Wednesday

From gas to solar, bringing meaningful change to Nigeria’s energy systems


CC™ Energy News

MIT Energy Initiative

Growing up, Awele Uwagwu’s view of energy was deeply influenced by the oil and gas industry. He was born and raised in Port Harcourt, a city on the southern coast of Nigeria, and his hometown shaped his initial interest in understanding the role of energy in our lives.

“I basically grew up in a city colored by oil and gas,” says Uwagwu. “Many of the jobs in that area are in the oil sector, and I saw a lot of large companies coming in and creating new buildings and infrastructure. That very much tailored my interest in the energy sector. I kept thinking: What is all of this stuff going on, and what are all these big machines that I see every day? The more sinister side of it was: Why is the water bad? Why is the air bad? And, what can I do about it?”

Uwagwu has shaped much of his educational and professional journey around answering that question: “What can I do about it?” He is now a senior at MIT, majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in energy studies.

After attending high school in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, Uwagwu decided to pursue a degree in chemical engineering and briefly attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016. Unfortunately, the impacts of a global crash in oil prices made the situation difficult back in Nigeria, so he returned home and found employment at an oil services company working on a water purification process.

It was during this time that he decided to apply to MIT. “I wanted to go to a really great place,” he says, “and I wanted to take my chances.” After only a few months of working at his new job, he was accepted to MIT.

“At this point in my life I had a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be in the energy sector and make some sort of impact. But I didn’t quite know how I was going to do that,” he says.

With this in mind, Uwagwu met with Rachel Shulman, the undergraduate academic coordinator at the MIT Energy Initiative, to learn about the different ways that MIT is engaged in energy. He eventually decided to become an energy studies minor and concentrate in energy engineering studies through the 10-ENG: Energy program in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Additionally, he participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) in the lab of William H. Green, the Hoyt C. Hottel Professor in Chemical Engineering, focusing on understanding the different reaction pathways for the production of soot from the combustion of carbon.

After this engaging experience, he reconnected with Shulman to get involved with another UROP, this time with a strong focus in renewable energy. She pointed him toward Ian Mathews — a postdoc in the Photovoltaic Research Laboratory and founder of Sensai Analytics — to discuss ways he could make a beneficial impact on the energy industry in Nigeria. This conversation led to a second UROP, under the supervision of Mathews. In that project, Uwagwu worked to figure out how cost-effective solar energy would be in Nigeria compared to petrol-powered generators, which are commonly used to supplement the unreliable national grid.

“The idea we had is that these generators are really, really bad for the environment, whereas solar is cheap and better for the environment,” Uwagwu says. “But we needed to know if solar is actually affordable.” After setting up a software model and connecting with Leke Oyefeso, a friend back home, to get data on generators, they concluded that solar was cost-comparable and often cheaper than the generators.

Armed with this information and another completed UROP, Uwagwu thought, “What happens next?” Quickly an idea started forming, so he and Oyefeso went to Venture Mentoring Services at MIT to figure out how to leverage this knowledge to start a company that could deliver a unique and much-needed product to the Nigerian market.

They ran through many different potential business plans and ideas, eventually deciding on creating software to design solar systems that are tailored to Nigeria’s specific needs and context. Having come up with the initial idea, they “chatted with people on the solar scene back home to see if this is even useful or if they even need this.”

Through these discussions and market research, it became increasingly clear to them what sort of novel and pivotal product they could offer to help accelerate Nigeria’s burgeoning solar sector, and their initial idea took on a new shape: solar design software coupled with an online marketplace that connects solar providers to funding sources and energy consumers. In recognition of his unique venture, Uwagwu received a prestigious Legatum Fellowship, a program that offers entrepreneurial MIT students strong mentoring and networking opportunities, educational experiences, and substantial financial support.

Since its founding in the summer of 2020, their startup, Idagba, has been hard at work getting its product ready for market. Starting a company in the midst of Covid-19 has created a set of unique challenges for Uwagwu and his team, especially as they operate on a whole other continent from their target market.

“We wanted to travel to Lagos last summer but were unable to do so,” he says. “We can’t make the software without talking to the people and businesses who are going to use it, so there are a lot of Zoom and phone calls going on.”

In spite of these challenges, Idagba is well on its path to commercialization. “Currently we are developing our minimum viable product,” comments Uwagwu. “The software is going to be very affordable, so there’s very little barrier for entry. We really want to help create this market for solar.”

In some ways, Idagba is drawing lessons from the success of Mo Ibrahim and his mobile phone company, Celtel. In the late 1990s, Celtel was able to quickly and drastically lower the overall price of cell phones across many countries in Africa, allowing for the widespread adoption of mobile communication at a much faster pace than had been anticipated. To Uwagwu, this same idea can be replicated for solar markets. “We want to reduce the financial and technical barriers to entry for solar like he did for telecom.”

This won’t be easy, but Uwagwu is up to the task. He sees his company taking off in three phases. The first is getting the design software online. After that has been accomplished — by mid-2021 — comes the hard part: getting customers and solar businesses connected and using the program. Once they have an existing user base and proven cash flow, the ultimate goal of the company is to create and facilitate an ecosystem of people wanting to push solar energy forward. This will make Idagba, as Uwagwu puts it, “the hub of solar energy in Nigeria.” Idagba has a long way to go before reaching that point, but Uwagwu is confident that the building blocks are in place to ensure its success.

After graduating in June, Uwagwu will be taking up a full-time position at the prestigious consulting firm Bain and Company, where he plans to gain even more experience and connections to help grow his company. This opportunity will provide him with the knowledge and expertise to come back to Idagba and, as he says, “commit my life to this.”

“This idea may seem ambitious and slightly nonsensical right now,” says Uwagwu, “but this venture has the potential to significantly push Nigeria away from unsustainable fossil fuel consumption to a much cleaner path.”

MIT News

Tuesday

Crypto will ‘come to life’ in Nigeria, central bank governor says


CC™ Financial News

By Helen Partz

Emefiele said the Nigerian government will do its best to prevent crypto from being used to finance illicit activities.

At a 279th meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee in Abuja, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele expressed confidence that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) will be legal in the country, Business Insider reported late last week..

Emefiele did not directly mention a decision to reverse the CBN’s February ban of institutions from buying and selling crypto but noted that the bank has been investigating the industry:

“We are committed in the CBN, and I can assure everybody that digital currency will come to life even in Nigeria [...] Under cryptocurrency and Bitcoin, Nigeria comes 2nd, while on the global side of the economy, Nigeria comes 27th. We are still conducting our investigation, and we will make our data available.”

Emefiele also said the Nigerian government will do its best to prevent crypto from being used to finance illicit activities. “We found out that a substantial percentage of our people are getting involved in cryptocurrency, which is not the best. Don’t get me wrong, some may be legitimate, but most are illegitimate,” he said.

The banker also expressed concerns over the crypto market crash in mid-May, which has been largely attributed to Tesla’s decision to suspend Bitcoin payments for its cars and Elon Musk’s further criticism of BTC:

“We saw the market collapse. Initially, when Elon Musk tweeted around the time when we said our banking and payment facilities are no longer available for cryptocurrency transactions, and he tweeted that he will invest $1.5 billion, and the price went up. He now tweeted and raised a few concerns, and the thing plunged.”

The CBN did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

As previously reported, Nigeria has emerged as the biggest source of Bitcoin trading volume in Africa as of August 2020, also becoming one of the fastest-growing crypto markets in the world. According to data from Bitcoin P2P marketplace Paxful, Nigeria ranked second only to the United States in trading volume as of December 2020.

Amid the growing adoption of Bitcoin, Nigeria’s national currency, the naira, has been falling. “Bitcoin has made our currency almost useless or valueless,” Senator Sani Musa of the Niger East Senatorial District said in February. Following Emefiele’s latest remarks, the naira dropped 1.2% to near a three-and-half year low on the black market at the close of the week.

COINTELEGRAPH

Monday

The 7 habits of highly successful organizations

Editor's Corner                                
As organizations seek ways to improve functional output and operational effectiveness, it becomes incumbent upon business leaders to understand what best practices to adopt, in their quest to achieve sustainable growth and brand stability.

Many are quick to point to the "successes" of some of the world's biggest brands such as GE, Microsoft, Disney, Walmart, Apple and Google, among others. The truth however lies somewhere in between as to what exactly constitutes success beyond just the bottom-line.

A "healthy bottom-line" does not necessarily translate into being an attractive brand or ensure sustainable growth.

What organizations such as Google and more lately Apple have in fact shown, is that there are other mitigating factors that go towards determining the long-term success and brand equity of an organization.

In this piece, a prelude to a more in-depth analysis to come, we explore and profess the key habits that would seem to characterize truly successful organizations.

a) Hire well - As organizations such as Google, Microsoft and Apple (much lately) have learnt, hiring the right talent goes a long way towards building your Intellectual Capital portfolio.

b) Invest in your employees and thus your organization's future - While some of the better known brands are able to attract some of the best talent initially, holding on to that talent pool becomes even more critical. It is not enough to just pay well; in addition to that, organizations that have managed to hold on to their prized talent base, have invested heavily by way of benefits and other quality-of-life perks that are essential to keeping the poachers at bay.

c) Encourage independent thought within your organization - In conversations with peers in the business community, most believe this is one of the areas where Microsoft in particular "went wrong" (the current CEO Satya Nadella has since righted that ship). It's main competitors are said to have seized on a culture (supposedly) within the organization at the time, that did not encourage or value independent thinking.
Organizations that frown on the idea of "thinking-outside-the-box" ultimately leave little room for their business units to procreate. A resulting dearth of unique ideas will ultimately result in the natural death of the said organization.

d) Reward independent thought within your organization - In addition to encouraging a "think-outside-the-box culture within your organization, it is also equally important to acknowledge those with unique and creative ideas. Promotions, raises, bonuses and other forms of recognition should reflect this, as it will only augur well for the continued growth and development of the organization, its brand and of course, its people.

e) Be true to your founding ideals and core corporate principles - Make taking care of your customers/clients a guiding business principle. It is the best practice you could ever indulge in as it engenders brand affinity through credibility.

f) Seek strategic partnerships that complement your business model and strategy - It is important that you align yourself with organizations that share your ideals, beliefs and ideas and subsequently provide a synergistic nirvana.

g) Manage your growth while continuing to innovate - Maintain your identity and stick to a working strategy. Adapt to the pervading business climate in your own unique way and continue to deliver consistently. 

© 2021 2CG Media. All Rights Reserved.

Friday

Ten Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Editor's Pick

Don't discount the importance of interpersonal skills in the workplace. How you are perceived by your manager and coworkers plays a large role in things as minor as your day-to-day happiness at the office and as major as the future of your career.

No matter how hard you work or how many brilliant ideas you may have, if you can't connect with the people working around you, your professional life will suffer. The good news is that there are several concrete things you can do to improve your social skills and become closer to your colleagues, all of which will ultimately help you succeed in today's working world.

Here are 10 helpful tips for improving your interpersonal skills:

1. Smile. Few people want to be around someone who is always down in the dumps. Do your best to be friendly and upbeat with your coworkers. Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude about work and about life. Smile often. The positive energy you radiate will draw others to you.

2. Be appreciative. Find one positive thing about everyone you work with and let them hear it. Be generous with praise and kind words of encouragement. Say thanks when someone helps you. Make colleagues feel welcome when they call or stop by your office. If you let others know that they are appreciated, they'll want to give you their best.

3. Pay attention to others. Observe what's going on in other people's lives. Acknowledge their happy milestones and express concern and sympathy for difficult situations such as an illness or death. Make eye contact and address people by their first names. Ask others for their opinions.

4. Practice active listening. Actively listening is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another's point of view. It means restating, in your own words, what the other person has said. Your coworkers will appreciate knowing you really do listen to what they have to say.

5. Bring people together. Create an environment that encourages others to work together. Treat everyone equally and don't play favorites. Avoid talking about others behind their backs. Follow up on other people's suggestions or requests. When you make a statement or announcement, check to see that you have been understood. If folks see you as someone solid and fair, they will grow to trust you.

6. Resolve conflicts. Take a step beyond simply bringing people together and become someone who resolves conflicts when they arise. Learn how to be an effective mediator. If coworkers are bickering over personal or professional disagreements, arrange to sit down with both parties and help sort out their differences. By taking on such a leadership role, you will garner respect and admiration from those around you.

7. Communicate clearly. Pay close attention to both what you say and how you say it. Being a clear and effective communicator helps you avoid misunderstandings with coworkers. Verbal eloquence projects an image of intelligence and maturity, no matter what your age. If you tend to blurt out anything that comes to mind, people won't put much weight on your words or opinions.

8. Humor them. Don't be afraid to be funny or clever. Most people are drawn to a person that can make them laugh. Use your sense of humor as an effective tool to lower barriers and gain people's affection.

9. See it from their side. Empathy means being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand how they feel. Try to see things from another person's perspective. You can help yourself with this by staying in touch with your own emotions, since those who are cut off from their feelings are often unable to empathize with others.

10. Don't complain. There is nothing worse than a chronic complainer or whiner. If you simply have to vent about something, save it for your diary. But spare those around you, or else you'll get a bad reputation.

AllBusiness.com

Thursday

Quota system: Why is Nigeria still breastfeeding the North?

President Buhari has been accused of ethnic bias
CC™ Viewpoint - By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

Nigeria: Imagine two students in the same secondary school in Kaduna. They are 18. They are filled with youthful patriotism. They sit for admission exams into the NDA. They both want to read Mechanical Engineering. Efosa scores 280. Musa scores 180. Efosa's celebrations are cut short. He is not invited for an interview. Musa who scored 180 is hopping around. He has been invited for an interview. Musa is admitted. Efosa and Musa are Nigerians but from different states. Efosa with his 280 repeats the NDA exams the following year. He takes another 2 years to achieve a score of 300 and is finally admitted. Musa and Efosa become military officers. Musa who scored 180 when Efosa scored 280 is Efosa's boss. Musa remains Efosa's boss for the entire military career.

Musa would be happy. Efosa would carry a grudge against the country in his heart. Musa would be celebrated someday. He would be called Nigeria's finest. Efosa might get his chance. But with the grudge in his heart, he might not reach the top. Someday it would seep out and it could be Musa that would retire him.

Emir Sanusi is right, quota system should have an expiry date. But I think our quota system has already expired.

The North is full of smart people. It only needs to treat education with the same seriousness with which it attends to elections. If the north had come to education with the same keenness with which it approached population and census over the years, it would have been more educationally advanced than the south.

Quota system doesn't do the image of the north any good. Quota system creates the impression that the north is mentally handicapped. The north must understand that quota system ridicules it. The sort of mockery fit for a young adult who has refused to let go of feeding bottles.

Quota system distorts the system. It confers on its beneficiaries advantages meant for the handicapped. When persons who have two legs take advantages meant for wheelchair users they ought to feel some shame. 60 years after independence, the quota system we practice today is disgraceful.

The sections that benefit from it must feel the weight of its shame. It's possible they have never really addressed their minds to its ugly implications. The quota is simply an admission of inferiority. It simply says some groups lack the capacity to compete with others. That should be a humiliating position to adopt. So why are the beneficiaries marching around oblivious of its shame?

Quota system like other affirmative actions is righteous if they serve moral purposes. Whites in the United States denied blacks education and denied them participation in society. When slavery and racism were abolished, those chronic injustices meant blacks had been left far behind others. Since blacks couldn't compete but had to be included, blacks were allowed to get into Ivy League universities with lower scores. That was an adjustment made to accommodate their handicap. It was done to correct a gap created by injustice.

Quota system in Nigeria of today would be pardonable if it served to uplift women. Women and girls have been subjugated for ages. Girls in the far north have been excluded from education by retrogressive cultures. Quota system for northern girls only could be excusable to some extent. But a quota system used to service the ambitions of able-bodied but indolent men must be properly characterized as corruption-a reward for laziness.

Our statesmen who instituted the quota system must have intended a short-term measure to improve the participation of certain groups in national education and perhaps policymaking. They couldn't have anticipated a situation where political leaders in the north would abandon education and not be confronted with the consequences of their waywardness. Laziness should not be rewarded. The abysmal school enrollment figures in the north must reflect on the bigger stage.

Imagine a situation where admissions into the Nigerian Defense Academy were carried out only by merit. No one would be expected to disclose his state of origin. The best students would be chosen the way we choose players for the Super Eagles. We would have an officer corps chosen solely on merit. It could become lopsided. There could be grumblings about its lopsidedness. But no one would complain he had been cheated. States who abandon education would face the consequences of allowing rent-seeking manipulative politicians lead them.

When the nation was at infancy, sections like children had to be appeased with candies. Those who showed retardation had to be propped. But 60 years after independence, 60 years after all sections have had a chance to improve their educational system, 60 years after those who were thought weak have held the steering wheel, no section deserves this national babysitting.

When a system is used to improve political inclusion, it is good. When a system is used to perpetuate mediocrity and reward indolence it is evil. The quota system cannot continue to be used to help the very group that has dominated political leadership in the country.

Katsina has had two presidents. Katsina had a deputy military head of state. Niger state has had two heads of state. Katsina and Niger have been in the thick of things of national politics for ages. Yet, Katsina and Niger, are still deemed so educationally backwards that their indigenes cannot be allowed to compete with indigenes of Edo state.

Take a state like Borno. The National Security Adviser, the Chief of Army Staff, the president's Chief of Staff, the EFCC chairman are all from Borno. Borno occupies more positions than any other state in the security architecture of this third world country. Why should Borno state indigenes be allowed to get into the military and security services with lower scores than people from Delta state?

I looked at the list of students for the National Common Entrance Examinations from just a couple of years ago; Zamfara literally didn't participate. If that list is reliable then almost everyone who applied from Zamfara would gain admission because the number that applied from Zamfara is less than the number that applied from every small school in Lagos.

Yet, tomorrow, from amongst that small number of largely unqualified Zamfara students that would be admitted, the federal character would step in and catapult them to the highest positions in the land. If we practised such a decadent system in our football or athletics we would be about the worst sporting nation in the world. So why do we practice it in politics, 60 years after trying to weave a nation?

I have read the arguments that say politics is not football. They mean exclusion would cause discontent and instability. But nothing causes discontent and instability more than injustice. When we shout 'One Nigeria,' we must mean it. True 'One Nigeria" is a Nigeria where all citizens are equal; where neither state of origin, religion nor ethnicity confers any advantages or disadvantages.

The north is full of smart people. Polices that cast it in negative light must stop. The abolition of the quota system is long overdue.

Tuesday

Dealing with an incompetent and unethical lawyer

CC™ Informational 

It is frustrating when you are dissatisfied with your lawyer or her work -- especially if you don't know what to do about it. Here are some strategies for dealing with common problems that arise during legal representation. 

For starters, the distressingly common problem of non-communication doesn't have an easy solution. A lawyer who doesn't return phone calls or communicate with you for an extended period of time may be guilty of abandoning you -- a violation of attorneys' ethical obligations. But that's for a bar association to determine (if you register a complaint), and it won't do you much good in the short term. 

If your lawyer doesn't seem to be working on your case, sending a polite but firm letter laying out your concerns should get your lawyer's attention. Don't threaten to file a malpractice lawsuit or complain to the bar association; such threats will probably make your lawyer angry and defensive, not attentive.

If your lawyer does not respond, or subsequent meetings or conversations are not fruitful, consider suggesting mediation to work out your communication problems if you still want this lawyer to represent you. A bad deskside manner doesn't mean that the lawyer isn't an excellent lawyer, and it can be difficult to find a new one in the middle of a case.

If you conclude that you simply can't work with your lawyer anymore, fire your lawyer and find someone new. You may also want to have a second lawyer evaluate your first lawyer's actions and advise you about paying (or refusing to pay) any bill you receive, filing a complaint with your state lawyer discipline agency, or suing the lawyer for malpractice.

The Lawyer Is Dishonest or Totally Incompetent
If your lawyer has actually stolen from you or acted with gross incompetence, the authorities in charge of disciplining lawyers in your state should show some interest.

File a complaint with your state's lawyer discipline agency

Every state has an agency responsible for licensing and disciplining lawyers. In most states, it's the bar association; in others, the state supreme court. The agency is most likely to take action if your lawyer has failed to pay you money that you won in a settlement or lawsuit, made some egregious error such as failing to show up in court, didn't do legal work you paid for, committed a crime, or has a drug or alcohol abuse problem. 

Unfortunately, these state agencies are famous for moving at a slow pace, not pursuing complaints vigorously, and communicating poorly with people who file complaints. Still, it is important to report a legal skunk. Many agencies wait until they have several similar complaints about a particular attorney before taking action. 

Getting compensated 

State bar associations are primarily concerned with punishing lawyers (though rarely severely), not compensating clients. But all states except Maine, New Mexico, and Tennessee do have funds from which they may reimburse clients whose attorneys stole from them. 

You're Concerned About the Lawyer's Work 

It's often hard for a client to know whether or not a lawyer is doing a good job. But if you think your lawyer's ability leaves something to be desired, investigate -- before it's too late. 

Communicate

If your lawyer doesn't seem to be working on your case, talk to your lawyer and explain your concerns. 

Get your file 

If you can't find out what has (and has not) been done, you need to get hold of your file. You can read it in your lawyer's office or ask your lawyer to send you copies of everything -- all correspondence and everything filed with the court or recorded with a government agency.

If you've already ended your relationship with the lawyer, you need your file pronto to make sure all deadlines are met, mistakes are repaired, and the matter keeps moving. If the lawyer is unresponsive and the matter involves a lawsuit, go to the courthouse and look at your case file, which contains all the papers that have actually been filed with the court. 

If you've hired a new lawyer, ask her for help in getting your file. Also, ask your state bar association for assistance. If that doesn't work, as a last resort you may need to sue your lawyer in small claims court, asking the court for money to compensate you for what you've spent on redoing work in the file or trying to get the file. 

Research 

If you're not satisfied with your lawyer's strategy decisions or with the arguments the lawyer has been making on your behalf, you may even want to go to the law library and do some reading to educate yourself about your legal problem. 

Get a second opinion

If you've got serious doubts about how your case is being handled, see a second attorney. Second opinions are relatively inexpensive -- an hour or two of a lawyer's time spent talking to you plus any time spent reviewing papers. And they are often very valuable in helping you decide whether to stay with your current lawyer or change to someone better suited to the task.

The more you can tell and show the second lawyer about your case, the better advice you will get about whether your case is being handled correctly and what might be done differently. Keep in mind, though, that no two lawyers handle a case in exactly the same way, and that a second opinion is usually a cursory review, not a comprehensive analysis.

Fire your lawyer

It's your absolute right to fire your lawyer at any time for any reason. Give it serious consideration if you're convinced the lawyer is doing a bad job or if your relationship with the lawyer has become intolerable. 

But dumping a bad lawyer can be expensive. If you hire a new lawyer, you'll have to pay him or her to get up to speed on your case. If the first lawyer hasn't done much, this shouldn't cost a lot. But if you have a trial scheduled for three weeks from now, your new lawyer will have a monumental and time-consuming job. 

Sue for malpractice 

If you lost money because of the way your lawyer handled your case, consider suing for malpractice. Know, however, that it is not an easy task. You must prove two things:
  • your lawyer messed up and
  • you would have won your case otherwise.It's not enough to show that your lawyer made a mistake -- you must show that the mistake caused you financial loss that you would not have suffered if your lawyer had handled your case properly in the first place.
If you want to sue for legal malpractice, do it as quickly as possible. A common defense raised by attorneys sued for malpractice is that the client waited too long to sue. And because this area of the law can be surprisingly complicated and confusing, there's often plenty of room for argument. 

Legal malpractice cases are expensive to pursue, so do some investigating before you dive in. There's no point in suing if the lawyer doesn't have either malpractice insurance or valuable assets from which to pay you if you win.

Source: NOLO

Monday

The 21st Century Marriage


From a recent study done in the United States of America, about 49% of all marriages end in divorce and you might think the odds of failure of marriages will be much less for couples heavily involved in the church but I am sorry to shock you, it is not quite so. Ministries today reports the divorce rate up 279% in the last 27 years! This, if anything, is frightening!

Taking a survey of all ministers in all denominations, 50% of their marriages will end in divorce. A recent ABC News broadcast also reported that the divorce rate in the "Bible Belt" is 50% higher than in other areas of the US. The Christian-Based Research Group reported in January 2000, that 21% of atheists and agnostics will or have experienced divorce while 29% denominational Christians and 34% of non-denominational Christians will or have experienced divorce. This is a rebuke to the church! Where are we getting it wrong?

Most marriages are predicated on faulty foundations and marriages with such foundation cannot last. People get into marriage for the wrong reasons for some it is the wealth that will be available at their disposal, others for reasons other than genuine love entrenched in God's approval.

I read a story about Tony Toto, of Allentown, PA. He operated a pizza parlor there. Tony Toto survived at least 5 attempts on his life, all arranged for or carried out by his dear wife, Frances & her lover. Twice she arranged for assailants to beat him over the head with baseball bats. On one occasion she put a tripwire across the basement stairs in their house, hoping that he would trip over it & plummet to his death.

She also arranged for him to be shot, at least on two occasions. The first time she drugged his chicken soup so he would sleep soundly; he was shot in the head, but miraculously survived. The 2nd time he was shot in the chest, but only sustained minor injuries.

Even more miraculous than Tony's survival was his attitude toward his wife once he found out she was responsible for all of this. Tony said that he held his wife blameless.

When she was found guilty and sent to prison for arranging for his murder, he took their 4 children and visited her every week - every single week. Then when she was released from prison, she went back to their red brick home to resume her married life with Tony.

With his arm around her, Tony said, "We're more in love now than ever before.Wow! What a man! This is one very rare case, but how many people can live up to this? I am sure a lot of people would have thrown out the woman at the first attempt or probably kill her in the process. What is happening to our homes and marriages today?

Is your marriage going through a strain? Are you so stressed and worked up and thinking of calling it quits? Divorce should not be an option, you can work this through. During my counseling sessions, I have asked couples 'what attracted them to each other in the first place and if that object of attraction is still present.'

Most marriages get into murky waters when there is a downward shift in the relational disposition of either or both partners. When the gifts stops coming, the communication becomes brief and formal and the romantic sparks becomes extinguished…you had better watch out, you are standing on a divorce time-bomb waiting to explode!

Let me share with you some secrets that I have shared with my audience. It is embedded in the four letter word L.O.V.E. I am not saying love by mouth but this is love from the very depth of your soul, it's a connection you must have with your spouse, if anything comes in between this connection then you are on a dangerous path. Let's look at this together:

L - Living for One Another: Living for one another is one of the strong keys to living together till 'death do you path.' It means your spouse becomes the reason for your living. When you live for another it means you are dead to self, it means you are broken. At this stage, it is not about your qualification nor is it about how much money you earn more than your spouse…the moment you begin to see yourself as the more important part of the relationship then you are digging the grave for your marriage. When you live for one another, then you will grow in each other.

O - Open Up to One Another: Secrecy is a silent and gradual terminator of the peace and joy within the home. Many homes have been destroyed as a result of secrets that were believed to have been kept but later came to the fore. Your spouse has the right to know everything; that is why you are married. You owe each other that obligation. Open to one another and you will enjoy the peace that passes all understanding. Many individuals have held back secrets from their spouses which later inflamed them and their marriage never was the same again.

Openness rides on the wings of a healthy communication within the marriage. Couples, if when together are at lose of what to discuss or say to each other are already exhibiting symptoms of 'communication wilt.' Communication must be fun, informal and sincere. Openness is the first defense against external infiltration into your marriage. Be open about everything. Genesis 2:25 says "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed." There is no shame in being open. These should include our finances, sex, relationships and every other area.

V- Value for One Another: Value means worth. When you value your spouse then he/she is worth more than all the valuables of the world put together. A man that values his wife will not treat her as a slave. Learn to appreciate your wife. Treat her as the queen that she is and let her feel that sense of worth. How do you treat your husband? Do you discuss her with your friends and by extension make him a laughing stock before them. Do you disrespect each other before extended family members? Value means you are sensitive to the needs of your spouse and that you hold each other in high esteem. Do you value your spouse?

E - Encourage One Another: Your spouse should be your first pastor. It is not every problem or misunderstanding you take to the church or your parents. Be the shoulder upon which your spouse can lean on. There is power when you agree on something together. Rather than place curses on each other, make positive declarations of a better life together.

There are women who bathe their husbands with curses and true to their word, the man will never make progress and you cannot expect to have peace in return in such situation, the devil will succeed in turning that home to a battle field. Encourage and pray for another.

The success of one should be the joy and success of another. Don't take your spouse to the threshing floor of the public, since when he/she is ridiculed you will also be humiliated in your home. Make Jesus your focus. 

Face that challenge together and see God come out strong on your behalf. Your family will be beauty to behold and a reference point in the comity of families.

God bless you mightily! 

Gbenga Owotoki, is the founder and Presiding Coordinator Hephzibah Network International Ministries; a Ministry committed to stirring up the 'sleeping giant' in people for end-time exploits. A US trained Business and Change Management Strategist. He is widely known as the 'Change Driver' for his simple but yet unique ways through which he initiates changes that are rejuvenating lives and organizations and helping to restore hope in individuals who had completely given up. A widely travelled international conference speaker and Convener of the annual Giant Conference and Life Summit that have been a blessing to many.

Sunday

Flashback: The GOP and the dearth of true conservatives

Reagan takes oath of office
Editor-in-Chief - Boyejo A. Coker

This piece was written (ahead of the 2012 U.S. general elections) as a sequel to a preceding piece titled "Whither the GOP and true conservatism." Both pieces served to profess a prelude to the emergence of both Barack Obama and Donald Trump on opposite sides of the political spectrum. The article continues below.....

In an article I wrote a few years ago, I touched on the debilitating frailties of the GOP as presently constituted and how they may have led to the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

As we get into the decisive months of presidential politics in the U.S. general elections, one sees the same pattern beginning to unfold once again, as the GOP-led Congress (at least on the House side) would much rather play side-bar politics, that could ultimately re-energize the left to turn out in solidarity of what most observers perceive to be an under-performing president.

There is no question that the president is vulnerable and worse-still is the fact that he seems unsure of what he needs to do, in order to get the economy moving again.

For independent voters (they hold the "swing votes" in key elections), the two choices for the White House would seem to be a replay of 2008 all over again.

Then, most independents seemed to initially lean towards John McCain, as they respected his service to country as well as his penchant for reaching across the aisle, to get the business of the nation done, when it was absolutely necessary.

The fringe right of the GOP was however cool to the McCain candidacy and they eventually forced his hand into choosing someone that many felt became a liability to both his candidacy as well as the poignant message true conservatives were trying to send to the American people.

Key political watchers would argue that true conservatives never warmed up to Sarah Palin the minute they realized there was nothing behind the looks or between the ears.

For all the so-called Tea Party would like most Americans to believe, conservatism is not defined by a resentment for a sterling educational pedigree or impeccable intellectual acumen. Rather than see those with the preceding qualities as snubs, a true conservative views the composite as an invaluable asset; one that typifies a sense of ambition, responsibility and ultimately speaks to the crux of the conservative message of a commitment to excellence.

The reality is that this president is way in over his head, but the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives has consistently giving him a way out by stalling and styming his feckless efforts aimed at "reviving" the American economy.

And when they are not styming the president's "well intended efforts" they are busy issuing subpoenas to the Attorney General of the United States for a program that was actually started under a Republican president; it was then called Operation Wide Receiver and it was the first known ATF "gunwalking" operation to the Mexican drug cartels, beginning in early 2006 (under the Bush White House) and ran till late 2007.

Not to digress onto this matter, but what makes the Darrell Issa-led over-reach even more laughable and at best mis-directed, is the fact that under the Bush administration, there were no known reviews by either the DOJ or the Congress at the time. In fact, it was not until Barack Obama took office in 2009, that the Eric Holder-led DOJ started an intensive review into Operation Wide Receiver, with arrests and indictments subsequently made, as a result of the investigations.

Rather than focus on the key issues that continue to affect the generality of the American people, the ECONOMY, ECONOMY and the ECONOMY, key GOP leadership and their surrogates, would much rather play divisive politics and once again, give a much needed opening and life-line to a struggling presidency.

True conservatives are not blinded by their parochial and ideological idiosyncrasies, but are instead committed to espousing the true values and ideals of transparency, accountability and responsible governance; doing so with dignity and firmness, as well as a sense of cordiality that belies their resolve and determination.

The message of individual responsibility, self-determination, personal discipline and accountability must not be lost in the abyss of incendiary vituperations laced with jingoistic redundancies.

The American people deserve much better this time around, than a default presidency as that may ultimately lead to a couple of plausible scenarios that could eventually obtain here. The first is that Barack Obama's "third term" is ensured (4 years from now) by the lack of purpose and direction currently being exhibited by the core GOP establishment. The other scenario is that an anti-establishment candidate may arise out of the ashes of the impending GOP establishment's implosion. That person would then become an unlikely but much welcome voice (to the far right) of parochial irredentism that may change the political landscape of the United States forever.

Chief Editor's commentary: The 'anti-establishment candidate' I predicted almost a decade ago, in this piece, turned out to be Donald J. Trump. Four years of his chaotic presidency has turned American democracy on its head and January 6, 2021 was indeed a defining day in the history of the United States of America.