BLANK PAGE

JOHN THE BAPTIST'S MESSAGE OF REPENTANC: ITS

LESSONS IN THE QUEST FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

OLIVER ONYEKWEE CHIZARAM, UCHE Ph.D.

DEPARTMENT OF RELIGION AND HUMAN RELATIONS

FACULTY OF ARTS, NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA,

ANAMBRA STATE, NIGERIA

GSM: 08035048088

E-Mail: ucheooc@yahoo.com

Abstract

This article examines the need for peace in Nigeria because the complex nature of Nigeria seems to compound the moral fibre, attitude to economic and social issues in life. Due to moral decadence of the country it becomes imperative for religious functionaries to urgently exercise their prophetic functions. This paper adopts functional approach as a plant form for understanding the message of repentance and the quest for peace in Nigeria John the Baptist's message of repentance if critically examined unfolds strong and effective teaching on socio-economic challenges that call for deeper insight and application of non-violence to societal problems. This qualitative study employs secondary source to examine the quest for peace in the light of John the Baptist message of repentance. It is observed that without peace no meaningful and sustainable development based on justice, equity and peaceful co-existence can take place in Nigeria. Therefore, peace is a collective responsibility that calls for all hands on deck.

Key words: John the Baptists message, repentance, quest, peace

Introduction

Nigeria is going through hard and perilous times. Nigeria is not alone in these challenges but it is a sad pity to observe according to Folaranmi (2012) that:

Mention anything negative; corruption, violation of human rights, fallen standard of education, electoral malpractices, epileptic power outage, incessant strikes, lack of security of lives and properties, unemployment, fraud, greed and the rest, Nigeria is in the forefront. (p.vii).

The above situations have been blamed on the leaders, law enforcement agents and the populace. They portray image, attitude and moral disposition of Nigeria in a bad light. Our political leaders cannot be exonerated from Nigeria's woes. It is no longer news that Nigeria was ranked among the most corrupt nations of the old. Nigeria seems to be going back ward everyday in all aspects of life. Hence Lawal (2012) says that:

While corruption is on the increase our life expectancy seems to be decreasing, poverty and powerlessness are the order of the day. People's life are being disposed of cheaply through different means such as armed robbers, hired assassins, kidnappers and pot holes on most of our high ways. (p.ix)

The implication of the above statement is that corruption breeds poverty and insecurity in Nigeria. They are roots of sin which should not be compromised but needed a frontal attack in pulling down this stronghold.

Nigeria is more complex than Palestine in which John the Baptist addressed. His message extends towards the Judeo-Christian world in particular and humanity in general. In Nigeria, there are also the three categories John the Baptist addressed. The crowd, the tax collectors and the soldiers were the principal actors whose activities were characterized by corruption, exploitation, degradation, avarice, selfishness, and other forms of bad image which had to dangerously deteriorated the moral life..

The above moral dilemma is no exception in Nigeria with over 180,000,000 people, more than 800 languages and dialects. Nigeria's pluralism is compounded by long military rule or effective occupation which explained avarice, corruption, armed robbery, kidnapping, bad leadership, drug-pushing, fake drugs and other vices which had cast aspersion on Nigerians as indecent, notorious and disgraceful.

There is a saying that for evil to triumph, every God fearing person has maintained mute indifference and cold complexity. John the Baptist message of repentance is imperative not only to launder the damaged image of Nigerians, but to re-interpret John's message from Nigerian perspective. It is significantly observed that the anti-snake poisons we need, therefore, is a regeneration, a spiritual rebirth and a national repentance. The same God who called John's audience to repentance through his message is calling on Nigerians to get back on the right track. This response would advance moral and spiritual development and character molding of Nigerians by subscribing to a system of prohibitions to limit the range of the people.

Conceptual Clarification

The concepts used in this study need to be clearely understood. They are John the Baptist message, repentance, quest and peace. Their improved understanding will offer deeper insight into the functional quest for peace in Nigeria.

John the Baptist Message

John the Baptist message is the message of repentance or forgiveness of sins. He points out that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as Redeemer, Lord and the divine savior in a universal sense. John's message portrayed Jesus as offering forgiveness, redemption and salvation freely to all irrespective• of race, sex and merit.

Repentance

Repentance is turning away from sin to God. It is to turn to the Lord with all the heart, soul and might. It means turning from the fierceness of God's anger. Repentance consists according to Douglas (1963) of a radical transformation of thought, attitude, Outlook and direction.

Quest

Main (1998) defames quest as a search or hunt, a journey especially one undertaken by someone in order to bring about some forms of self-improvement or self-discovery.

Peace

Peace is a term with variant meaning with the family and religious circles. Peace therefore signifies completeness, wellbeing and welfare of others. Similarly, peace is also associated with harmony, material prosperity, physical safety, spiritual wellbeing, righteousness and truth. Peaàe is God's gift to man.

Mairi (1998) says is that peace freedom from or absence of war, a treaty or agreement ending in war, a freedom from or absence of noise, disturbance or disorder, quietness or calm, freedom from mental agitation, serenity". (p.1014). This definition appears literary and fits into social spheres of life. It does not being out the Christian ethical symbol which promotes or compliments the responsible citizenship in Nigeria.

Okere (1974) defines peace as the resultant effect of the acknowledgement and harmonious living, truth, justice, love and freedom from sin and its enslaving burden on man. It should be noted that these are social values which have led man to the reign of peace. This is made possible if man submits to the rule of law.

Iwe (1991) on the other hand notes that "peace is the resultant effect of balance and harmony among the constituent elements and forces of an organism for man as an individual moral being, it is the price of righteous and goodwill". (p.95). The above explanation seems descriptive rather than definitive. The environment and socio-political setting of man may colour his meaning of peace. Given the above, peace could mean the highest political good which tends to consist the harmonious operation of the forces of his social life. The spiritual life seems ignored. Peace should rest upon that order that is founded on truth, built upon justice, nurtured and given life by charity and brought into functional effect under the auspices of freedom.

Uche (2009) states that "peace is not given to fighting or quarreling but connotes calm, quiet, untroubled, undisturbed especially by noise, worry, fear or anxieties". (p.113). There is substance that peace proceeds conflict and it is the natural state of being. The New Webster's Dictionary (1991) describes peace as:

The condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting, the ending of a state of war, the treaty that marks the end of a war, friendly relations between individuals untroubled by disputes, freedom from noise, worries, fears, public order and security. (382).

The peace of God which passes all understanding is investigated, in this paper. It is above all other states of peace, hence pleasing to God. It is on this peace the message of John the Baptist anchored.

Nigeria is a country in dire need of Peace. However, incessant communal and religious conflicts have made the quest for peace more imperative in Nigeria. Peace has been defined by Chambers 2lst century Dictionary among other derivatives to mean; freedom from or absence of war, a treaty or agreement ending a war, freedom from or absence of noise, disturbance, or disorder, quietness or clam, friendship.(p.1015).

Other derivative meanings include: restfulness, tranquility, serenity and placidity. Gregory (1976) observes that the concept of peace implies:

Cessation of hostilities between nations, the absence of civil or ecclesiastical, disorder, and freedom from dissension between individuals through positive situations which an individual has prospered materially, or is healthy or possesses a tranquil freedom from mental or spiritual perturbation, to condition where there is a minimum of noise or activity (p.666). Ibeanu (2006), states that "peace is a state of perfection, an earthly expression of God's Kingdom that is yet uncorrupted" (p.5).

Theoretical Background

Several theoretical approaches have been extended to the message of repentance and the quest for peace in Nigeria. These range from functionalism to internationalism and anomie. However, our main focus on this article shall be restricted to functionalism with emphasis on the function and interaction it renders to moral in Nigeria in spite of the anomic tendencies in Nigerian leadership and following.

Functionalism also known as functional theory was propounded by Emilie Durkliein (1856-1917). The theory explains that all aspects of the society or social institution serve a social function and are necessary for the survival of that society. Functionalism pinpoints the functions of social structure in John's message of repentance. Haralambos, Holborn and Heald (2008) say that:

Societies have certain basic needs or requirements that must be met if they are to survive. How the social structure functions reoccupies the minds of functionalists. Functionalism examines the social relationship between the different parts of the structure and their relationship to society as a whole. (p.7)

When the above point is anchored on John the Baptist message of repentance, the theory reveals the functions or its effects on people, institutions and relationships in Nigeria. John's message of repentance appeals to Nigerians to sit-up in the quest for peace in Nigeria. The central idea of functionalism according to Henslin (2010) is that "society is a whole unit, made up of inter-related parts that work together" (p.25). If we must look at both structure: or how the parts of a society like Nigeria fit together to make the whole and function or what each part does or how it contributes to Nigeria, the message of repentance is functional in Nigeria's quest for peace.

Interactionism is a social theory propounded by Blummer on focuses on small-scale interaction rather than society as a whole. As the name implies it means action which as considered meaningful between two individuals involved and interaction of the meanings that the actors give to their activities. Interactionism is anchored on the interaction between John the Baptist as a fore-runner of Jesus Christ and his audience exemplified in the crowd, the tax-collectors and the law enforcement officers. The lessons of the message helps in the interaction of the stake holders in peace initiatives that are capable of controlling the tide of anomie in Nigeria

Anomie as a social theory was put forward by Robert K. Merton. It refers to normiessnes or a situation where any thing goes, or norms no longer direct behaviour and deviance is encouraged. Haraiambos, Holbon and Heald (2008) say: "Anomie can result from changes in society which disrupt existing relationships and bring existing values into question". (p.667).

Durlthein (1951) notes that anomie describes the loss of direction felt in a society when social control of individual behaviour has become ineffective. This purported state of normlessness that typically occurs during a period of profound social change and disorder. It is a plate forum explaining which as the economic exploitation, alienation and corruption that characterized Palestine and relevant to Nigeria situation. The word of God by John Baptist which is based on repentance, spiritual transformation and moral rebirth will bring about the desired change.

Palestine before John the Baptist Message

The historical background of Palestine is significant in understanding its relationship to Nigeria, John's message of repentance and the quest for peace in Palestine and Nigeria. There are observed similarities according to Aborgunrin (2012) "between the situation in Nigeria today and that of the first century Palestine". (p.xv). Similarly, Omotoye (2012) says "John the Baptist teaching could be interpreted as rebranding of the old order for a better society. This act took place over two thousand years ago. It is believed that the "rebranding" message of John the Baptist is still relevant in Nigeria in the 21st century, considering the political manipulations, social decadence like bribery and corruption etc (p.31).

Palestine underwent pains of thirty year rule of Herod the king. He was a despot and embarked on massive spending on his building projects which were of little benefits to the masses who were mercilessly and heavily taxed. Tax fanning was introduced and paid off to the Roman authority. Roman soldiers were drifted to enforce the collection of taxes and other levies. They were ruthless in collecting the exorbitant taxes. This impoverished the masses who, according to Aborgunrin (2012) were already very poor.

The economic and financial predicaments did not improve during the early Christian era. Huge debts incurred by Herod which had no bearing weakened the need of the masses. Similarly, it greatly weakened their sense of morality and demoralized the people who were forced to resign themselves to oppression and abject poverty.

The death of Herod did not improve the situation, rather taxes as a major source of revenue remained exorbitantly high, nation wide bribery and corruption especially among the officials of government and the law enforcement agents became the order of the day. Poor agricultural yield or produce did not help. There was severe famine which drew a gap between the rich and the poor who were hopelessly wretched. The above situation was compounded by the priestly aristocracy which supported the Hçrod against the Jews. Jerusalem and a few other cities became the heaven of beggers. Some of these beggers pretended to be blind, dump, lame, deaf and handicapped. They hanged around places of worship, pilgrimage, festival and special celebrations by the rich. Outside the city gates were not left out of such attractions.

Those who were unable to settle the heavy taxes forfeited their lands and were forced to sell them to the tax farmers or their agents at a lower price. These the law enforcement agents sold to the Herod. The tax farmers and the law enforcement officers became agents to Herod. Aborgunrin (2012) succinctly says: "The family of Herod owned more than half of the land by purchase and acquisition". (p.xvi). There were others who did genuine business and were rich. Children whose parents could not pay the heavy taxes were enslaved. This explains the large presence of slaves, the widespread of unemployment and the large scale exploitation of the poor.

The rich priestly aristocracy in Jerusalem constituted a political class with internal wrangling among them. The Jewish-Gentile dichotomy gathered momentum. The acrimony that arose when the Sadducees accepted political appointments with Roman government did not go down well with the Pharisees. The terrorist's activities of the zealots became a source of worry in Palestine. The expectation of Davidic Kingdom was very high but the society was polluted with different forms of sacrifices, immoralities and teaching.

It was under the above situation that John the Baptist is message of repentance was launched. Spiritual activities seemed to have shifted to the wilderness, mountains and deserts. The Essence were foremost in articulating spiritual renewal. People from different walks of life came to be spiritually renewed. In Nigeria, the above socio-economic and political challenges existed and then exacted much pressure on the available resources. It was to a people so helpless in such a pathetic situation that John the Baptist as a fore-runner of Jesus Christ declared a moral revolution of the oppressed. Similarly, the attitude of the rich and those who controlled the political power is almost the same as the Nigerian situation. John's reaction to the valleys, rough edges, roads was understandable. His warning about the futility of life of disobedience, earthly wealth and exploitation is important in exploring John as a fore-runner.

John the Baptist as a forerunner

John the Baptist was called to be a prophet. He was ordained by God to this office. Prophet Isaiah testified to this divine vocation. He wore camel's hair, leather girdle round his waist and his food was locusts and wild honey. Forerunner is a title which John the Baptist held because in him, the idea of preparing the way through preaching and going before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways found its fulfilment. A forerunner is of less importance than the person or persons for whose coming he is paving the way. John expects his audience to follow him in due course. A forerunner prepares a place for them in the many dwelling places of his father's house. Forerunner offers the assurance that one day audience would enter the heavenly bliss as Christ has did and would enjoy the glory which is now His. The forerunner is also the way by which after long following, the whole church would reach at last the father's house.

John as a forerunner gave a new impulse that sent him forth to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:1). Douglas (1963) says after the spirit of prophecy came upon him, he quickly gained widespread fame as a preacher calling for national repentance. Crowds flocked to hear him, and many of his hearers were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

John the Baptist's attitude to the established order in Israel was one of the radical commendations; nobody was bold and courageous enough to state that the axe is laid unto the roof of the trees. He denounced the religious leaders of the people as a broad of vipers, and denied that there was any value in the bare fact of descent from Abraham. This radical departure gave rise to the question: what shall we do?

A new beginning was necessary; the time had come to call out from the nation as a whole a loyal remnant who would be ready for the imminent arrival of the Coming One and the judgment which He would execute. John the Baptist's aim at giving the loyal remnant a distant and recognizable existence is suggested by the statement in Josephus that John was a good man who bade the Jews to practice virtue, be just to one another, and pious toward God, and come together by means of baptism. Repentance preceeds baptism and regeneration of life.

A religious community is entered by baptism. John the Baptist, therefore, preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. John's baptism was of deliberate turning away from the Jewish religious beliefs and practice which blinded the spirited reality expected of true worship of God. His teaching was characteristic of the age of restoration of au the devil had taken from the people and offers hope in the saving grace of God.

Lessons from John the Baptist Message of Repentance and the Quest for Peace in Nigeria

John's message of repentance is a message of hope by shading light in the redeeming work which John the Baptist heralded to the world. He made it clear that Jesus whom he prepared the way for came to seek and to save not Jews alone or adherents of Judeo-Christian religion, but those who were lost. In the same vein, he offered forgiveness, redemption and salvation freely to all who willingly, obediently and graciously receive him.

This u-turn is essential in the message of John the Baptist which Nigerians need to embrace. John's message of repentance remains a message of change from evil, weakness, exploitation, alienation, degradation and corruption to a spiritual inner renewal which encourages Nigerians to practice what is considered loving, ideal, noble and trustworthy.

Nigeria political leaders cannot be exonerated from the national woes. They seem cold, complacent and insensitive to the social, economic, political and spiritual decay of the day. Hence, there is lack of the political will, moral fibre and inability to pursue the sworn prophetic verdict. This weakness has a negative effect on the spiritual life of Nigerians and has weakened the quest for peace.

The oppressed Nigerians need liberation from their oppressors. They may not be political actors but the devil. For an effective moral revolution, repentance must be embarked upon. This is a renunciation of the agents of darkness in its entirety. The quest for peace is based on this reality. Nigerians need to learn that peace is linked with grace, life, righteousness and comes as a gift from God. The quest for peace in Nigeria is practical in establishing completeness, soundness, well-being and harmony. For effective quest for peace in Nigeria, one seeks the face of God through the word of God, prayer, material prosperity and spiritual wellbeing of others.

God is still interested in the welfare of Nigerians and does not leave Nigerians without a word, message and prophecy aimed at social transformation. John the Baptist message of repentance shows that God counts on Nigerian religious leaders to bring people to God.

Okanlawon (2012), states that John's baptism was called baptism of repentance and his message was centred on repentance and the forgiveness of sins. By implication, Nigeria needs a repentance that leads to a change of attitude and righteous lifestyle. This as a change Nigeria needs for positive transformation.

Nigerians especially the masses, the business class, the law makers and the armed forces are to hold their nation in high esteem. John the Baptist was salt and light of his people, so should men of God in Nigeria. As agent of reformation, men of God should bring hope, loyalty, obedience and should not place loyalty above truth. The message of repentance should bring out true humanity in the masses, business class and political actors. The conscience and true humanity of their audience and hearers should be appealed to for a better result and improved quest for peace in Nigeria. John the Baptist's message of repentance is the hallmark for peace in Nigeria. The choice is ours either to bear good fruits or the reverse. The reward depends on our choice. In Luke 3:8, he says, bear fruits that befit repentance. The blessings of Abrahams are for those not with stony hearts but a generation that bears good fruit. They are not cut down and thrown into the fire. The message of repentance is good news because of the love and selfless sacrifice, charity and compassionate concern it displayed. If Nigerians are at peace with themselves and with God, the challenges to peace as contained in Luke 3:3-6 would not affect them. They make their paths straight, filled every valley and mountains and hill brought low, crooked made strength the rough ways made smooth and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Peace is a choice, let Nigerians give peace a chance.

The message of repentance if well articulated is capable of reducing political unrest, insecurity, ethnic clashes, threat by armed bandits, ritual killing, religious intolerance and immoral behaviours. Folaranmi (2012) is of the view that:

We are also living in the hot climate of economic hardship. There is no nutrient in our bodies because of the above. The things we used to cherish are no longer there. Honesty, faithfulness and godliness are no longer considered as necessary and valuable good names, honesty, faithfulness and godliness. (p.viii).

There is a strong indication from the above reality that Christian values especially the ones indicated above are hallmarks in Nigeria's quest for peace. The inability to accept this fact probably explains the reason, why our lawmakers fight physically in public over trivial matters. They have by this show of shame become law breakers.

The message of repentance by John the Baptist has made Christians in particular and Nigerians in general different if we must trek the path of honour. The systematic and expository message has either made us or brought out the light and salt in Nigerians. The quest for peace in Nigeria starts with the word of life which has the power to penetrate even on stone or rock. Christians as salt must permeate and penetrate every sphere of life. John has taught Nigerians to cherish peace in their efforts to have a healthy and stable Nigerian society.

John the Baptist's message of repentance calls for justice in the family, church, government and the society. There is substance in holding that without justice, fair play and the fear of God, the quest for peace is meaningless and may elude Nigeria. Religious leaders should not be used and developed by political leaders. John the Baptist as a forerunner had compassion and had to inject salt into the society. Christian leaders ought to do the same without compromising their vocation at the alter of materialism and other worldly pleasures. Christian godly character such as filial devotion, good conduct, and compassionate love for mankind, filial piety and fear of God must penetrate Nigerian society as was the case in Palestine. Adherence to the above lesson will reduce criticism, insensitivity to Nigeria's perilous time and improve understanding that it is only God that is good and perfects.

All hope is not lost in being architects of our problems. John the Baptist has given us ways to reconnect to help Nigeria in her quest for peace. The gospel of John 14:27 says: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the word giveth, I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. The word of God sooths preserves and liberates people irrespective of tribe, colour and creed from all oppressions of the devil. The Bible holds the key to Nigerian's quest for peace. Reformation, regeneration and compassion need to start within.

It is evident that there are different types of Peace as articulated by scholars. Ibeanu (2006) refers to St. Augustine of Hippo who distinguished two cities namely, the city of God which is founded on perfect heavenly peace and spiritual salvation and the earthly city of man, which is founded on appetitive and oppressive impulses, is corrupt and torn by strife (p.5).

In a related distinction, Kaigama (2010) made two distinctions between negative and positive peace thus:-

Today people talk of what is termed "negative peace", that is the peace that springs from an absence of direct or systematic violence, but which does not mean that weapons are not easily available or social conditions of life have improved to the extent that hunger, ignorance and diseases have been drastically reduced "Negative peace" to my mind is the sort of peace enjoyed by Nigerians today. "Positive peace" however, is what we years for and should work for. Positive peace springs from the presence of instance throughout society with opportunities for all, a fair distribution of power and resources, protection from harm and impartial enforcement by law. Positive peace means the elimination of the root causes of war, violence and injustice.

Nigeria is in need of peace

The imperative of peace in Nigeria is focused on peace, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation which are inextricably linked to each other in buttressing the significance of reflecting on the communalities between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Chapman (1995) says that "one way to break out of the dead lock created by centuries of controversy between Muslims and Christians is to start with basic convictions that are common to both faiths and from there move to explore differences". (p.77). There is substance in holding strongly that peace, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation are ingredients of non-violence which Nigeria needs in order to chart a pathway towards inter-religious peace.

Christian-Muslim dialogue contains strong and effective teachings on themes that call for deeper understanding and application of non-violence approach to insurgency in Nigeria. The Christian-Muslim relations show that Nigeria has experienced religious tensions conflicts, insurgency, insecurity and violence because non-violent approach has not been appropriated in insurgency in Nigeria.

The scriptures provide enough resources to seek peace in the world. "Shalom" is used in the Old Testament to describe prosperity of a material sort.

Another lesson is in becoming giants of the kingdom of God. The message of repentance calls us to make u-turn. It requires working in obedience to the Kingdom's demands and heritage. Solomon loved the Lord and worked in obedience in the status of David his father only (lKg.3:3). Abraham worked for God in love and obedience. Another kingdom giant was David who was glad when asked to be in the presence of God. Joseph was obedient to God and feared God. If Nigerians love God, they must obey is word. The word of God does not only renew a right spirit within Nigerians, but it revives the souls of Nigerians, makes wise simple, encourages testimonies and enlightens the eyes. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 19:11 says they have great reward. Keeping away from the sin leads to righteousness which exalts a nation like Nigeria.

Conclusion

The word of God as contained in John the Baptist message of repentance remains an index for measuring the lessons of peace in Nigeria. A listening ear would appreciate that sin is a reproach to Nigeria. Uche (2008) succinctly states that:

Corruption has remained one of the oldest, most perplexing, dysfunctional concepts because of man's grace for absolute power which corrupts absolutely, giving rise to incurable cancerous body politics, public exploitation and abuse of public office. Corruption points to the transience of the present world• order which is subject to decay as contrasted the incorruptible inheritance reserved for believers. (p. 141).

The weight of corruption goes beyond the above reality. It reduces the overall wealth in Nigeria by discouraging business to operate in such corrupt setting and average income is more than three times lower. There are poor funding of education, lack of equipments, poor research grants, disease, hunger, unemployment which also account youth violence in Nigeria. It may be observed that a collective will of the Nigerians, institutions and functional relationships may not stamp out corruption which is the bane of Nigeria's woe.

Peace of God which is linked with grace removes sin's enmity through the sacrifice of Christ. This inward peace is built on the word of faith which John the Baptist preached to the crowd, the tax collectors and law enforcement agents which are relevant to the contemporary Nigeria situation. John the Baptist is message ushered in the messiah whose birth, ministry, death and resurrection are not in vain. Inward peace is built and sustained by the word of God and flows unhindered. Nigerians have learnt that they must be active to promote peace not merely as the elimination of discord but as the harmony and true functioning of the body of Christ.

References

Aborgunrin, S.O. (2012). Re-branding Nigeria from Biblical Theological Perspective: In D.O. Akintunde (Ed.) Biblical Studies and Rebranding Nigeria Campaign. Ibadan: Textlink Publishers.

Amodu, A.M. (2012). Re-branding Nigeria through Self-examination: An example of the Tax Collector in Luke 13: 9-14: In D.O.Akintunde (Ed.) Biblical Studies and Rebranding Nigeria Campaign. Ibadan: Textlink Publishers. Pp. 65 -73.

Douglas, J.D. (Ed.)(1963). The New Bible Dictionary. London: The Inter-varsity Fellowship.

Folaranmi, J.O. (2012). A Goodwill Message. In D.O. Akintunde (Ed.) Biblical Studies and Rebranding Nigeria Campaign. Ibadan: Textlink Publishers.

Gregory, T.M. (1976). "Peace", Merill C. Tenney (ed.). The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 4, The Zondervan Corporation. Grand Rapids. P.666.

Haralambos, M., & Holborn, M., (2008), Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

Hensliu, J.M. (2010). Sociology: A down-to-earth approach. Boston: Pearson.

Ibeanu, Oke (2006), Conceptualizing Peace, Shedrack Gaya Best, Introduction to peace and conflict studies in West Africa: A Reader, Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd; P.5.

Iwe, S.S.N. (1991). Socio-ethical Issues in Nigeria. Obosi: Pacific College.

Lawal, J. B. (2012). A welcome address: In D.O. Akintuhde (Ed.) Biblical Studies and Rebranding Nigeria Campaign. Ibadan: Textlink Publishers.

Main, R. (1998). Chambers 21 Century Dictionary. New Delhi: Allied Chambers. New Webster Dictionary (1991). New York: Lexicon Publication.

Okanlawon, S.O. (2012). John the Baptist's Message of Repentance: A model for the Rebranding Nigerian Campaign: In 13.0. Akintunde (Ed.) Biblical Studies and Rebranding Nigeria Campaign. Ibadan: Textlinks Publishers. Pp. 269 - 282.

Okere, T. (1974). Culture and Religion. Owerri: Black Academy.

Omotaye, R. (2012). John the Baptist Message of Repentance and His lessons in the Re-branding Campaign in Nigeria: In .D.O Akintunde (Ed.) Biblical Studies and Rebranding Nigeria Campaign. Ibadan: Textlink Publishers. Pp. 32 - 40.

Rahnor, K. (1975). Encyclopedia of Theology: A concise sacrament in Mundi. Kent: Staples.

Reverse Standard Version.

Schaefer, R.E. (2005). Sociology. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Uche, O.O.C. (2008). Corruption in Nigeria: A Socio-religious Analysis. In JORASA: Journal of Religion and Society in Africa vol.1. No. 1. Pp. 131-143.

Uche O.O.C. (2009). Peace and Reconciliation: Hallmarks for Social Justice in Journal of Religion and Human Relations vol. 1. No.2. Awka: Anih Pp. 109- 123.









EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION: A NECESSARY TOOL IN ALL LANGUAGES

OKWARA UCHENNA STELLA

DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS AND NIGERIAN LANGUAGES,

ALVAN IKOKU FEDERAL COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, OWERRI

+2348033565176

ucheobi1981@gmail.com

Abstract

Communication is one of the basic skills in language learning. It is the first activity a child engages in the process of learning or acquiring a language. This goes to show that communication plays an important role in the formation of speech habit of a child in later life. As such, children should be encouraged to develop and cultivate the habit of being good communicators early in life. It is a well known fact that ability to communicate well will usually reflect in the quality of response a person gives when asked questions or for information. Since the main essence of language is to achieve communication through articulation, it becomes necessary to make such communication effective in order to achieve the intended meaning. The paper aims at giving answers for the following questions: What is communication, types of communication, importance of communication, how to develop effective communication skills in students and impediments to effective communication. It will also suggest strategies that could be used to teach effective communication skills to students. Suggestions on how to attain effective communication in the classroom were made.

Introduction

The word communication is understood in many ways. To some, it means feeling or simple exchange of words, message and ideas between two or more persons. Some include the written form in which information is written on paper by means of signs and symbols. Some others include signs and body language as part of communication. Yet some conceive it as involving instruments used in the process of disseminating messages. All these interpretations represent the basic concept of communication. That of conveying our thought and feelings to other people through various means. Communication is not limited to human beings alone but essentially we are concerned with human communication which is the form of communication by which people interact and perpetuate social relations. This involves human language or the meaningful processing and interpretation of speech sounds, signs and symbols produced by human beings. To be effective, communication demands dissemination of ideas or knowledge. The disseminator must posses the ability to put across the ideas intelligently, lucidly, and convincingly. The recipient on the other hand must have what it takes to comprehend and assimilate the ideas for obvious reasons, the Igbo language is precisely the chosen language medium in this work hence it enhances effective communication among its speakers. However language generally is the primary agency or medium through which communication is affected. For interaction and communication among individuals to be effective, language must be maintained and sustained and transmitted from one generation to the other. Since the main essence of language is to achieve communication through articulation, it becomes necessary to make such communication effective in order to achieve the intended meaning.

What is Communication?

The word communication is understood in different ways by different people. Some see it as a message and ideas between two or more person's. Some see it as symbols and signs. Others see it as anything that can get message across, be it radio, television, newspapers etc.

In this paper we are talking about communication as a tool in all facets of life. Communication has been defined by different scholars. According to Berko (2010:9-12) communication is "the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, message or information either by speech, visual, signals, writing or behaviours. Jayaweera (2004) defined communication as an interaction process through which persons or group relate to each other and share information experience and culture.

In this case we are talking about communication as it affects language intoto. Communicating in this work is defined as the act of conveying our thought and feelings to other people and receiving in return their actions in accordance of the act. We are saying that in everything one does in life there must be communication act. A teacher teaches well because he is able to communicate well with the students. A student does well in the class because he is able to be a good listener in the class.

Effective communication is the glue that helps you deepen your connections to others and improve teamwork, decision making and problem solving. It enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.

Effective communication is also a two way street. Its not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, its also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what's being said and to make the other person feel heard and understood.

Types of Communication

Aliu (2001) outline the four main types of communications as follows:

a) Written Communication: Written communication includes email, letters, magazines, books and anything else transcribed into typed or handwritten words.

b) Verbal Communication: This includes speaking, music, sounds and language. It is theorized that language developed from sounds and gestures.

c) Non-Verbal Communication: This include signs, eye contact, sign language, sculpture, body movement, dancing, facial expressions, body posture and physical contact, the tone of your voice, the way you look, listen, move and react to another person tells them more about your feeling than words alone ever can.

d) Visual Communication: This type of communication involves a visual display, such as pictures, illustrations, charts, graphs, topography, television and other teaching aids (instructional materials).

Elements of Communication

According to Ahmad (2004), there are six elements or components of communication. They are:

a) Source (sender, encoder): The source is the person, who originates or initiates the action of speaking nor writing. In our case, the teacher is therefore the encoder who wants to convey a message to his students.

b) The Message: It is the information which has been carefully appropriated by the source for transmission. If be without a message there will be no communication.

c) Channel (Medium): This is medium through which the message is sent to its target. It could be verbal or non-verbal or in written form.

d) Receiver (Decoder, target Audience): It is the person who receives the message and decodes it, reacts to it and sends a feedback where necessary. In our case, the students are the decoder.

e) The Response: It is an initial reaction exhibited by the receiver of the message. It is also described as a change in behaviour. Response occurs before feedback. It may be positive or negative and may give rise to favourable or infavourable feedback (reply).

f) Feedback: This is the reply that comes after response. After receiving the message, the decoder interprets it from the codes or symbols used. Feedback initiates further communication processes such that the receiver now becomes a sender of a new message (i.e. the reply) and the former sender now comes the new receiver and so on till the message or communication act is terminated. Feedback thus makes communication a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding.

Importance of Communication

The importance of communication cannot be over emphasized because it is very important in learning a language and other subjects generally. For a learner to be able to exchange views and communication effectively, he must be a good communicator. Effective communication is an important life skill that enables us to better understand and connect with the people. Communication plays a fundamental role in all facets of life. The art of communication involves listening and speaking as well as reading and writing. Teachers make excellent teachers because they are able to transmit knowledge skills and values at the same time they communicate their caring for the students. Word Bank (2003:4) commenting on the significance of communication in the classroom, states that "...since language is the medium in which thinking takes place, effective communication aids thinking and understanding in the classroom."

Impediments to Effective Communication

There are many hindrances to effective communication. One of them is lack of agreement or dissonance. When a teacher does not agree with the students or the students do not agree with the teacher. It is not easy to pass the message. A language could be used to communicate when there is mutual agreement between the speaker and the listener.

Another important factor is the environment. If the teacher and the students are in a noisy environment, the voice of the speaker may be drowned in the noisy atmosphere. In that case, it does not reach the target audience.

Another setback in communication lies in illiteracy or level of the understanding of the listeners. Again, a message may be overloaded thereby making it difficult for the audience to catch up. In language, every speaker is expected to choose the right word or words for his message. It is only when this is done that the problem of speech redundancy will be reduced. Every language makes meaning when the speaker uses the right word and the listeners are ready for the message. No meaningful learning transaction takes place where there is breakdown in communication

How to Develop Effective Communication skills in Students

A classroom environment relies heavily on the quality of communication taking place within it. As a teacher, taking steps towards improving the communication skills of your students will contribute positively towards your classroom climate. Students with effective communication skills will be more likely to contribute to class discussions, will be more productive members in group projects, and will ultimately gain more from their experience in class. The following steps can be implemented to improve your students' communication skills with the intent to strengthening the classroom experience.

Steps for Improving Students Communication Skills

  • Encourage all students to participate in class discussion. Avoid focusing on the students that are always willing to answer. Look for responses from the entire classroom, and be willing to take the time for them to emerge.
  • Assign frequent opportunities for small group discussion. The more often students work together in order to contribute to the larger discussion, the more comfortable they will become within the classroom environment, increasing their willingness to communicate.
  • Establish the ground rules and norms for class discussion early on specific elements, such as when a speaker should raise their hand, and more intangible aspects such as the tone for the classroom environment you establish, will help your students understand how communication works within the classroom.
  • Adopt a policy of openness with your students. When you make a change to the class structure, or give an assignment, be open with your students about your intentions and seek their feedback. By treating them with respect and openness, you will help foster an environment of trust with your students, increasing their likelihood of open communication.

Strategies for Effective Communication

Communication is both receptive and expressive. Teachers must be skilled at listening to their students as well as explaining things clearly. Teachers need clarity of thought to present the material.

The teachers must be able to breakdown complex ideas into simpler parts and smaller steps to transmit to their students. The teachers must be able to adopt their methods of communication to all students regardless of the ability or learning style.

The teachers are able to "read" their students and adapt to the needs of the individual.

Effective communication includes transforming the boring into the interesting and having good presentation skills. Good teachers care about their students' progress and let their students know it at all times.

The teachers learn their students' names early in the school year and use their names when addressing them.

Good teachers get to know their students' hopes, fears and preferences and communicate this knowledge to their students.

The teachers communicate their appreciation for what their students do by celebrating their successes and constantly encouraging them. This helps students feel recognized and validated.

Recommendations

  • A conducive environment should be provided for learners.
  • Teachers of communication skills should be good models
  • The teacher of Igbo must be very knowledgeable in the language. He should have a good command of both the spoken and written forms of the language.
  • The teacher makes use of visual displays, such as pictures, illustration, charts, graphs and other appropriate teaching aids (instructional materials).
  • The teacher should become an engaged listener, avoid dominating the discussion, allow your students to say their mind - good listening skills and showing a genuine interest are attributes of a successful communication.
  • Teacher should ensure that his students are interested in the topic/discussion. Students learn faster if the lesson is interesting, challenging and relevant to their needs.
  • Teacher should appreciate their students by celebrating their successes and constantly encouraging them. This helps students feel recognized and validated.
  • Teachers must be able to breakdown complex ideas into simpler parts and smaller steps to transmit to their students.
  • Teacher should ensure that they "read" their students and adapt to the needs of the individual.
  • Teachers should care about their students' progress and let their students know it.

Conclusion

Since language is the medium in which thinking takes place, effective communication aids thinking and understanding in the classroom. Teachers of Igbo should therefore, endeavour to create channels of communication between them and their students in the teaching - learning process. The teachers should be able to employ the above mentioned techniques and strategies in his teaching. He should not hold on to only one method, but use a variety of methods to avoid monotony and boredom. The teacher should be able to satisfy the interest and abilities of the different pupils in the class. This will go a long way in their students to derive benefit from what has been taught thereby resulting in improved performances in students in the subject.

References

Ahmad, M.M. (Ed) (2004). Studies in English and communication. Vol. 2. Zaria: Nasif printers and publishers.

Aliu, M. (ed) (2001). Linguistic and literature in languages arts (an introduction). Kano: Rainbow royal publishers.

Berko, A. (2010). Communicating with teachers - A scheme for teacher education. London: Oxford university press.

Jayaweere, F.I. (2004). Communication strategies for secondary reading (2nd ed). Delawere international reading association. London: New York publishers.

Word, B. (2003). Innovative approach to teacher training (A training manual for teachers, head teachers and teacher education. Lagos: Stirling horder publishers Nigeria.