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Helping Nigerian Teenage Girls Overcome Anxiety

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By Nuhu Muye

In the last decade, rates of anxiety-related disorders among teenagers in the world have steadily risen, particularly in girls. Researchers and psychologists posit several hypotheses about why these rates are on the rise from digital hyper-connectivity to heightened external pressures to simply a greater awareness, and therefore diagnosis, of mental health concerns.

Whatever the causes, there is hopeful news for parents and teens: first, some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth. And if those levels become untenable, there are tested strategies for reining anxiety back in.

As a guidance counsellor, I have spent decades working with adolescent girls and their families in Nigeria. In recent years, I have noticed a change in how society views stress. “Somehow, a misunderstanding has grown up about stress and anxiety where our culture now sees both as pathological.

” The upshot of that is that we have adults and young people who are stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious.

Anxiety is a normal and healthy function, and much of the anxiety that Nigeria teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary. Adults can make a difference simply by “reassuring them that, a great deal of time, stress is just operating as a friend and ally to them.”

Change and stress go hand in hand even if a change is positive. Teenagers’ lives are filled with change: Their bodies and brains are transforming, they usually switch schools at least once between ages five and 12; their academic workload is increasing, and social relationships are constantly evolving. The anxiety that comes with stretching to face these and other challenges is part of how humans develop strength. When I talk with teenage girls, I use the metaphor of exercise: To develop physical strength, you have to slowly push your levels of physical endurance, building up strength through resistance training. Similarly, you should see (a challenge) as an extraordinary weight-training programme for your mind. You are going to walk out of it tougher and stronger than you have ever been.

Stress, emotion and the teenage girls’ brain sometimes reach levels that impede a teenage girl’s ability to navigate life effectively. Thus, one cautions that an emotional outburst in and of itself is not a reliable indicator of mental health. “If you are raising a normally developing teenage daughter, she will have meltdowns. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent that.”

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Of course, when it’s your daughter who is sobbing on the bathroom floor, it’s hard to keep this in perspective. When it’s your kid, it’s terrifying and alot of parents are frightened and paralysed in that moment. They wonder: Is this a sign that something is really wrong or that my kid is really out of control?

This is where a little neuroscience might be helpful, the adolescent brain is very gawky and vulnerable to emotion. That gawkiness stems from the extraordinary brain development that happens in adolescence. The brain is upgrading, but in the same order as it initially developed from the more primitive regions that house emotions to the more sophisticated regions that regulate perspective and problem-solving. The result? “When she’s calm, a teenage girl can out-reason any adult. When she’s upset, her primitive regions can hijack the whole system and take it down.”

When your daughter is emotionally overwhelmed, give her a little time. It’s easy to see a meltdown as a fire that’s about to turn into a conflagration. But a storm is a more accurate metaphor. You can’t stop a storm, but you have to wait it out. But these storms do pass. The brain will reset itself. Don’t try to stop the storm or fix it in the moment.

Instead, sit with her, go on a walk together, watch a funny show, or offer her a cup of tea, advise her. After weathering a few storms successfully, “parents and teenagers get to discover that all by itself, the storm will pass. At that point, either the problem completely evaporates and she moves on, or the girl can now look at the problem with clear eyes, assesses it with her prefrontal lobe back online, and figures out what she wants to do.” Responding instead of reacting to teenage girls is particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot. When adults become anxious in response to a teen’s anxiety, it exacerbates the situation.

Helping girls weather stress storms can be excruciating for parents, and she understands the almost primal desire to alleviate the pain, solve the problem for them or remove the stressor such as letting them stay home from school if they are anxious about a test. But avoidance feeds anxiety. Girls often feel stressed because they overestimate the difficulty of a situation and underestimate their ability to deal with it. When they avoid a situation, they miss the opportunity to correct that perception and recognise their own strength. Thus, these two words will be helpful in helping to keep teens in the driver’s seat: “stinks” and “handle.” The concept of “stinks” is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great. However, empathy goes very, very far in helping them contain what is upsetting them.

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Often, there is no simple solution to a stressor, so the next step may simply be acceptance -acceptance of the situation and of their strength to persist through it. It’s the ability to say to yourself, ‘This stinks, but this is something I can handle.’ While on the other hand, the word “handle” is empowering. Girls learn that “by enduring this, she will be able to endure more down the line. She can build up her capacity to handle unpleasant situations.”

Build in recovery time for teenage girls strength training, “you can’t just lift weights day after day after day.”  In order to get the full benefits from the workout, your muscles need a chance to recover and repair. The same holds true for the brain. If teens accept that some level of stress is inevitable, they can spend less time worrying about stress and more time focusing on how they can build in recovery time.

“The good news is your mind recovers a lot faster than your muscles do. But you need to restore yourself so you can go right back in for another workout. Your job is to figure out how you like to recover. What’s the system that really works for you?”  For some teens, playing sports gives them the reboot they need to focus on academics. Another student might benefit from a watching a 22-minute episode of a sitcom, playing with peers, going on a walk or listening to a favourite music playlist.

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Having conversations with stressed-out teens about this type of downtime redirects the attention away from the stress and towards the recovery. Students can’t always control the stressors in their life, but they can have a say over how they choose to restore themselves. Researchers and psychologists have shown that the restorative power of sleep is a deprivation that reveals the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns. “Sleep is the glue that holds human beings together.”

The research is unambiguous: When we are sleep-deprived, we are less emotionally resilient. The first question many clinicians ask teens who come in for anxiety is, “How much sleep are you getting?” If they are consistently getting less than seven or eight hours, that’s the first line of intervention. “Teenagers need nine hours a night, middle-schoolers need 10, and elementary students need 11.”

When it comes to sleep, small changes can make a big difference, including completing as much homework as they can during the school day, making judicious choices about how much time they spend on any given assignment, and monitoring social media use in the evening. “Technology is very hard on sleep.” “I’m not anti-social media, but it makes a tremendous difference for teens to not have a phone and computer in the bedroom at night. Teenagers have texts waking them up.”

Because of the melatonin-suppressing effects of blue light emitted from Smartphone screens and other devices, I encourage teens to turn off social media notifications well before going to sleep. But it’s not just the blue light. “Girls will often see something on social media that will keep them up at night and if you ask them, they’ll usually admit this.”

Within that context, adults can offer teenagers empathy, grounded perspectives and a vote of confidence as they work through challenges, helping them aim for courage and not avoidance.

Brave is a positive word, it’s something we aspire to be and built into the word is the understanding that the person is scared and yet they are doing something anyway. Scared is here to stay. Anxiety is part of life. It’s not our job to vanquish these feelings. It’s our job to develop the resources we need to march forward anyway.

*Muye sent this piece from Dutsen-Kura, Minna

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INEC Creates Additional 14 CVR Centres in FCT

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has created 14 additional Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) centres in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to address upsurge in registrants turnout.

INEC said this in a statement by the FCT INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Mr Yahaya Bello on Tuesday in Abuja.

Bello said that the commission has also deployed 50 additional INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) machines to the new registration centres in the territory.

He said that the creation of the centres was to accommodate the upsurge of intending registrants in the FCT.

“Due to the upsurge of Voter turnout in the ongoing CVR in FCT, the INEC Chairman , Prof. Mahmud Yakubu has graciously approved deployment to the following centers for ease of registration.

“The centres are:1 ,City Centre -Diplomatic Park, Area 1 , 2.

Gwarinpa G.S.S Life Camp ,3 . Wuse G.S.S Zone 3 ,4. Kabusa Primary School and Lugbe Primary School.

“ Others are : 5. Giwa – Gwagwa Primary School ,6. GUI – Gosa Primary School ,7 Karshi- Karshi Development Center ,8. Orozo – Orozo Primary School .

“The rest are : 9. Nyanya – G.S.S Nyanya ,10. Kubwa- L.E.A Primary School Kubwa, 11. Dutse-Aljaji – L.E.A Primary School Dutse, L.E.A Primary School, Dawaki L.E.A and Primary School, Mpape,” he said

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Bello said that the commission had deployed 50 IVED machines to the new centers.

He urged voters to take advantage of the new additional centers and encouraged prospective registrants to be civil as they participate in the registration. (NAN)

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Senate to Probe Tanko Mohammad’s Tenure Despite Resignation 

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By Jude Opara and Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

Despite his voluntary  resignation from his office as the Chief Justice of Nigerian (CJN) on Monday, the Senate on Tuesday said that it would still probe the Justice Tanko Muhammad.

This followed a motion on “Matter of Urgent Public Importance” moved by Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti).

The motion was tagged: “State of Affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Demand by Justices of the Court.

It could be recalled that the Senate had on June 22, mandated the  Committee to as a matter of urgency, wade into the crisis rocking the judiciary.

Following prayers from the motion, the Senate resolved to mandate the committee to go ahead with its assignment in the bid to finding a lasting solution to the matter by interacting with relevant stakeholders.

This was aimed at addressing the complaints raised in the petition by the justices of the Supreme Court recently against Justice Mohammad as CJN .

The Senate further mandated the Committee to interface with the relevant stakeholders in the three arms of government as well as at the Bar and the Bench.

Bamidele while moving the motion in line with the Rules 41 and 51 of the Senate Standing Orders, noted that poor welfare of judicial officers would affect outcomes from the judiciary.  

“The sacred image of the judiciary, which is the epicentre of the temple of justice should be preserved by the Senate through appropriate legislative measures in order to safeguard this highly revered institution and prevent it from being ridiculed,” he said.

The lawmaker who expressed reservations over the former CJN’s resignation said the development will not prevent the committee from going ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a lasting solution to the issue concerning the judiciary.

“Even though Muhammad has stepped down as CJN, most of the issues raised by the justices of the Supreme Court and other stakeholders within the judiciary still remain and need to be addressed urgently to prevent an eventual shutdown of the Judiciary,” he said. 

Supporting the motion, Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said that “this motion will show clearly that the Senate is not unaware of the role it is supposed to play.

“Of course, in playing that role, we also respect separation of powers. Our concern is that the judiciary as an arm of government deserves all the support it needs been the last hope as far as the rule of law is concerned.”

Similarly, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege said, “I am very embarrassed as a lawyer and also someone from the judicial family, seeing that petition on the social media and eventually on the mainstream media. I was taken aback because it has never happened, it is unprecedented. There is no reason why the judiciary should lack anything financially.”

In his remarks President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said, “I can see most of the emphasis is on funding. When we look into the issues, they go beyond funding. We should look at other areas whether there is need to improve on the structures or having issues that may not be about funding but funding is of course a major issue.” Lawan said.

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Fourteen  justices of the Supreme Court had leveled allegations of corruption against the former CJN, Muhammad.

NASS Moves to Amend Electoral Act, Hails Supreme Court Judgement

In reaction to what it believes are flaws of the Electoral Act 2022, the National Assembly is making arrangements to amend some sections of the legislation to strengthen its perceived  areas of weaknesses.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan revealed this on Tuesday at plenary, following a “Matter of Urgent National Importance,” brought before it by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (PDP-Kebbi).

Lawan described the judgment by the Supreme Court on Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act as a landmark that has vindicated the National Assembly.

The Senate President added that further amendment of the Act would strengthen it ahead of the 2023 general elections.

“Let me say that this is one major landmark judgment by the Supreme Court, that the National Assembly had done its job and the court upheld it. The idea of what method of primaries should be adopted at the moment is entirely left for the political parties to decide.

“But as we implement the Electoral Act 2022, we are supposed to be very observant of the strengths and weaknesses of the law. This law is supposed to improve on the electoral processes and procedures in our country.

“So, it is for us to ensure that where there are weaknesses, we try to come up with measures, amendments to deal with the issues of weaknesses in the law. And, I’m sure it will come full circle when the 2023 elections are held. 

“I have no doubt in my mind that all of us in the National Assembly, not only in the Senate, but in the House as well, feel that we must do everything and everything possible to make this Electoral Act serve the purpose for which it was passed and assented to. Therefore, I believe that we should work tirelessly to take note of those areas that we feel are not strong enough – that are weak points in the law – with a view to strengthening them before we finally take our exit in 2023,” Lawan said.

In his submission, Abdulahi who recently dumped the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the PDP in relying on Order 42 of the Senate Standing Orders, lauded the 9th Assembly for resisting the pressure from the Executive to amend Section 84(12) of Electoral Act 2022.

He also praised the Supreme Court for being clear, decisive and unambiguous in upholding the  principles of separations of powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

“In my view, the Supreme Court verdict should be celebrated for the following reasons. It restored and anchors the power of making laws to the National Assembly, and establishes a principle that once the President accents to a Bill he/she can’t approbate and reprobate, i.e. he/she cannot go to the courts to amend/reject the Bill in part or in whole”, he said.

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Abdullahi emphasized the need to amend the Electoral Act to revert to the direct mode of primaries to be adopted by the political parties.

“One issue still remains outstanding, and that is amending the Act (after the 2023 elections) to revert to our earlier stance on direct primaries. Our recent nasty experience of the misuse of consensus and delegate system has vindicated our earlier position on the merit of direct primaries provided that a verifiable membership register of political parties kept simultaneously at the Ward level and with INEC with all the necessary safeguards against corruption and data manipulation, is put in place.

“As the political process towards 2023 unfolds, the National Assembly needs to be observant of the loopholes and weaknesses of the 2022 Electoral Act. So that a comprehensive assessment is undertaken to provide adequate grounds for making amendments to the Act before the end of the term of office of the ninth Assembly in May 2023”, he added.

Kalu Leads 22 Non-returning APC Senators in Protest to Buhari 

President Muhammadu Buhari has forestalled the impending exodus of senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) following their inability to get the party’s ticket to return to the National Assembly in 2023. 

Twenty-two of the aggrieved senators, who included Senator Smart Adeyemi were led by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu to the Aso Rock office of the President 

Buhari noted their concerns about the future of the ruling party but praised their effort to find a solution. 

The President assured them that as the leader of the party, one of his roles was to create the environment for members to ventilate their grievances. 

He assured them that he had noted their concerns over the outcomes of the party primaries, the threat to the party’s majority  in the National Assembly and  consequences losing the majority hold will have  on the party. 

While pointing out that there must be a winner and loser in every contest, Buhari revealed that he had been inaudated with complaints over the primaries, assuring that he would continue to address the challenges through the party machinery. 

He urged party members to exercise restrain,  promising that justice would be done. 

“I thank you for the decision to approach me with your concerns over the future of the party and for pursuing solutions approach to the challenges thrown up by the recent election-related activities particularly the primaries. 

“As the leader of the party one of my primary roles is to ensure that the our culture of internal democracy and dispute resolution is strengthened by creating the opportunity for members to ventilate their opinions, views and grievances at different levels. 

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“Notwithstanding the fact that we have accomplished 23 years of an uninterrupted democratic governance, our journey is still in a nascent stage and we continue to learn from our challenges and mistakes. 

“Similarly our party is still evolving in it’s culture and practice and it is my expectations and hope that we should attain a mature level in our internal conduct. 

“I have noted your grievances particularly as it concerns the just concluded processes. The cost to the nation, the threat to the majority of position held by our party in the legislative chambers and likely consequent causes to the electoral fortune’s of the party as we approach the General Elections. We must not allow these dire threat to come to pass. 

“I must acknowledge that in every contest there must be a level playing ground, just as there would be grievances at the end. That is the test of our democratic credentials, systems and practices. 

“I have since the conclusion of the process been inundated with various reports and complaints. In keeping with our ethos therefore, I shall continue to address the ensuing challenges and grievances through the party machinery while paying keen attention to the outcomes. 

“I must also remind you of the  primacy of justice in all our actions, if justice is denied its outcome is usually unpleasant, this is because you the members keep the party running. I should add that as part of the policy of using the party machinery for effective resolutions of conflict, the chairman and some members of the national working committee visited the National Assembly recently to dialogue with our legislators. 

“The leadership of the party is currently addressing the outcomes as part of the way forward. I am encouraging all the party functionaries to adhere to the truth and to be fair to all parties in any dispute. This is important because our strength and victory in the election lie in the unity of the party, in our ability to prevent or heal any injustice perceived. 

“I urge you and all party members to exercise restraint and continue to demonstrate commitment to the ideals while we continue to build and develop the party and the country. 

“Finally, Let me assure you that justice shall prevail, aggrieved members shall be assuaged in the interest of the party and the nation shall be protected,” the President said.

In his remarks, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Kalu, said at least 22 senators and members of the party were unhappy with the outcome of the primaries in their states, noting that they felt disenfranchised by the process. 

He said the legislators had made sacrifices for the growth of the party and democracy in the country and asked for the President’s kind intervention. 

“Mr President, in the Senate we have worked hard and consistently sold your programmes beyond party lines. Be assured always of our support,’’ he added. 

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Why I Didn’t Implement 2014 National Confab Report – Jonathan

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Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
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Former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday stated that he could not implement the much-applauded recommendations of the 2014 National Conference because it came close to the general elections.

Jonathan who was represented by Senator Pius Ayim, spoke at the presentation of the book: “The National Conversation: Interests and Intrigues That Shaped The 2014 National Conference,” at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, written by two journalists, Akpandem James and Sam Akpe.

Nigerians have commended the recommendations of the conference, noting that their implementation would have resolved some of the nagging national issues.

 Jonathan further told his Abuja audience that he could not implement the recommendations before quitting office because the  support base of his party and government in the then National Assembly had vastly been eroded by the defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and others to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC)   

He noted that the recommendations were expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for ratification and that the decision Tambuwal and some principal officers of the House of Reps to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) also stalled the move.

Tambuwal had joined the APC which was at the time criticizing the confab as a political campaign tool. Political pundits had reasoned at the time that with the defections, it would difficult for Jonathan’s government and the ruling Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) to get a concurrence in both chambers of the National Assembly on the confab recommendations.

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To further frustrate frustrate President with regards to the confab recommendations, Tambuwal made a lengthy adjournment of the House after his defection with his colleagues leaving Jonathan stranded.

There were also other issues against the implementation of the Conference recommendations, Jonathan said. For instance, an ECOWAS protocol prohibits leaders of member countries from making any constitutional changes close to any general elections.

The confab report was submitted in August 2014, six months before the February 2015 election.

The former President noted that if the report had gone through the National Assembly, it would have resulted in changes in the Nigerian constitution.

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