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Opinion: 2019 Election Petitions: The Judiciary Can Help Sanitize Nigerian Electoral System

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By Raymond Nkannebe; Esq.

With the limitation period for the presentation of petitions flowing from the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections having closed a fortnight ago, and those of gubernatorial and Houses of Assembly elections closing on the 1st of April, 2019 save for states and local constituencies where supplementary elections were held on the 23rd of March, 2019, it is safe to conclude that the politicians have had their day under the proverbial sun, and have now passed the ball into the court of the judiciary who must now get to work in the next one year at least to determine the catalogue of petitions that have proceeded from the womb of the 2019 elections which in many ways brought to full glare and national embarrassment, the weakness of our electoral process. So bad was it, that some segment of the civil society posit that it is arguably the worst election to have been conducted in Nigeria since the dawn of uninterrupted democracy in 1999.

Contrary to the situation in 2015, the victory of president Muhammadu Buhari is today a subject of litigation. Whereas former president Goodluck Jonathan made the now famous phone call to his opponent candidate Muhammadu Buhari when it became crystal clear that he was on the wrong side of the ballot, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar rightly or wrongly depending on the individual’s political bias, has decided to challenge the re-election of Muhammadu Buhari in court.

In a 147-page petition filed on his behalf by a battery of very senior and distinguished members of the bar, Atiku and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are asking that the result of the election as announced by the electoral umpire, INEC be nullified, and their candidate returned. According to them from what one gathers from the well laid out petition, on a proper computation of results from the polling units, it was the PDP and their candidate Atiku Abubakar, and not Muhammadu Buhari who won the election. They have made a heavy weather of having evidences which support this proposition particularly the smart card reader data from all the polling units across the country transmitted to INEC’s back-end server during the course of the polls.

Beyond Atiku’s petition, a staggering 736 petitions challenging one election or the other, have been received by the election petition tribunals inaugurated by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, two weeks before the conduct of the election. This number understandably could increase as the final collation of results by INEC in Rivers state last week, has seen some candidates and their political parties angling to challenge the return of incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike.

The climate of rigging and manipulation of election results in Nigeria added to the undue militarization of the electoral process by the incumbents who are often in control of the security apparatus often necessitates the challenge of elections by Petitioners on a number of grounds that have been laid down by the electoral law namely, that the person whose election is being challenged was not qualified to contest the election ab initio; or that the winner of the election did not score the majority of lawful votes cast at the election. Others are that the questioned election is invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Act; or that the Petitioner was validly nominated but was unlawfully excluded from contesting in the election by the electoral umpire. See section 138(1) )(a-d) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

It is however not in the fleshing out of the grounds of the petition and the particulars in support of same that the Petitioners often run into a problem but in the leading of evidence to establish to the required degree of proof, the often serious allegations contained in most petitions such that could eventuate into a return of the petitioner by the tribunal as was recently seen in the Osun state election petition tribunal which nullified the victory of incumbent governor Gboyega Oyetola in favour of Senator Ademola Adeleke. This writer however understands that decision is a subject of appeal at the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja.

A holistic appraisal of the election petitions that have made their way to our courts and/or election tribunals as far back as the cases of Omoboriowo v Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Obih v Mbakwe (1984) LPELR-2712 (SC); Nwobodo v Onoh (1984) 1 SC 1; Buhari v INEC (2008) 19 NWLR (pt. 1120); Ojukwu v Obasanjo (2006) (EPR) 242 to name a few, will readily reveal the near impossibility of upturning an election through the courts. A petitioner almost always finds himself contending with a large body of case law and statutory provisions that literally excuses and/or explains away the electoral infractions complained of in his petition. Save for a handful of cases where a petitioner was returned through the tribunals, thousands of petitions go to court at every election cycle without any success. Perhaps the circumstances of the 2007 general election puts the difficulties faced by a petitioner in proper context. Despite the winner of that very controversial election acknowledging that the process which brought him to power was fraught with widespread irregularities and gross manipulation of the electoral process, it is ironical to say the least, that the challenge of that election at the presidential election tribunal by then General Muhammadu Buhari came to nought. Such is the lot of the Petitioner.

The sad consequence(s) of this is that it has helped to fester the culture of rigging across board. The Nigerian politician having understood how difficult it is to upturn an election through the courts, has devised even more brazen and disingenuous means of rigging him or herself into power and thereafter, dare their opponent to go to court to challenge the victory. Anyone who has had the privilege of studying the electoral forms from our shambolic elections will readily come to terms with the fact that elections in Nigeria are basically a riggers affair. It is the candidate who is able to out-rig the other through any means whatsoever that is often declared the winner thus making a mockery of our democracy.

In a bold attempt however to improve the sanctity and integrity of our electoral process and to the credit of former chairman of the electoral commission Alhaji Attahiru Jega, the smart card reader was introduced in the 2015 general election to checkmate the recurrent problem of multiple accreditation of voters against the spirit of the voters register. The genus of the smart card reader machine was to ensure that only bio-metrically accredited voters could cast valid ballots at the polling booths. It was thought that it would solve the recurrent problem of multiple thumbprinting by unscrupulous elements who lend themselves to politicians who prostitute the electoral process.

But the legality of the smart card reader as an instrument for the conduct of elections was to evolve into a serious constitutional debate on the back of the petitions that made it to the election tribunals following that round of elections. In the case of Nyesom v Peterside (2014) 5 NWLR (pt. 1430) 377 a full-bench of the apex Court despite acknowledging the motive behind the introduction and use of the card reader machine in an election, which needless to say was to bolster the democratic norm of “one man one vote”, went ahead to strike it down for having derived its efficacy from the INEC guidelines which obviously was in conflict with section 49(2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which nominates the voters register as the instrument of accreditation of voters and proof of over-voting by a person challenging an election.

In answering the question whether failure to use card reader for accreditation of voters can invalidate an election, the apex Court Per. AKA’AHS held instructively as follows, “the introduction of the card reader is certainly a welcome development in the electoral process. Although it is meant to improve on the integrity of those accredited to vote so as to check the incidence of rigging, it is yet to be made part of the Electoral Act. Section 138(2) envisages a situation where the Electoral Commission issues instruction or guidelines which are not carried out. The failure of the card reader machine, or failure to use it for the accreditation of voters cannot invalidate an election. The section provides as follows: “138(2) an act or omission which may be contrary to an instruction or directive of the Commission or of an officer appointed for the purpose of election but which is not contrary to the provisions of this Act shall not of itself be a ground for questioning the election”.

With the above sentiments of the apex Court, many of the petitioners who went to court in the last cycle of election hoping to make a case out of the non-use of the smart card readers in the accreditation of voters at the polling units found themselves on the wrong side of the law, and severally paid with a dismissal of their petitions. Unfortunately, none of the petitioners drew the attention of the apex Court to the amendment of section 49 (2) of the Electoral Act which was signed into law by former president Goodluck Jonathan on the 20th of March, 2015, just 8 days before the holding of the general election. On their part too, the judex did not take judicial notice of this amendment to the principal Act which legitimized the use of the smart card reader for voter accreditation; the very basis upon which the Court upheld all the disputed governorship elections conducted by the INEC on April 11, 2015.

Having said that, the 2019 elections and the petitions trailing it, provides another window of judicial activism for the judiciary which has the potency of revolutionizing our electoral process and by extension, our nascent democracy. With the countrywide criticisms that have greeted the conduct of the just concluded general elections ranging from selective use of the smart card reader machines in some places and the outright thumbprinting of ballot papers in the quarters of party chieftains and what not, in a barefaced prostitution of our electoral process, suffice it to say that the ball is effectively in the Court of the judiciary to rise up to the occasion in ensuring that not a single illegal vote counts in the return of a candidate.

A simple way to do this, is to ensure the fulsome recognition of the data from the smart card reader machines and using same as a benchmark for reconciling the total votes cast in a polling unit so as to check against over-voting which was perpetrated by politicians with reckless abandon in the just concluded 2019 elections. In places where the smart card reader machines malfunctioned and thus were not used, the tribunals must ensure that the procedure enumerated by the electoral umpire on how voters in such polling units should cast their votes, was applied to the latter. Anything otherwise, must of necessity lead to the cancellation of the results from such unit as consecrated by the relevant provision of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), and the Guidelines of the electoral commission 2019. Thankfully, the apex Court in the Nyesom v Peterside case (supra) acknowledges that the innovation of the smart card reader machines was well intentioned in that, it was calculated to improve the integrity of our elections. The petitions that are now lying before the several election petition tribunals across the country, provides an opportunity for the judex to uphold the smart card reader machine and lend it the much needed judicial imprimatur which counted against its usage in the last cycle of elections, irrespective of the consequences for the individual poll where it is applied.

At a time when it has been shown that the executive and the legislature are enmeshed in a dark conspiracy to the detriment of our democracy, such as was seen in the circumstances under which assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill (2018) was refused by president Muhammadu Buhari, the judiciary can step in, in its hallowed capacity as the avowed defender of any democracy to sanitize our electoral system. This is what Nigerians who are increasingly losing confidence in our electoral process earnestly asks of the judiciary.

 

Raymond Nkannebe; a legal practitioner writes from Lagos.

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Food for Living: Overcoming Anxiety, Fear, Stress and Anger

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Dear Destiny Friends,

As human beings, we are confronted with fear, stress, anxiety and anger in the course of our daily activities. These, if not properly handled and managed, can destroy any organization or a productive being.

Arguably, one of the most dreaded emotions human beings face is stress. Stress can be a silent killer. When the mind and body is stressed, it has a way of affecting productivity. Just like anger is one of the fastest ways of destroying someone, fear is regarded as the greatest force limiting productivity.

Anxiety is another deadly type of fear because it deals more with worry, and the future, rather than the present. Anyone suffering from anxiety is likely to have an increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, difficulty in sleeping, and will always forget and lack focus.

The origin of negative feelings is traced to failed expectations from people, and situations which sometimes do not meet our expectations. When this situation occurs, we tend to have anxiety, anger, stress or even fear of the future.

As a human capacity coach, I constantly come across youths, adults, and parents who are constantly dealing with diverse kinds of pains, stress, anger, and anxiety in their lives. Any productive mind who wants to grow will have to eschew fear, anxiety, anger, and stress. This might be hard, but trust me, it is doable if you are able to train your mind and work with the right people. However, if you have fallen short of any, it’s okay to have regrets because we are all humans.

Anxiety normally creeps in due to expectations of the future, but it can be managed by a combination of medication and cognitive psychotherapy. However, neither lasts forever. A therapist can be used to manage these symptoms.

Happiness is the resultant feeling we have when we are at peace with ourselves and humanity. However, constant negative emotions can also get in the way of happiness, and it has the capacity to compound our level of stress and worry and ultimately damage our health. While there is no magic wand to change negative emotions to positive ones, there are ways to lessen the intensity of the emotion and shorten its duration. With practice, you can learn to disrupt and tame negative emotions.

What Caused This Feeling?

The first step in healing is asking the wh questions? Why did it happen? What caused it? When you understand the cause of a problem, you will be better poised to solve it. You will better understand and interpret memories, judgments, beliefs, values, expectations, and observations. When you understand these thoughts, the next big task is asking yourself if these thoughts will help you to solve any of your problems. You can ask yourself, does this feeling warrant me to be angry or fearful? Who can help me overcome this challenge/problem? How can I fix the problem or focus on the present as opposed to what I can’t change?

Physical exercise

Anxiety and anger can be reduced when you exercise. Exercise has a way of reducing worries, especially when you have music in the background. On a personal note, whenever I am exercising, I usually have music in the background because it has a way of making me feel present. The same is applicable whenever I’m stressed, I usually play music or sleep.

Take a Walk

 Whenever you feel stressed, depressed, pained, or uncomfortable with the way life is treating you, try taking a walk and enjoy the beauty of life. You can decide to go to the beach, walk around the garden, or even take a random walk across the town. It’s normal to always see our deficiencies which blinds us to the beauty of life. When you take a walk, you see people of all kinds, some will be begging on the streets, some might be walking, others might be in a bus. If you can think out of the box, you will discover, you are far better than some of them with what you have.

You can also decide to visualize a happy place. For instance, imagine being in a resort, imagine how life will be when you overcome the stress, pain, anger, or even the tension with the thoughts. This feeling can make it more humane to control your human reaction.

Don’t Beat Yourself

One of the worst things that can happen to you as a human being is trying to be hard on yourself. As a human being, you can’t hide from your shadows. Your shadow is like your thoughts. You can’t hide from your thoughts.  It’s like closing your eyes to the sky. You can reduce looking at the sky by using a goggle. So whenever you have negative emotions, acknowledge them instead of trying to shut them down, and see how you can work on them.

Face Your Fear

The fastest way to kill your fear is by facing them. If you don’t confront your fears, it has a way of robbing you and reminding you of how doomed you are. Facing your fears simply means doing what you dreads. For instance, the best way to become a good writer is by writing as opposed to procrastinating. When you start to write, you will kill the spirit of fear associated with writing. You will be happy you took the bold step. When I began writing many years ago, it felt like writing was stressful, but over time, I became addicted to writing and it’s now fun to me.

Another great way of dealing with fear is by imagining the worst that will happen if you face your fear. Do you know that whether you face your fears or not, the worst will still happen? How about you face it, you never can tell if you will overcome it. You can overcome fear by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to become more aware of your fear because it creates awareness that helps you overcome your fear and anxiety.

Share Your Pain

Many people don’t understand the importance of sharing. Do you know that problem shared is a problem solved? When you have pain or feel stressed, please endeavor to speak out. I understand, each one of us is dealing with one pain, but then, there’s no harm in sharing. Keeping it to yourself might not solve the problem. The only concern you should have is the person you will share the pain with. Even if it means sharing it with a professional or trusted person, please do. You can talk to a family member, friend, a trusted clergyman, your doctor or a therapist. Depression is real, anger is real, pain is real, but they can be managed.

Rejoice/Reward Yourself

Celebrating yourself is the best thing that can happen to you. Take time to give yourself a little treat. Most times we are always looking for people to celebrate us. If nobody gives you a platform, create one for yourself. Try and reward yourself with any little success you have recorded. It has a way of boosting your ego and human capacity nature.

Eliminate Triggers

Figure out what are the biggest cause of negative emotions in your life. Is it your job, your schoolwork, your colleague? If you’re able to identify what they are, see if you are able to eliminate them from your life, or at least reduce them.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a  public speaker. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success and President of gloemi.com. He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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Food for Living: How Your Choice Affects Your Life

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By Henry Ukazu

Dear Destiny Friends,

The greatest power that a person possesses is the power to choose – J. Martin Kohe

One of the most powerful desires of every individual is freedom. Freedom is characterised by true independence of any human being. When you have freedom, you can decide what you want, and what you don’t want. When you have freedom, you call the shots, and you won’t be deterred by what others feel or think about you.

This is how freedom works; as an employee, you are always at the beck and call of your employer, you will have to do the wish of your boss if you want to keep your job. As a child or apprentice, you are technically bound to obey your parents or boss pending when you are capable of standing on your feet. As a government official, you are bound to protect the government you serve, and where you feel the government is derailing, you can either resign or forever keep your mouth shut.

The origin of freedom can be traced back to the Book of life (Bible) when Adam and Eve were instructed by God to eat all fruits except a particular fruit. Due to the curious nature of man, they were deceived by the serpent which told them that when they eat the fruit, they will see and know what God knows. The point here is that Adam and Eve had unfettered freedom in the garden of Eden, but they messed up the freedom due to the choice and decision they settled for.

Why is freedom important? Freedom is important because it enables us to have a choice. Our choice determines the kind of freedom we will eventually have. If you make the right choice, you are more likely to have more opportunities to succeed, but when you make the wrong choice, you are bound to pay for it. Every choice we settle for has its own consequences, but the good thing about choice is that it prepares us for the greater journey ahead. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, while some people were complaining, creative minds were exploring opportunities because every problem provides corresponding opportunities if you can think out of the box.

It should be noted that every choice you make affect other people. That’s why it’s important to always consider your family and close friends before taking any risk. Avoid making important decisions under any influence. It is imperative we act responsibly because the choice we settle for can define us. According to Winston Churchill “The price of greatness is responsibility”.

Per Sam Silverstein said, “Making choices also mean accepting the idea that we are part of a bigger picture. We are not alone in our choices. Our choices affect not only ourselves but the people around us. Our choices shape our actions. Our actions are received and interpreted by those around us. These actions shape the opinions and feelings of those individuals, and ultimately, the actions they take for or against our behalf.”

Choice is a powerful weapon in the minds of rational beings. To know the importance of choice, take an inventory of your life for the last 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years since you came of age, and evaluate all the mistakes, successes, opportunities and disappointments you may have encountered. One thing is certain, you will wish you can roll back the hands of the clock to either fix the past, or wished you would have done certain things differently.

The good news about making a bad choice or mistake is that it doesn’t define you. Each of us has made mistakes in life and as such it will be foolhardy to be hard on yourself. If you make a mistake, see it as an experience and truly appreciate it because it means you are doing something and learning at the same time. Yesterday can be defined as what happened in the past, and today can be defined as what is currently happening which can translate into opportunities if properly nurtured in order to attract the opportunities of tomorrow.

Why do I make this analysis? It is your mistakes or choices that made it possible for you to have experience which enables you to make a better choice. If you had not made the mistakes, would you be in a better position to make an informed decision? Your answer is as good as mine, so don’t be hard on yourself. The irony of life is that anyone making a mockery of you might have the worst experience. It is just that it’s not seen in public because every one of us is battling with a secret frustration.

Do you know that your choice can be used to determine your interest in life? Choice plays a great role in choosing who you will be your life partner. Choice determines your interest in any academic discipline. Choice determines the kind of businesses you engage in. Choice shows your preference for the food you eat, the cloth you wear and the religion you prefer.

Choice can be related to feelings. But feelings is more attached to emotions. Your emotions can be controlled by how you programme what happens in your mind. Feelings allow you to follow sheepishly without ascertaining the facts. But you have the correct facts, you will know how to act in a normal way. Question. Can you have feelings for a goat? No. When you have facts, you will know it’s improper to have feelings for a family member.

Facts give you awareness to make the right choice – it’s just like when society justify that men are natural cheats. Let me ask you if the creator made it possible for anyone to die when they have sex with someone other than their lawful married partner, will men or ladies engage in indiscriminate sex? The point here is that you can control your emotions and feelings with your choice of thoughts. You can control your feeling because you’re the one having them. Moral: Principles make you calculative, while fidelity makes you intentional.

It’s important to stress that you can control your desires in life because you are in charge of your life. You own and control what you want people to hear, see and feel. It’s just like driving a car. Who controls and directs the car? I agree as humans, we have an impulse, but let’s analyze the issue of impulse with a mad man or woman. We have seen one before, if they are mad, why don’t we jump into a lagoon since we know they are mad instead of walking by the sideway. Why don’t they bump into a moving car as opposed to walking by the sideway? That tells you they have some control; no one is controlling them like a robot. If a mad man or woman can have such control, how much more a rational mind?

Let me share with you how to make the right choice

Follow your conscience

The best way to determine if you are on the right side of life is when you have peace of mind. You can never have peace of mind if you are not at peace with your conscience. Any human being who doesn’t have a conscience is a living corpse.

Explore Options

Before you decide, explore other alternatives. Don’t be in a hurry to make a choice. The more options you have, the better opportunity you have to make the right choice. Take your time to gather all your facts and information until you feel satisfied. Remember, when in doubt, do not act.

Think about the positive outcomes 

Always think of the big picture. Quit thinking of the short term. Refuse to make a choice that will make you regret tomorrow. When you make a choice/decision, try and stick to them even if it’s unpopular. No one knows what you feel more than you, neither do they know you better than you know yourself.

In conclusion, we can choose to be happy, or not. We can choose how we react to hard times in our life, with positivity or negativity. We can choose to take responsibility for our actions or blame others for our failures. We can choose to be a victor or take on the role of a victim. What choices are you making in your life?  Are they the ones that result in positive consequences?

Remember that according to Any Rand “Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.”

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a  public speaker. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success and President of gloemi.com. He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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Understanding Vision and Mission

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By Tolulope A. Adegoke

“Your talents or anointing aren’t so much a blessing as they are a burden on your shoulders to assist others who are holding on to their path and cause to achieve their destiny! When you are anointed or endowed, it is for your generation, not for yourself. According to the first law of IMPACT, “whatever has been given, will be given! Income is a measure of success, but IMPACT (S) is a measure of greatness! ” Tolulope A. Adegoke

 

Anyone may be empowered by God. In reality, God has empowered everyone, but our responsibilities are to activate and utilize these anointings or talents. When God enables you, it is not to confine you, but to use you as a conduit of distribution for your age.

You must be channelled in order to receive anointing or gifts at a larger level. When you are anointed or endowed, it is for your generation, not for yourself. When a man is anointed with knowledge or talents, it is for the sake of influence, not selfish gain. “It has been given, it will be given!” declares the first law of IMPACT on me.

If we want to achieve our goals, we must consider two essential factors:

TIME & SEASON

According to Ecclesiastes 3:1, “to everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:”

Speed is important, as is strength (which gives us the ability to perform exploits), and knowledge is important as well, but understanding is the most important thing we can acquire. Time is one of the few things you should never joke about! It is TIME FOR CHANGES! If you don’t comprehend TIME, you won’t understand what opportunities imply. Chance is the anointing for talent!

The great men we honour and continue to celebrate today are recognized because they understood or had a grasp of TIME, which encompasses CHANCES for chances!

The Berlin Conference, which included the Scramble and Partitioning of Africa as a continent, was a landmark. Twenty (20) dedicated men changed the lives and fate of billions of people all across the globe. These individuals convened in a meeting to debate the destiny of races; they talked and partitioned the globe for their own creation and to take control and influence their culture on them for their ongoing generational benefits (The Liberation).

TIME AND CHANCE happen to all of us! You do not have to be rescued alone to grasp these fundamental realities labelled TIME & CHANCE. We must additionally examine the following variables at all times:

Seed-Time & Harvest

Some people are succeeding today, despite the fact that they are not believers, because they grasp the fundamental principle drawn from the Holy Scriptures: The Power of Time & Season. The Holy Scriptures confirm that time and seasons happen to everyone.

Preparation is what you do during a season to be able to harvest in the next season.

A generation is a group of individuals who follow a similar path for the same reason (s). The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir. Nnamdi Azikwe, Ahmadu Bello, and others) were able to fulfil the MANDATE of LIBERATION!

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Rt. Ibrahim Babangida, and Gowon, among others, were TRANSFORMERS!

But I must disclose an indisputable truth to you today: “This generation of ours, as of today, has been entrusted with the MANDATE of TRANSFORMATION.” As a result, you and I are TRANSFORMERS! This is a great cause worth living and dying for! Of course, it’s a course worth squeezing the juice from.

The key to discovering, comprehending, and achieving your true mission on Earth is to meditate on this mantra: “Oh God of Creation, reveal to us the TRUTH about why we are here on Earth!” Because it is said that when the substance of a thing is unknown, misuse is unavoidable!

I challenge you to aim for greatness rather than ordinary success! Prominence is linked to excellence!

Income measures success, but IMPACTS measure greatness!

God does not respond to music alone, but also to prayers!

Redemption, Relief, Comfort, Blessing, Blessing, and Grace are all you are obliged to carry out the course of your actions in accordance with the above generational commandment.

Guess what? You are not going to be a leader; you are one now! You are not too young to TRANSFORM (impact) the condition of your country and the globe at large! Never underestimate the grace that you possess as a being!

Thank you for taking the time to read it. I am certain that you have been activated for IMPACTS!

… to be continued

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