Woli Arole engages fans with The Chat Room show

Woli Arole has used the COVID-19 break to kick off an online show tagged: The Chat Room.

Woli Arole, who has continued to make waves in the online and comedy space in Nigeria, began the Instagram live show on April 8.

The comedian noted that the live show has the sole purpose of discussing life-changing topics in the most enlightening and comical ways. He will also be interviewing amazing guests from all work of life in their most natural and holistic state via the same medium.

With guests spanning from the entertainment, sport, art, political, religious, business and marketing sectors, Arole reels out his list that includes Manchester United striker, Odion Ighalo, Nollywood actor, Adedimeji Lateef, social media enthusiast, The Pamilerin, Sheik Amiolohun the Islamic scholar with a wealth of knowledge, Vector the viper, Timi Dakolo, Isaac Oyedepo and Leke Adeboye sons of Bishop David Oyedepo and Pastor EA Adeboye.

Other guests that have been featured on the show are Olufunke Bucknor, CEO Zapphaire, Tosin Ajibade, CEO Olorisupergal, Pastor Mrs. Nike Adeyemi, and Laolu Ink.

Covid-19: Religion, reason can go hand in hand

RELIGION is one of the most potent forces of human civilisation. It satisfies our innermost needs and reflects our deepest yearnings. Nearly 84% of the world’s population claims adherence to some faith or the other.

Whether this faith is used as a force for good or for evil is, of course, another matter. Much depends on how adherents use or misuse their religion.

Like all laws and norms, religious doctrines are capable of whatever interpretation we wish to clothe them with.

The character of the interpreter often gets superimposed on the character of a religious doctrine. With the Covid-19 pandemic swirling all around us, institutionalised religion is facing several challenges.

First, is the issue of what is at the heart and soul of religion? Despite the pandemic and its imperative of social distancing, some religious leaders around the world continue to emphasise rituals, mass ceremonies and gatherings.

Most religious services emphasise collective worship, close contact, hand holding, sharing communion, and touching or kissing religious objects. These practices have to be avoided till normalcy returns.It is respectfully submitted that such avoidance will not weaken religion.

Most religions have teachings that profess the importance of assisting others, saving lives and not harming oneself. The Quran tells us: “If anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.”

The Bible says you “shall not test the Lord” (Matthew 4:7). This means that one should not take unnecessary risks and that “God helps those who help themselves”.

In Judaism, the Talmud emphasises the preservation of human life and this takes precedence over all other commandments.

It is respectfully submitted that despite the Covid-19 prohibitions, there is nothing to prevent us from emphasising the spiritual part of religion, giving importance to substance over form, and embracing the importance of love, compassion, tolerance, sacrifice and peace.

I am reminded of Surah Al-Baqara 2:177 (Yusuf Ali translation): “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards east or west; But it is righteousness to believe in God, and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; To spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; To be steadfast in prayer, and practise regular charity; To fulfil the contracts which ye have made.”

I am reminded of the inscription on the Kamal Lazar Foundation that “all the world is a mosque”.

I am reminded that Islam has no clergy and no mediators between man and God. We can in all places, in and outside the mosque, establish a connection with the divine. Any place on earth can be a mosque and prayer is wherever there is the presence of God.

I am reminded of what Khalil Gibran wrote: “Is not religion all deeds and all reflections? … Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”

The movement control order is preventing us from going outside but it does not prevent us from going within the recesses of our soul to discover the untapped forces within.

Second, the constitutional right to freedom of religion is being used as an excuse by some religious leaders and religious communities around the world to defy the government’s severe but unavoidable restraints on collective expressions of faith.

In Italy, the United States, South Korea, Indonesia and India, there are clear acts of defiance against Covid-19 restrictions. In the long range, these foolish acts and counterproductive attitudes will bring a bad name to religion.

Malaysians have generally maintained a commendable discipline. But with the fasting month, the religious tradition of sharing and caring at the break of fast, nightly terawih prayers in the mosque, the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri next month and the Haj pilgrimage from July 28 to Aug 2, there is bound to be sadness and even some desperation.

We must be reminded, however, that the Haj has been suspended about 40 times since the first pilgrimage in 629 CE, including for cholera outbreaks and plagues.

Third, some political and religious leaders in India, Europe and the US are exploiting the Covid-19 tragedy to foment hatred against racial and religious minorities.

Fourth, Covid-19 is a challenge to the authority and the self-anointed eminence of religious leaders in society.

The pandemic is a threat to their lucrative sources of income. Some fear that the impact of the epidemic on faiths could be similar to that of the 14th century bubonic plague on the Catholic Church in Europe.

In the initial days of the plague, religious leaders contended that the disease was a punishment from God for people’s sins. Prayers and penance were seen as ways to protect oneself from the epidemic.

But when the catastrophe continued despite all these pious exertions, people slowly started losing faith in the religious hierarchy. This culminated in one of the biggest revolutions in religious history: the reformation movement in Europe.

Religious leaders must, therefore, reinterpret their articles of faith, avoid resistance to civil authority, adopt a world view in which science and religion can go hand in hand and avoid fomenting religious intolerance and scapegoating of minorities, disbelievers, etc.

We all also have a role to play. As people of faith, we should turn attention to the beautiful tapestry of doctrines, principles, and beliefs in our religion that embrace the inter-connectedness of life, the importance of love, compassion, tolerance, sacrifice and peace.

The youth among us can supply their digital know-how to build good communication during the crisis.

The youth can work with the clergy to promote digital, theological discussions about the protection of human life and the need to halt gatherings and implement social distancing guidelines.

Religious leaders of all persuasions must come together over Covid-19 and support government efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

They must reanalyse religious practices and provide theological opinions on how faith practices or rituals can be adapted to meet the response of Covid-19.

Religious leaders must take to the media, email and other platforms to conduct daily prayers and worship, mobilise individual volunteers to serve the elderly and those at risk, collaborate on charitable initiatives, and serve as a reinforcement mechanism of government messaging.

Religious leaders have an urgent role to oppose scapegoating of other religions and incitements to bigotry or violence.

The government in turn must engage with religious leaders and religious organisations and must not ignore the factor of religion in its handling of Covid-19.

Involving official and unofficial religious organisations in mitigating this pandemic is important because enlightened religious leaders can rebut fatalistic understandings of the Covid-19 crisis and explain to the community what must be done from a religious perspective.

Credit: Emeritus Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi

Covid-19: Consider plight of the poor – NLC

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has asked the Federal Government to consider the plights of vulnerable and poor Nigerians.

Speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba said there are some Nigerians who depend on a meal per day for survival.

While lamenting the challenges posed by the virus following the closure of business activities globally, he asked the Federal Government to consider the welfare of the masses.

“We must be able to strike a balance at this point in time. If we are going to extend, we must put in place palliatives that must reach the poor of the poor.

“If there are no conditions or precedents that have been set that people can also conform with, those pronouncements will be violated at the end of the day. We don’t want that to happen, therefore we gave a clear picture of what needs to be done,” he said.

Speaking on the Social Investment Programme of the Federal Government, the NLC boss noted that the programme has not yielded the desired results.

According to him, “The current use of the Social Investment Platform has not delivered the desired results and, therefore it is a template that is not supposed to be used.”

Wabba also wants the government at all levels to ensure that the poorest in their midst who cannot afford a meal per day is well taken care of.

His remarks come shortly after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 108 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country’s total infections to 981.

According to the NCDC, 78 of the new infections were recorded in Lagos, 14 in FCT, and 5 in Ogun state.

The country’s total deaths from the virus now stand at 31 while 197 have recovered.

Coronavirus: Why some Nigerians are gloating about Covid-19

Many Nigerians gloat that Covid-19 is mainly targeting the country’s elite, particularly politicians, despite warnings that the life-threatening respiratory illness could hit the poor as well.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has recorded more than 600 cases since the end of February – most of them people who had been abroad, and those they had interacted with after their return to Africa’s most-populous state, which has a population of about 200 million.

So far, Nigeria’s list of people who got or have died from Covid-19 includes President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, politicians, heads of government agencies, former ambassadors and their aides or relatives.

These are the kind of people who normally jet off to the UK, Germany, or the US at the slightest headache because Nigeria’s state hospitals are poorly funded, run-down, and lack adequate equipment.

But with borders closed and each country haunted by its own Covid-19 nightmare, Nigeria’s big men and women are now forced to use their country’s hospitals, prompting a stream of taunts and jokes.

“This is your punishment for not investing in your country’s health system,” some say.

“I thought our hospitals were not good enough for you,” others say.

Some Nigerians also hoped that the “selectiveness” of the virus might be God’s way of bringing about changes in their government.

They latched on to rumours that Mr Buhari, 72, had been infected by his chief of staff, and was gravely ill on a ventilator.

The less malicious folk shrouded their great hope in a prayer: “Let God’s will be done.”

Indignant at the expressions of ill will towards his boss, presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said: “Why do some people conjure nothing but evil? In 2017, while President Buhari had his medical challenge, they were on an orgy of negative wishes, misinformation, and disinformation.

“But God pulled a fast one on them. He brought the president back, as right as rain. Haven’t they learned their lessons?”

The rumours finally ended after Mr Buhari – looking well – was videoed in a meeting with senior health officials.

COVID-19 vaccine not certain – global alliance Gavi

The race is on to produce a vaccine against COVID-19 but it is not certain that one can be found, the head of the global vaccines alliance said Friday.

Seth Berkley said the more competition the better in the scientific fightback against the new coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 people since it emerged in December.

The head of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance also said confidence in an eventual COVID-19 vaccine would be greatly boosted if political leaders were seen getting immunised, saying he was “quite disturbed” by highly-politicised campaigns against vaccination.

“One of the challenges is we don’t know if we can make a vaccine,” Berkley said at a virtual press briefing in Geneva.

“I’m quite optimistic, from what I know on the science — but we have no proof of concept yet.”

While a vaccine might normally take 10 to 15 years to develop, Berkley said the first vaccines against COVID-19 might be available in 12 to 18 months “if we’re really lucky”.

“You want initially the race for the vaccine. That competition is great,” he said, explaining that rather than having dozens of vaccines being worked on that eventually were identical, it was better to have varied ones that acted differently.

There are currently over 100, and possibly up to 150 different vaccines in various stages of development, he said.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic: AC Milan striker says statue vandals are at ‘kindergarten level’

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says people who vandalised a statue of him earlier this year are “at kindergarten level” and that his story will “remain forever”.

The AC Milan striker is training at Swedish club Hammarby while Italy is in lockdown during the coronavirus crisis.

After he invested in Hammarby last year, vandals repeatedly defaced a statue of him outside boyhood club and rivals Malmo before it was eventually toppled and removed in January.

“It’s a shame,” Ibrahimovic told Dplay.

“They want attention and want the media to write about it – it’s at kindergarten level and we’re bigger than that.”

Talking about the vandalisation for the first time, he added: “The statue was what it was, but that doesn’t mean that my story will be torn down, it will remain forever.”

Former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic, 38, made his professional debut for Malmo 20 years ago but bought a 25% stake in Hammarby in November.

Ibrahimovic, who scored during a televised training match for Hammarby on Friday, said he now felt he had been “too kind” to Malmo by giving them 100m Swedish krona (£8.05m).

“I played for Malmo and I did what I did for Malmo, even though I was not welcome and was not wanted,” said Ibrahimovic, who left the club to join Ajax in 2001.

“They should be grateful, and those who know it, they know it.”

The former Juventus and Barcelona player rejoined Milan on a six-month deal in December after leaving LA Galaxy.

When asked about his future, Ibrahimovic said he will “see what happens” after he is able to return to Milan.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has said Serie A could return in late May or early June, having been suspended since 9 March.

“I have a contract with Milan and we will see how it ends there, if it ends,” said Ibrahimovic.

“I want to play football for as long as I can and be able to contribute something, not just play for what I have done or who I am.

“We’ll see what happens – who knew coronavirus would come and turn the world upside down in two weeks?”