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Sunday Perspectives

Inexhaustibility of the phenomenon called Muhammad Ali

Ali

The unprecedented number of tributes to the greatest sportsperson of all time, Muhammad Ali, who died earlier this month might create the erroneous impression in certain quarters that enough has been said about this remarkable human being such that there is no need for more eulogies at this time. But given Ali’s phenomenal achievements not just as an athlete but also as a civil rights activist and philanthropist, people will continue to talk about him for a long time to come.

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President Buhari

Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (5)

Of course, the Hobbesian state of nature is a hypothetical scenario invented by Hobbes to anchor his theory concerning the origin of civil society. But it might become real in Nigeria if the federal government does not take immediate steps to expand opportunities for productive work and engage the growing number of discontented, disillusioned and frustrated unemployed youths nationwide. The argument by top government officials who are not experiencing the hardships Nigerians are facing at this time that things must get worse before they get better is pure nonsense. First, it is an unequivocal admission of incompetence and unpreparedness to lead by the APC.

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BuhariLondon

Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (4)

The token gesture of reducing the number of ministries by the President notwithstanding, there is no evidence that the cost of governance has gone down significantly to the extent of impacting positively on the lives of average Nigerians. Information in the public domain about the billions of naira earmarked for the renovation of Aso Rock clinic, feeding in the Presidency, purchase of exotic BMW cars, and maintenance of aircrafts in the presidential fleet indicate that the despicable Animal Farm syndrome characteristic of political leadership in Nigeria is still with us despite the propaganda of change by the APC.

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Lai

Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (3)

For instance, there is no way Nigeria’s economy could have been successfully diversified just after three hundred and sixty-five days in office. This is because, assuming that the federal government puts in place appropriate policies that, if implemented, would lead to increased output from the manufacturing sector or guarantee more efficient and profitable exploitation of solid minerals and other viable sources of foreign exchange, several years of consistent and determined efforts are required before positive results would begin to manifest in these sectors. And, concerning the campaign promises to achieve parity with the dollar and increase Nigeria’s share in the international oil market, it is clear to anyone with a simulacrum of knowledge about the determinants of global currency regime and uncertainties in the demand and supply equation of oil that none of these promises can be realised in this dispensation. Having said all this, I am sure that President Buhari and the sycophants around him are aware, as already pointed out, that one year is indeed enough for well-informed Nigerians to reach a reasonable judgement on the overall direction his government is headed regarding the key sectors of our national life.

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President Goodluck Jonathan presenting his hand over notes to the President-Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari during the official presentation of Handover notes to the President-Elect at the Aso Chambers, State House, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (2)

On security, for example, failure of the Nigerian military to subdue Boko Haram and rescue the over two hundred secondary school girls allegedly abducted from Chibok was seen by critics of Dr. Jonathan as evidence that his government cannot provide adequate security for our people. Concerning the fight against corruption, the former President could have done better, but his temperamental weaknesses, the shambolic federal civil service system and nefarious activities of the vicious cabal or “invisible government” prevented him from mounting a credible anti-corruption programme.

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religions

A secular humanist critique of religion (4)

By making morality a matter of acting according to rules purportedly set by a divine being, faith-based ethics ignores the most important component for developing moral consciousness or awareness, that is, making children learn appropriate moral principles through practical examples from parents, teachers and adults generally. If the humanist approach to morality, which gives primacy to the well-being and happiness of individuals on earth not to an imaginary blissful existence in paradise, becomes widespread, eventually a new generation of more reasonable human beings would emerge equipped with inner conviction that the rightness or wrongness of a given action cannot be rationally decided without considering its effects on sentient beings that might be affected by that very action. Moral absolutism, which posits God as the ultimate foundation of morality, is clearly untenable. Thus, it is essential that each individual should periodically re-examine the moral principles he or she lives by, based on the recognition that morality is the product of human evolution and does not transcend the existential conditions peculiar to human beings in this world.

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bible

A secular humanist critique of religion (3)

For most ecclesiastical leaders and theologians, the so-called revealed truths contained in religious scriptures allegedly written under the inspiration of God are unassailable. Indeed, in their reckoning, such “divinely revealed truths” are superior to verifiable information about the objective world generated through scientific investigation. The fundamental problem with religion with respect to truth is that the believer is cocksure that he is right because he has read the truth from a certain holy book and knows, in advance, that nothing will make him change his mind. Therefore, the truth of the holy book is an axiom accepted a priori, not the end product of the process of reasoning or painstaking research.

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quran1

A secular humanist critique of religion (2)

Like other psychological traits the combination of which, with physical and intellectual attributes, constitute human nature, faith and fear are not necessarily harmful. Faith, in the sense of tentative conviction about something or acceptance of a belief inspite of insufficient evidence, is rational and justified as long as the individual is willing to change his or her mind when better evidence supporting the contrary view becomes available.

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religions

A secular humanist critique of religion (2)

Because of this, some humanists consider it necessary to label their own version as ‘secular humanism’ or ‘scientific humanism’ in contrast to ‘Christian humanism’ or ‘religious humanism.’ For our purpose in this discourse, we shall adopt Smoker’s characterisation of ‘humanism’ as secular or scientific humanism, that is, a positive human-centred philosophy of life based on rationalism that is either atheistic or agnostic, being concerned with life in this world, not with imaginary deities or a hereafter.

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An actor playing Jesus hangs on a cross during a performance of the Passion of Jesus by the Wintershall Players in Trafalgar Square, central London on March 29, 2013.  AFP PHOTO

An unbeliever’s interpretation of Easter (4)

Over 99.9 percent of Christians are unaware of the numerous books left out of the New Testament, including the Gospels of Mary Magdalene, of Philip, and of Barnabas. In its embryonic stages, Christianity was a chaotic movement, with different sects declaring each other heretics, which led to periodic bloody confrontations. Emperor Constantine of Rome, a brutal and bloodthirsty misanthrope, was instrumental to the crystallisation of Christianity by changing profoundly the course of its history.

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An actor playing Jesus hangs on a cross during a performance of the Passion of Jesus by the Wintershall Players in Trafalgar Square, central London on March 29, 2013.  AFP PHOTO

An unbeliever’s interpretation of Easter (2)

The Gospels disagree on basic issues, such as the identities of those who accompanied Judas when he purportedly betrayed Jesus, the manner in which Jesus was arrested, the bearer of the cross and the inscription on it, the time Jesus was crucified, how Jesus died and his last comments, and on the events connected with his resurrection and ascension. For starters, Matthew and Mark claim that Judas, in the company of armed multitude from the chief priests and elders of the people, came to Gethsemane to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:47-48; Mark 14: 43-45). But in St. Luke’s version, an undifferentiated multitude was involved (Luke, 22: 47). Luke (22: 50-54) and John (18 :10-12) report that the ear of the high priest’s servant was chopped off before Jesus was arrested, but Matthew (26: 50-51) and Mark (14: 46-48) indicate that it happened after the arrest.

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