Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Lazy one

When do you describe someone as lazy? Often times when one is slow in executing his duty we describe him as lazy. Thus, we mostly judge "laziness" on the seat judgement of "smartness." However, "smartness" in this way, may be nothing other than physical exuberance. O yes! The real smartness is in the mind. So, if we are to pass a valid judgement on laziness, with smartness as the judge, then real laziness is psychical...

Sometimes, undue hurry in executing ones responsibility may be an expression of lack of the necessary psychical disposition to devote adequate TIME on the task. In this way, QUICK ACTION becomes a new form of laziness!

A really lazy man has problem with time. He assumes more time than is available for him in executing his task. Thus, he goes about his work with a flowering distracting disposition.

Jude C. Nwachukwu
Redeemer House, Ibadan, Nigeria. 22/11/07

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dreaming of another Nobel Prize for Africa

During this second week of October, the Royal Swedish Academy has begun announcing the would-be recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize. As this author writes, three potential recipients of the five original categories instituted by that Swedish entrepreneur Alfred Nobel have been named. The five categories are those of Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace. The Nobel for Economics we are made to understand is a latter day addition and a very noble one at that, thanks to the thoughtful generousity of the Sveriges Riksbank. However, the three recently announced Nobel Laureates to be are in Medicine, Physics and Chemistry and as one would expect, the Prizes have gone to Europe and America. This being the case, only three more categories are left to be announced and most probably the end of the week or early next week at most, will witness the publication of the complete list. A simple question has been turning in my mind ever since the first announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize winners was made which was that of Medicine awarded to the American trio of Mario R. Capecchi, Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies. I have not stopped asking myself when next an African would receive this arguably most respected, most prestigious and most coveted of all world’s prizes. When next and who is it going to be?

This writer is under no illusions to realize that Africa’s options with regards to the Nobel are severely limited. If memory serves, the Nobel Prize has so far been awarded to a handful of our own sons and daughters in the areas of Literature and Peace, with the former going to our own literary legend- Professor Wole Soyinka in 19986, the very first time for an African to be so honoured with the prize in that distinguished class. He was followed a few years later by the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz who received his in the same category in 1988. The Nobel for Literature has since then been received by two other South Africans, Nadine Gordimer 1991 and John M. Coetzee 2003. A few other illustrious sons and daughters of Africa have also been honoured with the enviable prize but mostly if not all receiving the Nobel for Peace, an equally well respected and distinguished category on its own right. Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were both honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, Kofi Annan and the United Nations 2001, Wangari Muta Maathai 2004, Muhammad ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2005.

Africa is yet to receive a Nobel for Medicine, Physics, Chemistry or even Economics. From the way things appear at the moment, it would require something of a miracle for an African living and working in Africa to win a Nobel in any of these core scientific areas. Not even Economics which is also a science though of a social nature. It is not going to happen any time soon if the truth is to be told. One only needs to visit our Universities, to pass through the corridors of our Medical departments and our Laboratories to agree with this writer. It is stating the obvious to say that our citadels of learning and ivory towers are mere walking shadows. The ghastly state of our Hospitals is a story for another day. All these taken into account, we would only be articulating what is common knowledge that we are most likely to still be light years behind the developed nations in their continued bid to accumulate Nobel Prizes.

We are well aware that the Nobel today has become another testimony to a country’s economic advancement, human development and technological superiority. It is considered to be something of a measure of the quality of physical, academic and intellectual life that a country affords. Little wonder then that almost all of the 2006 Nobel Prizes went to Americans who scooped all four of the six categories in which the prize is awarded, leaving only the prizes for Literature and Peace for the rest of the world to share. How considerate of them! In any case, who is not aware of America’s place and position in the world? Is it for nothing that they style themselves as the leader of the free world? Free world indeed! However, although the country remains one that some people love to hate and hate to love, it’s undeniable that the country is organized and well managed, much more than most. It has remained the envy of many and the object of people’s dreams. In a way, it is for most people the contemporary example of the biblical land flowing with milk and honey.

Be that as it may, the view has continued to gain currency among many young African intellectuals that a Nobel Prize in Medicine, Chemistry, Physics and Economics remains a pipe dream for any African who is born in Africa, studies entirely and works in Africa. Perhaps this could somehow explain what lies at the root of the continued quest by our young people for greener pastures abroad and the much talked about phenomenon of brain drain. The infrastructure for modern academic research and development is yet lacking in our institutions of learning hence our best and brightest minds have continued to leave in droves. Sadly, it doesn’t yet seem that the tide is about to change.

Some would definitely disagree with this view especially those who accuse the Swedish of continued Racism in deciding who gets awarded the Prize -an accusation that perhaps may have some substance to it- and those who claim that the Nobel is essentially a European Prize, given once in any rare while to a ‘worthy’ African, which may well be the case, but what can we do about that? Unfortunately, the west still calls the shots in many things and there’s nothing much anyone can do about that. Acquiring one’s educational qualifications and carrying out all of one’s academic researches in Africa which supposedly lacks the required facilities for 21st century teaching and learning is evidently a baggage. Hence we have to make do with whatever we are given from our ‘limited options’ and whenever we are considered worthy to receive one. After all, each of the prizes is equal to the other in value, prestige and worth. Or isn’t it? Yet how I wish we had more slots.

Many have wondered why Chinua Achebe has not yet been awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. Some including the writer for instance, have argued that Achebe has a wider global appeal and has accumulated far greater literary clout than the little known Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk that was the 2006 Nobel Laureate for Literature. Here is a man whose works have not only sold millions of copies but have also been translated into scores of languages. A man of such literary sagacity and one who has been acclaimed world wide surely deserves the Nobel. Turn it the other way round, the Nobel Laureates Commission deserves the added honour of counting such a man among their rank and file. Or is it somehow against the rule to have two Nobel Laureates in the same subject from the same country? It doesn’t seem like it. After all has South Africa not had two Nobel Laureates in Literature already? Would we all suffer from some ‘literary intellectual constipation’ should this dream of receiving yet another Nobel Prize in Nigeria become a reality? That doesn’t seem likely either. In any case, it is becoming increasingly difficult especially these days to resist the temptation of comparing ourselves with South Africa, and every time this comparism is made, it sounds appallingly naive to believe that we are still the ‘giant of Africa’. If we ever were, are we still?

  • Alvan Amadi – United Kingdom 11 October, 2007.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

POPE BENEDICT XVI: Happy Birthday Your Holiness!

Catholic Pontiffs no doubt have a special place in history and while history has dealt reverently with most, it has on the other hand ridiculed and scorned the memory of some others. We have in mind here more especially, the Popes of the renaissance best remembered for their remarkably mundane tastes, unbridled luxury and glaringly scandalous lives of debauchery. However, this does not detract from the fact that the Papacy has always fascinated humanity down the ages. As this was true then, so it remains the case even in our own times marked as it is by this aggressively secular mind-set and the undisguised desire to relegate all things religious to the private domain. A clear evidence of this still enduring interest in this Catholic Institution was undeniably manifested in the events leading up to the death and burial of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI all in April 2005 during which time the spotlights of the global media were literally and unblinkingly focused on the windows of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The papacy has never ceased to amaze and to command world -wide respect and attention.

It goes without saying however that some people at some time have tried to wish away this sacred institution and all that it stands for. These people have postulated the notion of a world where there is no formidable moral authourity personified in a single institution and embodied in a single person as does the papacy such that when such a person or institution speaks, the world listens. In any case, a fact that can not be wished away remains that, the Papacy as the famous British religious sceptic Lord Melbourne noted; “is a great historic institution and must be respected for all it represents”. Many will certainly agree with the former proposition but less so with the later, since it does seem to have become increasingly fashionable and indeed a mark of scholarship in some circles to mud-sling the Pope and the Catholic Church for every conceivable failing, real or imaginary. We do not intend to suggest or even to argue that the institution of the Papacy and the Pope is impeccable, nor that the Pope is in some way gifted with omniscience, since even the dogma of Papal infallibility does not say as much, as some anti-catholic and Pope-bashing ideologues may want us to believe. Papal Infallibility if we are to remind ourselves is restricted to the sphere of faith or morals where the Pope teaches ‘ex cathedra’ as the teacher and leader of the universal Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. Hence the Pope does not and cannot pretend to be an economic historian, a molecular Biologist, a nuclear Physicist or even a biotechnologist and proceed to make ‘infallible’ pronouncements in these departments.

However, the concern of this piece is rather with the charming and eminently interesting personality of Benedict XVI, the German Professor Pope who currently occupies the chair of St Peter and who just turned 80 this April. Here is a Pope who have held the world enchanted, spell-bound, and attentive during these two years he has stepped into the shoes of the Fisherman, as the leader of the over 1 billion strong Roman Catholic Church. Some watched with bated breath to see how this somewhat timid and reclusive academic –as some western journalists have tagged him- will fit into the gigantic shoes of John Paul II, the globe-trotting media superstar Pope who traversed the length and breath of the planet to bring the gospel of peace and reconciliation to the ends of the earth and in whom we were blessed with an extra-ordinarily charismatic leader, one that stirred the ship of the Church for 26 fruitful and eventful years.

Now after the initial hush and eerie apprehension that is many quarters greeted the election of the Former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith(CDF), to the chair of St. Peter, his former critiques have not ceased to be confounded and to be surprised beyond their widest imaginations. Indeed, it’s only those who never bought the cartoon Ratzinger that have not been left hopelessly stunned by the disparity between the real Ratzinger and the media make-up of him. The so-called arch-conservative chief Vatican doctrinal enforcer has scarcely lived up to his stereotype of a combative and fire-breathing German Rottweiler, swiftly going after all those who have deviated from the orthodox way to bring them forcibly back to the mainstream of the faith.

Perhaps some expected that a grave silence would have descended on the entire catholic world the very next day after Benedict XVI’s election, marking the beginning of another inquisition, and a ruthless clamping down on all liberal thinkers, extreme progressives and dissident ecclesiastics. He has instead captivated the world and indeed all peoples from different religious and ideological leanings with his grace and personal charm, springing infinite surprises at both supporters and critics. At the end of the first nine months of his Pontificate, he published his first encyclical entitled “Deus caritas est” (God is Love) which articulated with great clarity the Christian understanding of love, when perhaps some expected him to write a more political encyclical tackling head-on some of the burning issues on the global political scene. Drawing from the writings of the Church fathers, theologians, philosophers and poets, he was able to make his point strikingly that the love of God drives us on to love of our fellow human beings and that this expresses itself in various works of charity which the Church carries on as part of its nature.

Even some of his staunchest admirers have at times found it a bit too difficult to understand the personality of this Bavarian professor and theologian -Joseph Ratzinger who is now Benedict XVI. He further surprised many when he received in audience the radical Swiss liberal theologian, Hans Kung barely months into his Pontificate. It does seem that some expected him to be swifter in closing in on some of the western liberal thinkers renowned for their a la carte disposition towards the doctrines of the church, in terms of picking and choosing what to take seriously and what to ignore. They expected him to go after these people with the fiery zeal and the fanatic fervour of an Old Testament prophet. He did not allow himself to be that predictable.

On the other hand, he has continued to work with the certainty and self-assured pace of one that knows where he’s going. He does not appear to be unduly in a haste to make changes nor does he allow himself to be stampeded by public opinion to introduce radical reforms within the curia, which according to some so-called Vatican watchers, is long overdue. The man Joseph Ratzinger undoubtedly knows how to surprise. It has by now become abundantly clear to everyone both admirers and critics that if anything, this pope is one that can neither be predicted nor be taken for granted. Moreover, he has consistently raised his voice in condemnation of the European attempt at denial of its Christian roots and identity, in addition to criticizing the barely concealed attempt to abolish religion from the European public square.
It can not in any case be contested that the man is in his element, armed with a brain power of surpassing acuity, a fact to which any reader of his addresses and speeches, not to talk of his numerous publications, can readily agree to. The Holy Father’s polished use of words and language is to say the least, remarkable, impressive and elegant. I am personally most enchanted by it. Little wonder a commentator observed that while the crowd came to see John Paul II the Pilgrim Pope, they are coming to hear Benedict XVI the Professor Pope. In any case, does one expect anything less from a university academic, author and one of the foremost catholic theologians of our time?

One other thing that is by now evident is that this is a Pope that is not lacking in courage to say exactly what he thinks, if anything, that 12 September 2006 Regensburg speech says this most eloquently. Yes, that speech entitled “Faith, Reason and the University- Memories and Reflections” that was somewhat a lightning-rod that sparked-off visceral debates and fierce criticisms in some quarters. In Benedict XVI we have a Pope that desires to make his voice heard clearly and unambiguously in condemning all religious motivations for violence. Was that just a mere diplomatic gaffe, a slip of the tongue, perhaps of the pen by a Pope saying something that he shouldn’t have said, something nobody least expected or even something that nobody was bold enough to say, at least not as he said it? Many of us would beg to differ, since the Pope as we know him means exactly what he says.

In the beautiful words of Anna Arco “He has shaken us out of our complacency by saying things that we do not necessarily want to hear, but he does so in a rational way that makes it difficult not to listen”. Surely the Holy Father understands first hand that in as much as issues of inter-religious dialogues have to be handled cautiously with a considerable modicum of diplomacy, he equally understands that diplomatic niceties if not properly handled can often stifle the spirit of authentic dialogue, making it a boring exercise in empty rhetorics. There is therefore need for ‘straight talks’ and frank communication of views all in the spirit of ‘open exchanges’. Any dialogue that does not afford itself the wiliness to sincerely confront inconvenient truths is but a sheer waste of time. The Pope certainly knows that better than any one else.

In the wake of the furore generated by that Regensburg speech, some 38 Moslem scholars from across the globe -representing according to George Wiegel the A-list of international authourities in Islam- jointly responded with a letter which was sent to the Pope in the Vatican and which has also been responded to. This in itself is a feat, in every way unprecedented which boldly indicates that the Pontiff has set in motion the pendulum of open and sincere dialogue guided by reason. The Pontiff’s speech in a certain sense therefore, has already accomplished much and would certainly still bear more fruit in the future. That speech may go down in history as the greatest of this Pontificate. In addition his symbolic visit to Moslem Turkey and more especially his symbolic entry into and prayerful pause in the famous Blue Mosque at Instanbul, whereby he became the 2nd Pope to have entered a Mosque after John Paul II, is another unforgettable milestone in this path to authentic dialogue between Christianity -more precisely Catholicism- and Islam. History will surely be gracious and kind to him.

Written by
Amadi Alvan – 15 April, 2007.
United Kingdom

Friday, May 25, 2007


In his address to my fellow youth in Pacaembu, Brazil, the holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, decries what he called “lost youth,” which results from the many physical and moral violence youths face today, not only in Brazil but all over the world.

But the holy Father is optimistic and has lots of encouraging messages for us all. He drew his inspiring message from the Gospel story of the rich young man who came to ask Jesus what he must do to possess eternal life. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the question of this young man represents a quest for authenticity of life; “the issue of life’s meaning” or the secret of good living. When we reflect on this, we discover that “life” transcends the confines of space and time—it is eternal and “we must apply ourselves to reach it.” How can this be done?

The Pope responds, “Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness.” So, we must realize that Jesus is a good teacher—the truth, the way and the life—He has answers on the secret of a happy life. When we recognize deeply that Jesus is good, we love Him. “And whoever loves…knows God…To be open to goodness means to receive God.”

However, the Pope says, “To understand what is good, we need help.” Here lies one of the importances of the Commandments. The Commandments lead to life, which means they guarantee our authenticity.” We must hear witness to them by our way of life. They are basic principles of authentic living. Therefore, “the Commandments are not imposed upon us from without, they do not diminish our freedom…They are strong incentives leading us to act in a certain way.”

They holy Father wants us to have experience of goodness, and therefore, of God by keeping the commandments. In this way, we will be free and responsible. This may require making new decisions. We must be promoters of life in all its stages, protect the elderly, work diligently, and avoid excessive ambition for wealth and power. Above all, we must decide to have great respect for the boundaries of marriage. Prophetically, the Pope says, “God calls you to respect one another when you fall in love and become engaged, since conjugal life, reserved by divine ordinance to married couples, will bring happiness and peace only to the extent that you are able to build your future hopes upon chastity, both within and outside marriage.” In the midst of growing affluence, the Pontiff prays that young people, guided by the Holy Spirit, may decide to choose priestly and vocations.

According to the Pope, when we reject the invitation to participate in the saving mission of Christ, the invitation to leave off our treasure and pleasure to follow Christ intimately, the invitation to experience goodness, we cannot but be saddened like the rich young man in the Gospel. Further, when we go to the good Teacher to overcome “lost youth,” to receive authentic life, we must be courageous at the moment of the “the great decision” when we must wedge everything on Christ.

We cannot experience happiness or authentic living if our decisions waver and become cowardly and self-seeking or if we lack generosity. Therefore, the Pope appeals: “Do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.”

Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
21/05/07 (This is a summary of the address Benedict XVI gave on 10/05/07 in Brazil)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pa Celestine

Two years ago, just like two days ago, Pa Celestine Obichere Nwachukwu entered into the silence of death. Last Good Friday, 6th April, 2007 marked this unforgettable day in my life. As I reflected on the passion of Christ that day, I couldn't but recalled this day two years ago.
As Christ hung on the cross, his silence cried for 3 hrs. He accepted death. Our Lord Jesus entered into the silence of death. But the tomb could not hold him. Three days later he rose from the dead. Oh! Death, the greatest enemy of man, the one who snatched my beloved Dad away from me, has been defeated. All those who henceforth cling to Christ in faith shall equally triumph over death.
Once my Dad told me that one of his greatest happiness is that he had never put his trust in any other god or sought their help or protection--that his faith had always been rooted in Christ. It is worth emulating that despite trials and all sorts of hardships, Pa Celestine remained firm in Christ. So, I'm rest assured that he will share in the glory of Christ's resurrection since he clung to him in faith.
Christ's sound of silence on the Cross has shattered the scaring silence of the grave! Death where is your sting?
We must never forget that the virtues we accumulate today live after us...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Cry of Silence

One of the most interesting scenes in Jesus passion is His trial before Pilate. Initially the Jews were struggling to get false accusations against Him, for they thought He would do all things possible to elude them as He did to them in the past. Pilate, on his part, must be used to the accused vehemently defending himself. But Jesus' case was different. Here the accused was reluctant to defend Himself against the obvious false charges. Like a lamb before its shearers, Jesus was silent! He put up no resistance; no violence. What kind of accused is this? Pilate found himself on trial before Jesus. Oh! The power of silence! The more Jesus' silence cried, the more Pilate was thrown into confusion--his competence as a judge was at stake. The 'sound' of Jesus' silence shook him.

Silence is not only interwined with 'mystery', it is equally powerful. Have you discovered the power of silence in your life?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


What is my brother Dibia doing in the picture above? He is gazing at the cross inside St. Patrick's Alaba. Yes! Lent is a favourable time to pause and reflect on the mystery of the Crucified. This is the message Pope Benedict XVI passed across in his Lenten address. They shall look on Him whom they have pierced (Jn 19:37). This is the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent is a favourable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to Him who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of His life (cf. Jn 19:25). With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God"
It is rewarding to maintain a silent gaze at the Crucified. This will dispose us to internalize this mystery. The possibility of encounter with the Divine, which silence brings, in turn gives silence its great relevance--its elusiveness, its mystery!

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Your God is listening as His faithful friends adore; tread softly in His presence and gently close the door! A noise may change the current of another's train of thought and steal from God the glory deep thinking would have brought. At Holy Mass you're standing on Calvary's lonely hill; a God is dying for your sins. For His sweet sake, keep still.
----From Joseph Odiah, OCD.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Silence...with "Attention"

For sure, silence intrinsically involves quietness. The two are not separable, but are distinguishable. Personally I see silence as a deeper level of being quiet. To be quiet implies to be externally without noise--to be calm. Isn't this the same as being silent? It seems any distinction here is merely psychological.Nevertheless, Ashamu introduced the concept of "attention." The silent person is equally attentive. In silence, we gather up the heart, we recollect the principles of action in us. Thus, the silent person is in touch with his inner being. First and foremost, he is attentive to himself. But such self-conscious attentiveness is not blunt. The silent person is aware of the other. In fact, he enters into the mystery of the 'other.' This enwrapping sentivity to the 'other' is not arbitrary. It is consciously oriented and sustained as such. Interestingly, the other could be God...

"The divine word reveals its depths to those who, through silence
andmortification, are attentive to the Spirit's mysterious action. While
therequirement of regular silence establishes times when human words must
bestilled, it points to a style marked by great moderation in
Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


On our way back from school yesterday, I was telling my brother an experience I had the previous day. Just before getting to what I thought was the peak of the gist, he exclaimed, "Ah!" I thought he was reacting to my story. To my amazement he added: "I like the design of that car that just passed." It then dawned on me that he was not listening. Without further "warning" I abruptly ended the story, and shyly joined in the rather new but odd discussion.

Some thoughts then flashed into my head. It seems there is a connection between silence and listening. Of course, we can only listen when we are silent. But to be quiet is not the same as to be silent. My brother was quiet while I was telling the story, but he was grossly distracted internally; he was not silent. Hence, he was not listening. What do you think? Which do we need in meditative prayer, silence or quietness?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

After Silence

...And God broke his "silence"! He spoke and things came to be...It was as if the universe evolved out of silence. Waoh! Silence must be very important to us, is it? But how much silence do we know today? The world is full of noise. I have come to accept my immediate environs as naturally noisy. But is it? Oh! The thought of this disturbs me...Come to think of it, silence and noise which precedes the other? What do we have after we have done away with silence?