted the picture on instagram and successfully tracked her down and offered her a job as model, thus making an inspiring rag-to-riches story that held Nigerians spell bound for years. Fans couldn’t get enough of her, hope spread among desolate millions in the streets that one day their luck will change.

Olajumoke Orisaguna walks into a photo-shoot accidental
The Picture of Jumoke at background that made her famous

Her parents were too poor to send her to a formal school, Jumoke had trained as a hairdresser because and in 2010, met and married a craftsman. But their combined income wasn’t adequate to feed their two children. To haul the family out of appalling straits, she moved from Osun to Lagos with one of her daughters, to work in a bakery. It was a hard and difficult work, on foot each day with a tray laden with bread loafs on her head. Yet, come rain or shine, she kept a smile on her face.
That afternoon walking past people talking pictures, unconcerned, she smiled and hurried on, calling for customers; little did she know that Lady Luck saw her.

She had since become a runaway success, yet she remains inwardly unaffected by it, humble and straight talking her reality TV shows are filled with great street wisdom and is the darling of you-tubers.

In one of the episodes, she spoke with her usual unadorned candidness, of the shocking things she had seen on social media, things like a man getting married to a man and a woman marrying another woman.

With the candidness of a child she expressed it as utter “unNigerian” and unthinkable.

Jumoke’s wisdom

She was simply expressing her opinion, and besides she isn’t a lettered woman, and as Peter Kreeft, philosophy professor of Boston College said, “There are certain falsehoods that you need a PhD to believe.”

Yet, the floodgates of hate and cyber bullying were immediately flung wide open and attacks on her person and family began. Orchestrated and led by a Ghanaian self proclaimed transsexual who continues to smear her, intent on ruining her, and getting her blacklisted by modeling companies.

Not satisfied with hounding her job, they have turned on her husband and marriage, spreading vicious rumors that she was sleeping with other men and disrespecting her husband.

Yet, come hell or high water, Jumoke is refusing to succumb to threats, and continues sharing her hard gotten wisdoms with Nigerian youths who adore her. And she is not all talk, often swinging into action when she comes across women in grim straits. She recently convinced her promoters to intervene and build a house for an aged woman she saw being evicted from her home.

Jumoke

Yet, young people best remember that Jumoke’s success wasn’t entirely of her own making. “Lady Success” lent her a hand whilst she was busy with her ordinary work selling bread, for love of husband and children.

How true what someone said, that success, true success is really carrying out the duties of everyday and the little things of each day well, with a smile if possible and always elegant. For it is along ordinary paths of life that we meet our destiny.

Still her success is an unlikely story for millions of indigent youths. A rare combination of luck and the goodness of a relentless photo-journalist had made her what she is today, and many Nigerians may never have such luck. They should not be disheartened however, but rather continue doing their ordinary work well, throwing in a smile along, even if their work should suffer the privation of remaining unclaimed till death.

They should remember that just as a man submits to the cruel torture of a surgical operation in order to save his lives; it is quite possible ordinary life’s cruel sufferings might save the life of their souls if accepted with love and a smile. “Pain or suffering of any kind for that matter can, be bearable when accepted as a form of purification,” some spiritual writers say.

And anyone who examines himself honestly will find much to purify: sins, omissions in love, disorderly inclinations which must be paid either in this life or in the next. Suffering is necessarily part of this life, and those who wish to go straight to heaven, after a life spent wholly in God’s service must not shrink from it

And St Paul exhorts in scriptures, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us when we contemplate God face to face.”
And St. Josemaria Escriva adds,“ Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”

Infact, Escriva, with Gospel in hand, constantly taught that God does not want us simply to be good . . . , he wants us to be saints, through and through. However, he wants us to attain that sanctity, not by doing extraordinary things, but rather through ordinary, common activities. It is the way they are done which must be uncommon. There, in the middle of the street, in the office, in the factory, we can be . . . holy, provided we do our job.”
Young people might not all become famous like Jumoke, but their work no matter how ordinary, done with love, and extraordinarily well, is attractive and is a sure path to happiness.





An African gift to a Danish woman

24 01 2019

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

Danish woman social worker who fed and gave new life to a Nigerian child left for dead by his family because they thought he was a witch is herself rewarded with a new life.

In 2016, a Danish woman, Anja Ringgren Lovena, a social worker, found a toddler, emaciated and riddled with worms wandering the streets of Akwa-Ibom, he was naked and fending for himself.


She bent down and gently fed the boy and gave him some water, later she wrapped him in a blanket and with the help of her team took him to a hospital where he was given medications to remove the worms from his stomach and given daily blood transfusions till he was stable enough. She then took him home, washed, cleaned, fed, clothed him and called him Hope.

Pictures she shared of her feeding the starving boy broke the internet and the hearts of many the world over; and she received more than a million dollars in donations. A few months later she posted pictures of the fully recovered boy looking healthy and robust. Again, the pictures went viral and she became a celebrity, but more important, her life was changed forever.

The boy Hope had brought hope back into her own life.

“I have been looking to find meaning in my life,” said Anja, who grew up in a loving home, where her Mom worked with elderly people and thought her how to care and love other people. Her mom often told her stories of African children starving, and as a young woman she became very fascinated with Africa.

At 23, her mother’s death from cancer shattered her life. Distraught, she began looking to find meaning in her life, and decided to come to Africa.

 She founded an organization for children in 2012 in Malawi but opted for Nigeria when she stumbled across online articles about children killed after being accused of witch craft in Nigeria.

“When I found out that so many innocent children in the Niger Delta Region were tortured and killed due to superstition and the belief in witchcraft, I was in total shock,” said Anja, “it really made me so sick to my bones. How could anyone do this to children?”

From then on nothing could stop her from coming to Nigeria. Children needed help

 In Nigeria, in 2013, she met and fell in love with David Umen, a social worker and a law student; together they formed a team and built a children center.

She and David had been on many rescue missions, in obscurity, unclaimed until that fateful morning of 30th January 2016, when she found Hope, a most precious gift clothed in distressing disguise. Hope made her famous.

Now she has 100,000 followers on instagram, more than 150,000 Facebook followers, and millions across the globe who, admiring her generous heart, wish to be better.




On that January morning when she first looked into Hope’s frightfully hungry eyes, she saw with crystal clarity, what many Danish people  or Americans or European can’t see, and therefore can’t understand or even imagine exists.

She grasped that unless she helped them see what she was seeing with her eyes, through the lens of her camera, many will continue drifting aimlessly, chasing shadows and fleeting pleasures, unaware of that inner call to dedicate themselves to something greater than them.

Her pictures shattered the comfortable selfish lives of millions, and raised consciences long dead; and as she extended her hands to feed that little starving child, many satiated stomachs whose hands never extended to feed any other but themselves quivered uneasily knowing they could be better, they could contribute something, they could share some of their bread with those who have naught.

When she saw the starving child, she acted like a human being and became an inspiration for millions,” says the editor of German-language Ooom Magazine that listed Anja as the most influential person of the year 2016.

 “Her sustained efforts to help the abandoned children of Nigeria gives us hope and encourages us to follow suit.”

Africa has given Anja a gift, a return to humanity now lost to many of her folks bent on killing their children through abortions. Abortion is fully legal in Denmark, done on-demand up to twelfth week. A super rich country like the United States killed more than 45 million children via abortion since the 70’s, and just this week, New York legalized abortions until birth for any reason whatsoever!

Africans are ignorant, backward and poor; no doubt and in their ignorance, kill children. Yet, they are excusable precisely because they are poor, ignorant and backward.

More shocking and inexcusable are the acts of nations and peoples, highly educated, highly progressive, and super rich who kill unborn children as a right and a privilege. According to Mother Theresa of Calcutta, “Any country that accepts abortion is the poorest of the poor.”

“Many people are concerned with children of India, with the children of Africa,” continues Mother Theresa.  “These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today- abortion which brings people to such blindness.”

Unlike African blindness, easy to cure with education and bread, European blindness is complicated and requires a complete surgery to right their crocked world view filled with anti-human ideologies of trans-genderism, of homosexuality and atheistic anti-life policies.

Africa has given Anja a home to welcome as many witch-children as her heart desires; Africa has also given her a gift of love in return: Emmanuel, her handsome husband, has filled her heart with joy of life and a gift of her own very son whom she cherishes more than life itself.

By extension, Anja’s action encourages all Nigerians to rise and uproot this evil superstition killing children and do more to help others; there is a joy that the world cannot give that comes from helping others, and as the end of life approaches, perhaps those acts of charity are the only things that will endure; for it is simply true that when we help others, we become better.





The SMEAR of Brett Kavanaugh

1 10 2018

bret

From lurid promotion of gay sex and pornography in junior high school, to the absurd notion of gender neutrality, the Democratic Party of the United States is shoe-honing perverse ideologies all over the world.

Not many years ago, it was out right crime for a man to use high school girls bathroom, today it is legal.

Any Tom, Dick and Harry who says he is a girl can use the girl’s bathroom in any girl’s school in the US.

Wondering what the hell is going on?

The Democratic Party is transforming society from human to anti-human, from life to anti-life and from God centered to anti – God.

Not many years ago, you would be bat-in-the-head crazy if you seriously couldn’t point out the physical difference between a man and a woman. Today you would be in deep trouble if you did, especially among enlightened University professors at Ivy leagues.

13 yrs old girls are cutting off their breasts—without telling their parent– to become boys, and the freak show is just warming up.

Not many years ago, it would be criminal insanity for men to parade streets in their underwear. Yet yearly, in many cities all over the US, at televised “gay pride”, naked men march through streets kissing one another.

All these perversions are made possible via the Supreme Court

In 2013, a gay man, Jim Obergefell, wished to get his fingers on the money of his dead partner. He sued the state of Ohio for denying him the right to list himself as his widower. Losing in all federal courts; he went on appeal, all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage license.

Way back in 69’ a 22yrs old woman, unwed, mired in addiction and alcohol, and desperate for a way out of an third unwanted pregnancy sued the state of Texas, in the famous Roe v. Wade. The case was decided by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, legalizing abortion throughout the US.

Between 1970 and 2014, CDC reports nearly 44.5 million legal induced abortions, and the universalizing of partial birth abortion– killing children as they exit the birth canal.

There are many cases pending at Supreme Courts, like the Bathroom bill that would allow any man, who self identifies as a woman, to walk in and use girl’s restroom.

The ultra feminist are waiting outside the hall of the Supreme Court with various class action law suits designed to destroy the nuclear family, replace men and make them irrelevant. All are headed to the Supreme Court.

Thus, the Supreme Court is power and any man occupying that seat has the power to change the world.

Thus, it is understandable that the democrats hate  Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee to replace retired Justice Kennedy. Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a family man, a practicing Catholic, who loves God and mankind and may not enjoy the devils game that  Democrats love. He may be an obstacle to the institutionalizing of immorality, anti-life, anti-family, anti-God ideology  that the  democrats so desire.

kav6

Hence, they, the democrats have used, and are ready to use any means, any method, and any measure. Nothing is out of bounds to make sure he is not confirm, or that he withdraws his candidacy.

Kava pic1

At his confirmation hearing, hysterical mob sponsored by democrats tried to disrupt hearing, even as ordinary Americans and indeed the rest of the world watched, astonished. When that failed, they moved to the next stage. SMEAR tactics

 

Enter Dr Ford and sexual allegations.

ford

Just as the confirmation hearing was rounding up, and precisely on the last day, a democratic senator unleashed a bombshell. She brandished a letter where Christine Blasey Ford, a 50 something year old woman, levied unsubstantiated claims of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.

 

Scores of Democratic senators, commentators and unhinged protesters rushed to defend Ford even though what she claims happened more than three decades ago is devoid of corroborating evidence.

Ford could not remember key details like when and where. She claims the alleged groping incident was at a teenage drinking party 36 years ago and named four witnesses. They have all since come forward saying they don’t know what she’s talking about.

Like a script from the smear masters, details of her claims were sketchy, engineered to avoid specifity, an important part of creating falsehood and smear.  Specific claims can be hazards because if they are refuted, the gig is up.   So everything needs to be vague, ambiguous and easier to shape. Ms Ford couldn’t remember or specify the *house* where the event took place, because that would lead to specific ownership trouble.  If the owner of the residence refutes the false claim, the lie cannot advance.  Hence, the “where” must be generally ambiguous.

Neither could she say concretely when the Judge Brett attacked her sexually. This is because “when” can also be a problem.  It would suck to give a specific “WHEN” only to find out the accused wasn’t in town, or was elsewhere.  Hence any specific “when” must be avoided to retain the false assertion?

According to the Senate majority leader,” The Committee thoroughly investigated the last-minute allegations that have been brought forward. The evidence that has been produced either fails to corroborate these accusations or in fact supports Judge Kavanaugh’s unequivocal denial.”

To paraphrase Sheryl Atkinson in her book, “The Smear” A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.

All this conforms to basic smear tactics: When confronted: 1. Admit nothing 2.  Deny everything 3.  Demand proof 4.  Make counter allegations 5.  Discredit the opposition.

The Democrats are now at no: 5 of Sheryl Atkinson: the character assignation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. But what someone wrote on twitter should sound as a warning to any American voter who wishes to sit and do nothing while they savage an innocent man:

 

“If that’s the new normal, voters must realize this: Your husband’s not safe, your brother, son, uncle or any man you know. They can all be falsely accused of sexual misconduct — and have their lives destroyed — thanks to feminists and liberal lawmakers who care more about their party’s political agenda and ideology than any semblance of due process.”

 

Article by Chinwuba Iyizoba

Editor of Authors-Choice

 

 

Editors Note*

Diabolical ideologies must be defeated through the concerted effort of right thinking people who fight to resist evil with everything they have, and through prayers. It is prophetic that Pope Francis  has asked all Christians to say the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel, this October, for the protection of the Church. Angel Michael is the prince of the angels who defeated the devil in the apocalyptic war. I urge everyone to pray it also for the defeat of the devils possessing the democratic party in the US

 

 

 

 





Transformative Power of Work by Ikechukwu Onuoma

28 09 2018

 

IMG-20180308-WA0035

UNIV NIGERIA 2019: Getting down to business

Did you ever think about the fact that only humans have hands? It may seem obvious, but it’s not. In the world of nature, we humans are uniquely vulnerable: wings, paws or flippers get you around a lot faster and farther; furs and feathers provide protection from the elements; refined senses, instincts, and defense mechanisms automatically kick in to ward off dangers and detect opportunities for growth.

But our vulnerability is at the same time our strength.

With our hands, we can build wings to fly.

With our hands, we can design our own habitat and weave our own clothe.

With our hands, we can provide care, establish relations, and protect ourselves and others.

Our hands are instruments open to infinite possibilities.

With our hands, we humanize the world through arts and Medicine, Gastronomy, Architecture, Fashion, Communication, Education, Domestic Work and Design.

Our interdependence creates employment opportunities in Commerce, Health Care, Politics, Law, Economy, Business and International Affair.

Our openness to infinite possibilities drives work forward creating Technology that entertainment us and innovations in research.

With our hands, we work. But have we always worked in the same way? Today the world of work is undergoing arguably the most drastic transformation since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. Information technology, shifting social demographics and globalization are some of the factors that are shaping the ambiguous future of work, in which one-track careers are being replaced by multi-faceted professional trajectories, and personal capacities and aptitudes such as critical thinking, resilience, problem-solving and decision-making are increasingly valued over technical know-how.

The world of work in the 21st century is full of challenges: vast geographic and social inequalities, corruption, inefficient structures, forced labor, unrecognized and uncompensated work, human trafficking, unregulated activity in emerging sectors and high levels of youth unemployment.

So let’s get down to business. The 21st century professional is serious, dedicated, diligent, creative, focused and capable of persevering in an integrated cognitive and physical effort. What kind of personal development does a professional in today’s workforce need in order to convert needs into opportunities and vulnerabilities into strengths? How does one´s profession become an authentic service to society and the individuals who surround us? What can your hands do that a robotic arm cannot? What can you contribute beyond the scope of artificial intelligence? The challenges are many, but our hands are open to infinite possibilities.

 

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Ikechukwu Onuoma is a lawyer and the national coordinator of
Univ Nigeria





How to Ask a Question by Peter Wood

12 05 2018

Here’s how.
The best reason to ask a question is to contribute to the quality of the discussion that has already begun. You can do this if you can draw something more and perhaps unexpected out of the speaker you are addressing. “Mr. Rasputin, I admire your tunic. Do you consider fashion to be a revolutionary statement?”
Think of yourself as someone who seeks to enhance the occasion, rather than as an opportunity to show yourself to advantage. “Mr. Darwin, your description of odd wildlife in the Galapagos Islands is fascinating. Do you think evolution works differently on large continents?”
You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated. “Mr. Nixon, you are unworthy of being president,” is not a question. “Mr. Nixon, what else would you have done as president if Watergate hadn’t gotten in the way?” is a question.
Question periods are not really the right time to ask for factual details. You are not interviewing the speaker. “Mr. Hillary, what brand of shoes were you wearing when you topped Everest?” is a real question but not one that is likely to enhance the discussion. There are exceptions to this, as when the fact you ask about evokes a larger meaning. “Mr. Hillary, what do you consider was the most important piece of equipment you carried in your assault on Mt. Everest?”
Likewise, never offer up a roll call of your own facts or belabor them into a Perry Mason pseudo-question. “Mr. Malthus, are you aware that as economic development proceeds, birth rates decline, and that crop yields can be multiplied by a factor of x with the proper use of fertilizers, genetically-enhanced hybrid species, and market-based incentives?”
Weigh the usual interrogatory words in English: who, what, where, why, when. If you can begin your sentence with one of these you are more than half-way to a good question. “Who gave you that scar, Mr. Potter?” “What is a black hole, Mr. Hawking?” “Where is the Celestial City, Mr. Bunyan?” “Why are you wearing that letter, Ms. Prynne?” “When will our troops come home, Mr. Lincoln?”
You will discover that, if you think in terms of these simple interrogatories, you will be able to skip right over the prologue. The right question evokes its own context. If, having formulated a question, you still think you need to set the stage for it, try again.
Don’t engage in meta-speech. “I was wondering, Ms. Steinem, if I might ask you a question that I am really curious about.” Go directly to the question. “Ms. Steinem, who is the man you admire the most?”
Look at the person you are addressing. Speak your question directly; don’t read it. Wait for the answer before you sit down. Don’t try to ask a follow-up question. If the speaker evaded your question the first time, he will evade it again. If the audience applauds your question, you are grandstanding and have failed an important test of civility.
The best questions are poised between attentiveness to what the speaker has already said and the chance to deepen the discussion. That means you should not try to introduce a divergent topic. “I appreciate your analysis of the space-shuttle disaster, Mr. Feynman, but are you not morally troubled by your work on the atomic bomb?” attempts to wrench the discussion to a new place. But, “Mr. Feynman, your analysis of the space-shuttle disaster shows the frailty of human judgment. How do you think that bears on other areas of advanced technology?” builds on the theme at hand.
A few people have a gift for witty, memorable questions. You probably aren’t one of them. It doesn’t matter. A concise, clear question is an important contribution in its own right.
If someone ahead of you asks a similar question or if the speaker gets to your point before you ask, sit down. The audience doesn’t need to hear it twice.
Keep your autobiography to yourself. This isn’t the occasion for a memoir. There may be exceptions. If you are the Count of Monte Cristo come to settle the score with the man who unjustly sent you to prison for 20 years, then have at it. The audience will enjoy the show. Otherwise stick with the topic.
But don’t imagine you are there to right the grievances of humanity by shaming one of the oppressors. If you try this, you will annoy people, look like a fool, and most of all cast discredit on your cause. “Mr. Carnegie, aren’t those ‘free’ public libraries you keep building just meant to distract the workers from their exploitation?”
If you are tempted to speak “as” the representative of some category, resist. “As a native of Pittsburgh, I find your characterization of the open hearth Bessemer steel process historically uninformed and offensive,” accomplishes nothing. “Were there any viable alternatives to the Bessemer steel process in the 1860s?” would suffice. Declarations that begin, “As a woman…” “As an African-American…” “As a Christian…” all carry the same instant discount in the audience. They claim a privileged form of knowledge that no one need grant you. Other people in the same category may have quite different views. Who appointed me to speak for Pittsburgh or you to speak for all womankind?
Lastly, you have a duty to be interesting. Brevity can’t repair a truly dull question. Knowing the difference between powerful concision and powerless vapidity is a matter of discernment, and the same words could be either. “What caused the Civil War?” asked at just the right moment in a debate about civil rights could be a brilliant question, but “What caused the Civil War” in a discussion of the Civil War would probably come across as tedious. If you aren’t sure which it is, silence is your best friend.

THE AUTHOR
Peter Wood is an anthropologist and former provost. He was appointed president of the NAS in January 2009. Before that he served as NAS’s executive director (2007-2008), and as provost of The King’s College in New York City (2005-2007). Dr. Wood was a tenured member of the Anthropology Department at Boston University, where he also held a variety of administrative positions, including associate provost and president’s chief of staff. He also oversaw the university’s scholarly publications and served as acting university librarian.
Dr. Wood is the author of A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now and Diversity: The Invention of a Concept which won the Caldwell Award for Leadership in Higher Education from the John Locke Foundation. These books extend his anthropological interest in examining emergent themes in modern American culture. In addition to his scholarly work, Dr. Wood has published several hundred articles in print and online journals, such as Partisan Review and National Review Online, and he blogs twice weekly for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Copyright � 2012 National Association of Scholars








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