Super User

Super User

Yes, it is a season of claims and counter-claims. Yet, cost of living is hitting the roof. Hunger is pelting the bellies of both the righteous and the infidel. Living life is almost becoming a rocket science. Charles Soludo, luxuriating in public acclamation of “one of the most cerebral Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governors,” is in his season of pontificating. Last week, he offered an escapist defence of the Nigerian establishment which citizens’ hunger could not penetrate. Soludo’s latest proffer for the people’s hunger is that the current government met a dead economy; a dead horse was his exact word. Permit me to extend that logic by borrowing British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s "just let people die," and ask Soludo, “so let Nigerians die” because the economy inherited was a dead horse? Or, what is the final destination of that argument? There have since been attempts at economic necromancy. Every attempt must be made to make this economy’s corpse walk.

That is however not the drift of this piece. Two octopuses of Nigerian financial ocean are at daggers drawn at the moment and their destructive tiffs are rebounding negatively on the economy. Aliko Dangote of the famous Dangote Group and Abdul Samad Rabiu of BUA, two czars of the largest business entities in Nigeria, are fighting dirty. On the streets, in the courts and in the media, the two blue whales of the Nigerian economy are engaged in an acrimonious rivalry that is unexampled. A few weeks ago, that rivalry landed in the public space like a smelly puddle. The two of them openly washed their dirty linens, linens that had hitherto been wrapped in shawls of hushed whispers.

How does anyone describe this tiff, with its blood-baiting mutual exchange? A business rivalry, peer jealousy or business vulture tendency gone awry? It is a duel that has provoked such self-cancelling ruckus, the type found among co-wives in polygamy. An immediate correlation I can readily find to describe this is an autobiographical movie authored by Oyin Adejobi, late Yoruba cripple thespian. Adejobi was renowned for his famous African alternative dispute resolution drama sketches called Kootu Asipa of the 1980s. In it, he allegorized the story of how he became disabled. In Orogun Adedigba, (the wicked co-wife), Adejobi narrativized how his mother’s jealously wicked co-wife puffed up the fire of a destructive potion that immobilized him for life. That singular malediction became the burden Adejobi shouldered for his 74 years on earth. Though the Osogbo-born thespian’s stepmother’s potion succeeded in crippling him, it couldn’t stop the realization of his life’s attainment. Iconoclastic Yoruba Kennery brand music lord, Orlando Owomoyela (Owo’s) Itan Orogun Meji (the story of two co-wives) also explains the concept of a polygamous home’s squabbles which bear similar indicators to the Dangote and Rabiu self-neutralizing squabble.

Owomoyela, the nonconformist musician’s narrative goes thus: Two co-wives in a traditional African Yoruba home were engaged in spirited scuffles for the heart of their joint household. One day, the eldest wife conspired to kill the son of her co-wife, simply because he was more brilliant than hers. She cooked a portage delicacy served in two different plates. One, which was invitingly reddish and garnished with condiments, was sauced with a killer potion while the second plate, bereft of any poison, was whitish and uninviting. As the children of the two women arrived from school, they headed for the plates of food. While the son of the woman who hewn the death drama picked the reddish but poisoned plate, her stepson picked the one without. The malefactor’s son dies but the co-wife’s immediately went to the local football field and went a-playing football. Owo’s moral in the song is similar to that in Bob Marley’s Small Axe track. They both teach that anyone who contrives calamity for his fellow man can be compared to a man shouldering an army of ants-infested evil faggots which would soon bite them to death. Marley termed such evil-dispenser “whosoever diggeth a pit” who “shall fall in it.”

Attempts have been made to explain the Dangote/Rabiu rivalry and euphemize its deadly portent. In this regard, they say it is nothing outside the rivalries between Coke and Pepsi, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks in America. This drift is expatiated upon by invoking the ghost of Adam Smith in his famous The Wealth of NationsIn it, Smith extolled the importance of competition to the public good and submitted that relentless competition is not only healthy but is a core principle of the market economy.  

But what healthy rivalry would make two brothers, from same Kano State, involved in same line of businesses, not work towards to expand the frontiers of their markets but would rather seek their individual mutual destruction? While Dangote Cement is the largest cement product in Nigeria, controlling an over 60% market share, BUA Cement comes second, boasting of a market share of around 20%. Since 2008, the two companies have squared up in a bull’s fight. In the sugar refinery sector, the tango they are engulfed in is a fight of death as well. While Dangote’s sugar refinery, the most humongous in Nigeria, holds a market share of over 70%, BUA’s follows distantly with a market share hovering around 20%. It is this kind of duel you encounter in William Shakespeare plays where two armoured men clank swords in a battle that would only cease when one of them has breathed its last. It was always a duel on issue of honour or betrayal.

It is a common feature in this Dangote/Rabiu Orogun Adedigba tussle to hear of the two businessmen’s serpentine attempts to destroy each other. In 2020 for example, BUA Cement accused Dangote Cement of blocking access to its Edo State limestone quarry. Dangote Sugar Refinery responded to the alleged shenanigan by accusing BUA Sugar Refinery of price-fixing. They are both currently narrating details of these allegations before MiLords. The next year, BUA authored the wolf cry of alleging that Dangote Sugar Refinery had masterminded an attack on its sugar factory in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by sending hired thugs there. It also alleged that these hired hounds destroyed its property and inflicted massive injuries on its workers. Police were called in to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the allegations. Rolled into this are also allegations that one of the two business sharks deployed debilitating political connections and favoritism steeped in graft to be granted waiver on import duties for cement. The ultimate aim, it was alleged, was to aid the stifling of competition.

The most recent of this cache of allegations and counter allegations came out in a press release early this month from Dangote. It accused BUA of masterminding what it called false allegation that it was being probed by the Jim Obazee Special Investigator. It alleged that its rival claimed it was involved in illegal foreign exchange deals and money laundering which allegedly had Godwin Emefiele’s Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as lead actor. In the said press release, the Dangote group decimated these allegations as spurious and a “rehash of a similar report peddled out of malice” since 2016.

BUA’s reply didn’t thaw the ice. It documented what it alleged were a myriad of acts of sabotage authored by Dangote against its operations. It also claimed that Dangote’s allegations were “very cheap attempts at blackmail… following months of sponsored campaigns of calumny against us.” Dangote’s concatenation of treacheries against it, alleged BUA, began from 1991, which later became “a ruse that would lead to a court-sanctioned freeze of our assets,” leading to a situation in which, “for three agonising months, our accounts were garnished, warehouses shuttered, and our spirit tested. Yet, from the ashes of deceit, BUA survived.” It also listed interventions by Late President Umaru Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari whose timely reach prevented the octopodal hands of Dangote from sinking its company. BUA’s song looks very similar to the lyrics of Marley’s Small Axe song: “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe/ready to cut you down/And we are gonna cut you down!”

From all the above, it should be clear that what the duo of Dangote and his Kano brother are about is beyond the Adam Smith’s health-inherent competition, nor does it resemble in any way the Coke and Pepsi, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Macdonald’s and Burger King competition. Those American competitions no doubt resembled Smith’s evergreen proffers in the Wealth of Nations. Not this. Many people reason that, buried inside this Dangote/Rabiu quarrel is an age-long particular issue-provoked enmity which the two are probably not ready to disclose to the public.

For Nigerian consumers of the duo’s products, this rivalry has potential benefits. A couple of months ago, BUA announced its intention to reduce the cost of cement to N3,500. Were the two friends, we would not have this people-centric riposte. The reduction in price received applauses all over Nigeria. For a shrewd businessman like Dangote for whom profit is king and not the customer, the BUA price reduction must be a scalpel to a wound. The enmity has continued regardless.

For the sectors where the two of them are major players, this inexplicable enmity has disastrous implications. Association with one must be equal to enmity with the other, an equation that is not healthy for business at all. I learnt that many top brass in the political and business spheres have attempted an armistice between Rabiu and Aliko, without any let. This affirms my earlier submission that the real reason for this rivalry may have been hidden from Nigerians.

No matter how the two business whales play out this squabble in the courts and the media, the street seems to have made up its mind on who to apportion blames. One of them is renowned with an Orogun Adedigba history of vulture-like business practices, seeking to and succeeding in swallowing the carcasses of its competitors. It is a whale that enjoys singular wallow inside the ocean and from the claws of its deadly grips, shrimps that attempted to grow have died premature deaths.

 

A requiem for my mother 

Last Friday, November 24, around 1pm, I was getting pleased with myself for having scaled the hurdle of yet another chapter in a school dissertation I was writing when my phone rang. Before then, I sat cross-legged like someone who had just won tombola, thinking of further routes to take to arrive at the final destination of this academic obsession I wangled myself into. These days, when my younger brother called, I was always seized with trepidation. Thirteen years ago, September, 2010, to be precise, he had similarly called me. It was a dawn call. His wail on the phone ten years ago, I would soon know, would assume a sequential familiarity. He barely got the words through. Barely audible from his wail was the message: Our father, Joseph Adedayo, had just crossed to the other side of the divide. Now, as his call came through on Friday, my heart was in obvious turmoil. My mother, Victoria Ajoke, had been ailing for a while. So, I picked the call. The wailing on the other side was the uncommunicated communication I needed to affirm that I had finally received a pass into the orphanage; my gold had undergone everlasting rust. My brother was crying. I didn’t ask what the matter was. I got the message and ended the call. She was just a mere 77 years old girl.

Since Friday, I have not shed a tear. I have however worn a cloak of melancholy that I cannot explain. Like all mothers, Victoria Ajoke dotted on me, the child who opened her womb. These days, the suffusion of prayers she sprayed on me seemed to announce to me that she was preparing to shed the furs of mortality she wore. Like all mothers, she was excited seeing that little stubborn boy of hers, weaned on the apron of lack, become a man. A few weeks ago when I visited her in our family house at Oke-Ijebu in Akure, Ondo State, as frail and ailing as she was, she had a good laugh as we reminisced in what was going to be our last, on our journey thus far. I told her to get well quick so that I could take her to see a recent story of my life. I was afraid she might not. I remembered that my father too had, a few hours to the ailment that took him, wondered when my PhD defence would be, apparently for him to be the father of a ‘doctor’. Now, my hunch was right.

Some years ago, on a visit to Ilesa, Osun State, I branched at Ayeso barracks, with a friend. I stood in the front of a row of shanties that were the homes of policemen and pointed at one of them. That was where I grew, I announced to my friend. He bluntly told me I was lying. Nine of us, my parents inclusive, lived inside that dinghy cell-like apartment, I said.

While my mother and I reminisced, I reminded her of how far God had taken us. Indeed, like Bob Marley sang in his Talking blues, growing up, cold ground was our bed and rock, our pillow. Victoria Ajoke was a disciplinarian. When I tell my children, who hear Grandma now address me with so much respect, the story of how her lacerating cane wangled through my back, they found it hard to believe. Or, when she discovered I had stolen out of the proceeds of her plastic wares I hawked round Ikirun, Eko-Ende and Inisa those days to buy puff-puff. My cheeks suffered tremendously from her slaps.

She taught me the values I hold sacrosanct today. At dinner, all of us, her children, would circle round our bowl of eba or 

amala meal. Woe betides whoever picked meat before the end of the meal. She would hit the back of your palm with such ferocity that you wouldn’t feel like eating again and you must not decline to eat further. That was insolence, the penalty of which was another slap. She would announce that you were greedy and a potential thief. Till today, when I sat with a collective to eat from the same plate, I am cheated because Mama taught me that meat eating was the last plate assignment. At dinner, she told us folklores and we loved to listen to the songs she sang to wedge home the morals of the stories. The one I still remember vividly was delivered in our Akure dialect. It was in the early 70s when the military government began executing armed robbers. “In m’eyin re t’okun, omo ke sare moto ko binrin binrin dana (let him face the firing squad; the child who robbed in the bid to own a motor vehicle).

When she thanked me profusely for taking care of her as her days thinned out, I wondered if she had forgotten her toils on me. My mother was an expert in frying gari and preparing cassava meal called fufu. Her fufu could last for weeks without gathering moist. Her proficiency came to bear in 1994 when I had to go study for a Master’s at the University of Ibadan, at a time my father had just retired and hunger was our most notorious companion. I would take her fufu, cocoyam and gari to my hostel and was known for my indigent life. A few years ago when I slumped into a financial distress, immediately my mother heard of it, she called me. A huge sum had just been allotted her from the proceeds of the sale of a paternal family inheritance. She handed everything to me so that I could solve my existential challenge. Such was the mother I lost on Friday.

When I remember her sacrifices for me, I remember Plato's The Phaedo. It is one of the most ubiquitously read dialogues that was written by that ancient Greek philosopher. In it, Plato gave what is considered to be one of the most essential philosophical validations of the sweats of motherhood. Motherhood, said Plato, is not only about love, but “a selfless self-emptying for another, not because the child has earned or deserved it, but simply by the very fact of being the mother's child.”

That was Victoria Ajoke, my mother, who lies alone right now in the morgue.

I will miss my mother immensely. It is such a painful separation of mother and her son. I will take solace in her blessed womb that held me for nine months and the lacerating whips from her cane that nurtured me to what I am today.

Adieu, Maami Victoria Ajoke.

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5.

Introduction 

The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God actively working in His people today. Nothing moves except as He directs; nothing happens except as He permits; and nothing will be except as He allows.

Indeed, every day can be exciting for the Christian who intimately knows the reality of being filled with the Holy Spirit, lives constantly under His direction and operates absolutely under His unction. He is the Unfailing Enabler of our destinies.

The Holy Spirit is the Eternal Spirit of the Living God, and the Third Person of the Triune God. He’s ageless just like the Father and the Son (Genesis 1:2; Hebrews 9:14). He’s all powerful (Luke 1:35); He’s everywhere (Psalms 139:7); and He knows everything (1Corinthians 2:10,11)!

The Holy Spirit is not a mere experience, or just a latent force; neither is He another spook by fairytales. He is a Real Person, who may be grieved, and can lead, teach, guide etcetera (John 14:26).

He chooses people as He wills, and fills them with wisdom and strength for specific assignments (Judges 3:9-10; Exodus 35:30-35). Indeed, no one can serve God acceptably without His supernatural enablement (Psalms 110:3).

Understanding the Holy Ghost And His Ultimate Power

Jesus Christ made it abundantly clear that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples would result in them being wrapped up with the power of God (Luke 24:49). Through His manifold operations over the ages, we can confirm that the Holy Ghost is synonymous with Ultimate Power in the spirit realm.

Even Jesus Christ ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14-15). God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost to enable Him do the mighty works recorded about Him (Acts 10:38). If Jesus had to, I much more need to rely heavily upon the Holy Spirit. It is only in Him and through Him that we can find answers in the world and for the world today.

Understanding the Concept of the Power

Power depicts “might”; authority depicts “right”. Deploying brute “might” without authority makes you a common criminal; claiming “right” without power also makes you a foregone loser. Hence, power is always required to back up any essential authority, just like the police force backs the constituted authority of a sovereign state.

The Holy Ghost’s superpower bestowed upon the Christians is very essential in this world, or else we won’t be able to enforce the Lordship of Christ on earth, nor will we be able to truly enjoy our sonship authority in Christ Jesus (Luke 10:19).

The Greek word, “dunamis” is commonly translated “power”. “Dunamis” is also the root word for “dynamite”, an explosive of great energy. Hence, Acts 1:8 connotes a sense that an explosive spiritual power or force comes upon the believer at the instance of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

However, the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is not only in terms of signs, wonders and explosive spiritual gifts. In fact, the word translated “power” also means “ability”, which applies in practical ways to everyday life (Acts 1:7-8, MSG).

The Holy Spirit supplies the ability, whatever it takes, to help Christians accomplish whatever they need to accomplish. See, that’s all we really need in life —whatever it takes!

Vital Purpose of the Holy Spirit Infilling

The main purpose of the Holy Spirit baptism is for effective witnessing, that is, influencing the world for Christ and manifesting as sons of God in our generation.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, and the grand consequence was the spread of the gospel, region by region, throughout the entire world (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4).

The religious oppositions admitted that Jerusalem was promptly reached (Acts 5:28) and soon thereafter, Judea was touched (Acts 8:1; 8:4). Next, the “Jesus’ message” entered Samaria (Acts 8:5-6) and, finally, the gospel percolated the then known world in very quick succession (Colossians 1:5-6).

Moreover, even Peter who had hitherto been very timid was able to preach the gospel boldly after he was baptized in the Holy Ghost. Of a truth, the Holy Spirit enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things, particularly helping us to witness for Christ in the Holy Ghost power and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Acts 4:29).

Unfortunately, however, many people equate being a witness merely with speech, or what we commonly term, “witnessing.” But effectiveness in reaching the spiritually lost requires witnessing beyond words.

This is the age of the Holy Spirit! Our witness is comprised of what we say, how we say it and who we are. The Spirit moves us in our witness with a sincere and compelling passion, and He enables our character to become what God has called us to be.

The Holy Spirit Then And Now!

Pursuing and performing in the power of the Holy Ghost is not an option but a command: “As ye go, preach …. Heal ….” (Matthew 10:7-8). It is imperative for us, Christians, to use our position well to glorify God, and to rescue the oppressed and the perishing (Mark 16:15-18; Ephesians 6:10-12).

As part of the regular works of the Holy Ghost on earth, He enables desirable changes in the lives of men (Jeremiah 13:23; 1 Samuel 10:6; John 1:12). He convicts men of sin (John 16:7-14). He also incubates power for inexplicable miracles (Luke 1:35; Genesis 1:1-5).

Again, the Holy Spirit imparts grace, strange power and boldness to make Christians valuable, vocal, vital and valid witnesses of the power of God (Zechariah 4:6; John 7:37-38; Romans 8:26). This He does in order to reveal the love of Jesus in the hearts of men.

Now, recall that the Holy Spirit is eternal; hence, there is nothing He has done before that He cannot do again and again, if only He finds Christians who would maintain a real close touch with Him.

Maintaining A Close Touch With The Holy Spirit

After our initial experience of Holy Spirit baptism, we need regular recharge for renewed vigour and boldness in the work of the Great Commission. The outstanding impacts that the disciples made in Acts 4:13-31 in spite of their generally unimpressive human credentials are very noteworthy.

What made the huge difference was that the men had spent time with Jesus, had been impacted by Him, and were now walking in the strength of His Spirit!

Where the Holy Spirit is present, He influences and controls every destiny connected with Him (Romans 8:14). The influence of the Spirit would lead any man to glorious destinations, but when neglected, rejected or despised, the man goes down to a hell of aborted destiny (1 John 2:20).

Beloved brethren, the Holy Spirit is still at work here on earth, enlightening, quickening, strengthening and guiding true disciples of Christ who are born of His Spirit. Only that He’s waiting for them to readily pay the price for renewed experiences of the Pentecostal infilling.

Friends, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10-12). Swing to a lifestyle of accord with the Holy Spirit. Be at one with Him, yield fully and He will suddenly enable you for enhanced performances upon the earth. You won’t miss it, in Jesus name. Amen. Happy Sunday!

____________________

Bishop Taiwo Akinola,

Rhema Christian Church,

Otta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

Connect with Bishop Akinola via these channels:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bishopakinola

SMS/WhatsApp: +234 802 318 4987

Forgiveness is a cardinal principle of the Christian faith. I dare say, one of the ways we can tell that we are children of God is if we readily forgive those who offend us.

Inevitably, people will often offend us in this world of sin, even as we often offend others. But Jesus makes our readiness to forgive offenders a veritable passport into the kingdom of God.

He says: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

As usual. Jesus practised what He preached. As He was dying on the cross at the instance of evil accusers, He prayed for the forgiveness of His persecutors: “Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” (Luke 23:34).

Kingdom Dynamics

Forgiveness is so central to salvation that Jesus told an enigmatic story of an unrighteous servant who was served notice that his employment would be terminated for wasting his master’s goods. To prepare for his impending dismissal, he decided to ingratiate himself with his master’s debtors by surreptitiously forgiving them chunks of their indebtedness. So, he hoped they would repay his “kindness” when he became jobless and needed their help.

What is remarkable about this story is Jesus’ assessment: “The master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” (Luke 16:8).

But why would Jesus Christ, the righteous, commend this unjust servant? The answer is not far-fetched. Unlike the sons of light, this unjust servant understood the value of forgiveness. He recognised that forgiveness is an investment that yields handsome future dividends.

Therefore, when Peter asked Jesus: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-23).

Offensive God

But here is the rub. What if the offender is not man but God? What if it is God who offends us?

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9). Paul says: “How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!” (Romans 11:33). Therefore, Solomon counsels that we should not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5).

For this reason, we often find God to be very offensive. I call God “Doctor Strangelove.” He secures our welfare through schemes that are often unpalatable to us. He seems to take delight in disappointing our hopes and in foiling our expectations of grandeur. He is determined to thwart our own purposes in life. As Jeremiah warned Baruch: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” (Jeremiah 45:5).

The Bible is replete with examples of people who were offended by God. God told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved Isaac, a child born when he was 100 years old, as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah.

He starved the Israelites of food and water in the wilderness to their extreme discomfiture. (Deuteronomy 8:3).

He invited the devil to decimate Job’s wealth and family, killing his 10 children in the process. His wife was so offended, that she berated Job: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

God killed Uzzah for trying to prevent the ark from falling when it was being carried to Jerusalem. “David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.” (2 Samuel 6:8).

God killed Ezekiel’s beloved wife and told him not to mourn or weep about her death. (Ezekiel 24:16). He told Isaiah to walk around naked and barefoot for three years, without his trousers, with his buttocks exposed. (Isaiah 20:1-4).

He told Jonah to tell the Ninevites that He would destroy them within forty days. But to Jonah’s annoyance, He decided not to destroy Nineveh after constraining Jonah to deliver the message of their impending destruction.

Rock of Offence

Jesus closely followed this offensive pattern in His earthly ministry. Isaiah had prophesied that: “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.” (Isaiah 8:14-15).

Thereby, Jesus offended the people of His hometown of Nazareth by telling them they did not deserve God’s miracles:

“You will undoubtedly quote Me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal Yourself’ – meaning, ‘Do miracles here in Your hometown like those You did in Capernaum.’ But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. Certainly, there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner - a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (Luke 4:23-27).

The people were so angry with him that they wanted to kill Him there and then. They dragged Him to a cliff, intending to push Him headlong to His death. But He miraculously escaped.

He pronounced woe on the Pharisees and the scribes, calling them whitewashed tombstones. (Matthew 23:27). He told some people that the devil was their father. (John 8:44). He provoked His Jewish audience, who knew that eating blood is proscribed by the Law of Moses, that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood if they wanted eternal life. (John 6:51-58).

Many of His disciples were so disgusted with Him at this saying that they departed from Him and decided not to follow Him any longer.

Even John the Baptist, who had earlier identified Him as the Messiah, became disillusioned with Jesus because He failed to rescue Him from Herod’s jail. He sent emissaries to Him asking: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’” (Matthew 11:4-6).

When told that Lazarus was gravely ill, Jesus waited until he died before responding. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, could not hide their disappointment when he finally showed up, four days late. They said to Him one after the other: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21/32).

Practical Christianity

As God is offensive in the scriptures, so is He offensive in life. He offends us when our loved one is bereaved. He offends us when He refuses to help us when we are in a bind. He offends us when we commit our business into His hands and it fails, nevertheless. He offends us when we are jilted in love, or when our marriages collapse.

In short, God offends believers when something bad happens to us even though He could easily have prevented it. He offends us when we ask Him for something and He refuses to give it to us. He offends us when we look to Him for deliverance but He ignores us.

In my case, armed robbers attacked me and shot me in the leg. God rescued me from them. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when He then told me He was the One who sent the robbers to waylay me:

“Who allowed Israel to be robbed and hurt? It was the Lord, against whom we sinned, for the people would not walk in His path, nor would they obey His law. Therefore, He poured out His fury on them and destroyed them in battle. They were enveloped in flames, but they still refused to understand. They were consumed by fire, but they did not learn their lesson.” (Isaiah 42:24-25). CONTINUED.

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Whether it’s asking a neighbor for a favor or re-directing a colleague on a team project, being persuasive in your professional or personal life is a helpful skill.

People with high emotional intelligence, or EQ, are generally better at convincing others to see things their way, says Matt Abrahams, a Stanford University lecturer in organizational behavior and author of Think Faster, Talk Smarter: How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put on the Spot.″ 

Here are two things they do better than most people, according to Abrahams.

1. They remove ‘restraining forces’

When someone is deciding whether or not to make a change, they are probably evaluating two factors: the promoting forces and the restraining forces.

Promoting forces are all the reasons why you should do something. Restraining forces are what perceived barriers you face.

“I could give you all the reasons for why you should do something, but that might not be enough because of the restraining forces,” Abrahams says. “Someone with high EQ might focus on restraining forces.”

Let’s say you notice a friend struggling with anxiety and want to convince them to try meditating. Instead of telling them all the benefits of meditation, you could offer to do it with them the first few times.

2. They know what is important to the other person

“Folks high in EQ try to connect things you already do to what they are looking for you to do,” Abrahams says.

This comes more naturally to them because they are good at asking questions and remembering details about other peoples’ lives.

Let’s say you’re putting together a presentation and need someone to design visuals for you. A high EQ person would be able to recall that a colleague recently told them that they are looking for more graphic design opportunities and ask them for help.

“People with high EQ are better at understanding what’s important to other people,” he says. “They are sensitive and remember what people are doing.”

 

CNBC

Nigerians seeking a safe outlet for their anger can now get an unusual form of therapy, a "rage room" where they can break glass, smash wardrobes, and destroy electronic devices without any consequences.

Located in the crowded megacity of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, the Shadow Rage Room offers 20-minute sessions for N7,500 ($8.93).

Banjoko Babajide James, a co-founder, said the idea for the rage room came from the rising mental health crisis in Nigeria which is "a taboo topic" to discuss openly.

"We want to create a community of like minds, to make people to understand that this thing is real and we are going to try to push it out," he said.

Patrons are outfitted in protective gear, a baseball bat and a selection of items to break, including glass cups and plates, electronics, and furniture.

The room has been a hit with Lagosians, who have been flocking to release the stress of the country's soaring cost of living, disputed presidential election, and widespread insecurity.

"I was really angry," said Nancy Igwe, a customer, after her session. "Living in Lagos, it is terrible, it is frustrating when you see that the prices of everything has increased."

Anita Christian, another customer, said she came to the rage room after losing a friend.

"I had to come and vent because when you don’t get clarity or closure it is really sad," she said.

While the room has been well-received, James acknowledges that not everyone understands the concept.

"The perception people get when they encounter the rage room is a place where we are promoting anger," he said. "We always try to explain that we are not doing that."

($1 = 839.5400 naira)

 

Reuters

Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.54 percent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The growth rate is higher than the 2.25 percent recorded in the same quarter last year and higher than the second quarter 2023 growth of 2.51 percent by 0.03 percent.

NBS disclosed this in its GDP report for Q3, released on Friday.

The bureau said the growth rate was driven by the services sector.

“The performance of the GDP in the third quarter of 2023 was driven mainly by the Services sector, which recorded a growth of 3.99% and contributed 52.70% to the aggregate GDP,” NBS said.

“The agriculture sector grew by 1.30%, from the growth of 1.34% recorded in the third quarter of 2022. The growth of the industry sector was 0.46%, an improvement from -8.00% recorded in the third quarter of 2022.

“In terms of share of the GDP, agriculture, and the industry sectors contributed less to the aggregate GDP in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the third quarter of 2022.”

According to the NBS, the nominal GDP for Q3 2023 was N60.66 trillion while the real GDP was N19.44 trillion.

Nominal GDP and real GDP both quantify the total value of all goods produced in a country in a year. However, real GDP is adjusted for inflation, while nominal GDP is not.

NBS said: “In the quarter under review, aggregate GDP was N60,658,600.37 million in nominal terms.”

“This performance is higher when compared to the third quarter of 2022 which recorded aggregate GDP of N52,255,809.62 million, indicating a year-on-year nominal growth of 16.08%.”

‘NIGERIA’S OIL PRODUCTION ROSE IN Q3 2023’

The report also shows that the nation in the third quarter of 2023 recorded an average daily oil production of 1.45 million barrels per day (mbpd), higher than the daily average production of 1.20mbpd recorded in the same quarter of 2022 by 0.25mbpd and higher than the second quarter of 2023 production volume of 1.22 mbpd by 0.23mbpd.

“The real growth of the oil sector was –0.85% (year-on-year) in Q3 2023, indicating an increase of 21.83% points relative to the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2022 (-22.67%),” the report said.

“Growth also increased by 12.58% points when compared to Q2 2023 which was –13.43%.

“On a quarter-on-quarter basis, the oil sector recorded a growth rate of 12.47% in Q3 2023. The Oil sector contributed 5.48% to the total real GDP in Q3 2023, down from the figure recorded in the corresponding period of 2022 and up from the preceding quarter, where it contributed 5.66% and 5.34% respectively.”

‘NON-OIL SECTOR ACCOUNTS FOR NEARLY 95% OF NIGERIA’S GDP IN Q3 2023’

The NBS report said non-oil sector grew by 2.75 percent in real terms during the reference quarter (Q3 2023).

This rate was lower by 1.52 percent points compared to the rate recorded in the same quarter of 2022 and 0.84 percent points lower than the second quarter of 2023.

“This sector was driven in the third quarter of 2023 mainly by Information and Communication (Telecommunication); Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions); Agriculture (Crop production); Trade; Construction; and Real Estate, accounting for positive GDP growth,” the bureau said.

“In real terms, the non-oil sector contributed 94.52% to the nation’s GDP in the third quarter of 2023.”

NBS said this is higher than the share recorded in the third quarter of 2022 which was 94.34 percent and lower than the 94.66 percent recorded in the second quarter of 2023.

 

The Cable

On Day One of Gaza cease-fire, Hamas and Israel carry out first swap of hostages and prisoners

Hamas on Friday released 24 hostages it held captive in Gaza for weeks, and Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison in the first stage of a swap under a four-day cease-fire that offered a small glimmer of relief to both sides.

Israel — wrenched by the abduction of nearly 240 people in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war — cheered as 13 Israeli women and children emerged free from Gaza. Most were in their 70s or 80s, and the youngest was a 2-year-old. Also released were 10 people from Thailand and one from the Philippines.

In Gaza, the truce’s start Friday morning brought the first quiet for 2.3 million Palestinians reeling and desperate from relentless Israeli bombardment that has killed thousands, driven three-quarters of the population from their homes and leveled residential areas. Rocket fire from Gaza militants into Israel went silent as well.

Increased supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel promised under the deal began to roll into Gaza, where U.N. officials had warned that Israel’s seal on the territory threatened to push it to starvation.

But relief has been tempered — among Israelis by the fact that not all hostages will be freed and among Palestinians by the briefness of the pause. The short truce leaves Gaza mired in humanitarian crisis and under the threat that fighting could soon resume.

Israel says the cease-fire could be extended if more hostages are released, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had received a new list of hostages to be released by Hamas on Saturday.

But Israel has vowed to resume its massive offensive once the truce ends. That has clouded hopes that the deal could eventually help wind down the conflict, which has fueled a surge of violence in the occupied West Bank and stirred fears of a wider conflagration across the Middle East.

FIRST HOSTAGES FREED

Under the deal, Hamas is to release at least 50 hostages, and Israel 150 Palestinian prisoners over the four days. Both sides were starting with women and children. Israel said the four-day truce can be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages freed.

After nightfall Friday, a line of ambulances emerged from Gaza through the Rafah Crossing into Egypt carrying the freed hostages, as seen live on Egypt’s state-run Al-Qahera TV. The freed Israelis included nine women and four children 9 and under.

The released hostages were taken to three Israeli hospitals for observation. The Schneider Children’s Medical Center said it was treating eight Israelis — four children and four women — and that all appeared to be in good physical condition. The center said they were also receiving psychological treatment, adding that “these are sensitive moments” for the families.

At a plaza dubbed “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv, a crowd of Israelis celebrated at the news.

Yael Adar spotted her mother, 85-year-old Yaffa Adar, in a TV newscast of the release and was cheered to see her walking. “That was a huge concern, what would happen to her health during these almost two months,” she told Israel’s Channel 12.

But Yael’s 38-year-old son, Tamir Adar, remained in captivity. Both were kidnapped on Oct. 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz. “Everyone needs to come back. It’s happiness locked up in grief.”

The hostages included multiple generations. Nine-year-old Ohad Munder-Zichri was freed along with his mother, Keren Munder, and grandmother Ruti Munder. The fourth-grader was abducted during a holiday visit to his grandparents at the kibbutz where about 80 people — nearly a quarter of all residents of the small community — are believed to have been taken hostage.

The plight of the hostages has raised anger among some families that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not doing enough to bring them home.

Hours later, 24 Palestinian women and 15 teenagers held in Israeli prisons in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem were freed. In the West Bank town of Beituna, hundreds of Palestinians poured out of their homes to celebrate, honking horns and setting off fireworks that lite up the nights sky.

The teenagers had been jailed for minor offenses like throwing stones. The women included several convicted of trying to stab Israeli soldiers, and others who had been arrested at checkpoints in the West Bank.

“As a Palestinian, my heart is broken for my brothers in Gaza, so I can’t really celebrate,” said Abdulqader Khatib, a U.N. worker whose 17-year-old son, Iyas, was freed. “But I am a father. And deep inside, I am very happy.”

Iyas had been taken last year into “administrative detention,” without charges or trial and based on secret evidence. Israel often holds detainees for months without charges. Most of those who are tried are put before military courts that almost never acquit defendants and often don’t follow due process, human rights groups say.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, an advocacy group, Israel is currently holding 7,200 Palestinians, including about 2,000 arrested since the start of the war.

CEASE-FIRE TAKES HOLD

Friday’s halt in fighting brought Gaza’s uprooted population a moment to catch their breath after weeks of fleeing for shelter, searching for food and fearing for family.

After the truce began Friday morning, four trucks of fuel and four trucks of cooking gas entered from Egypt, as well as 200 trucks of relief supplies, Israel said.

Israel has barred all imports into Gaza throughout the war, except for a trickle of supplies from Egypt.

Its ban on fuel, which it said could be diverted to Hamas, caused a territory-wide blackout. Hospitals, water systems, bakeries and shelters have struggled to keep generators running.

During the truce, Israel agreed to allow the delivery of 130,000 liters (34,340 gallons) of fuel per day — still only a small portion of Gaza’s estimated daily needs of more than 1 million liters.

Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are crowded into the southern portion of the territory, with more than 1 million living in U.N. schools-turned-shelters. The calm brought a chance for displaced residents of the south to visit homes and retrieve some belongings.

But the hundreds of thousands who evacuated from northern Gaza to the south were warned not to return in leaflets dropped by Israel. Israeli troops hold much of the north, including Gaza City.

Still, hundreds of Palestinians tried walking north Friday. Two were shot and killed by Israeli troops and another 11 were wounded.

Sofian Abu Amer decided to risk checking his home in Gaza City.

“We don’t have enough clothes, food and drinks,” he said. “The situation is disastrous. It’s better for a person to die.”

Israel’s northern border with Lebanon was also quiet on Friday, a day after the militant Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, carried out the highest number of attacks in one day since fighting there began Oct. 8.

Hezbollah is not a party to the cease-fire agreement but was widely expected to halt its attacks.

A LONGER PEACE?

The war erupted when several thousand Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel, killing at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking scores of hostages, including babies, women and older adults, as well as soldiers.

The hope is that “momentum” from the deal will lead to an “end to this violence,” said Majed al-Ansari, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, which served as a mediator along with the United States and Egypt.

But hours before it came into effect, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops that their respite would be short and that the war would resume with intensity for at least two more months.

Netanyahu has also vowed to continue the war to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, end its 16-year rule in Gaza and return all the hostages.

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 13,300 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza government. Women and minors have consistently made up around two-thirds of the dead, though the latest number was not broken down. The figure does not include updated numbers from hospitals in the north, where communications have broken down.

The ministry says some 6,000 people have been reported missing, feared buried under rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and militants in its death tolls.

Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters, without presenting evidence for its count.

 

AP

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine conflict could have ended in Spring 2022 – Kiev’s top MP

Russia was ready to stop the fighting had Ukraine agreed to remain neutral, but the West advised Kiev to keep going, the head of President Vladimir Zelensky’s parliamentary faction – and the chief negotiator at the peace talks in Istanbul – David Arakhamia admitted on Friday.

Arakhamia, who heads the ‘Servant of the People’ parliamentary group, told the TV channel 1+1 that Moscow had offered Kiev a peace deal in March 2022, but the Ukrainian side did not trust Russia.

“Russia’s goal was to put pressure on us so that we would take neutrality. This was the main thing for them: They were ready to end the war if we accepted neutrality, like Finland once did. And we would make a commitment that we will not join NATO. This was the main thing,” said Arakhamia.

However, agreeing to neutrality and giving up NATO membership would have required changing the constitution of Ukraine, Arakhamia explained. “Secondly, there was no trust in the Russians that they would do this. This could only be done with security guarantees,” he told 1+1.

During the talks, Arakhamia added, British then-PM Boris Johnson arrived in Kiev and told Ukrainian officials to keep fighting and not sign any agreements with Moscow.

Johnson’s role in scuttling the peace talks in Istanbul was revealed in May 2022 by the outlet Ukrayinska Pravda. However, neither the British politician – who was ousted as PM in June that year and eventually landed a job at an American think tank – nor the US government ever officially acknowledged pressuring Kiev into reneging on the draft agreement, which Arakhamia himself had signed with the Russians. Kiev had likewise never officially commented on the matter – until now.

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed to African leaders that Moscow and Kiev had signed a draft agreement “on permanent neutrality and security guarantees for Ukraine” at the talks hosted by Türkiye.  

As soon as Russia pulled back its troops from the vicinity of Kiev, as a gesture of good will, Ukraine reneged on the deal, Putin said.

The Russian withdrawal was presented by Western governments and media as a Ukrainian military victory and they began sending heavy weapons and equipment to Zelensky’s government, fueling the conflict for the next 18 months.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine prepares army mobilisation reforms as war drags on - Zelenskiy

Ukraine is drawing up reforms to its programme for mobilising troops as the war with Russia rages on with no end in sight, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday.

Kyiv does not disclose its troop losses or the workings of its mobilisation programme which has been under way since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022. Zelenskiy said he had ordered senior officials to draft proposals.

"The plan will be worked out and all the answers will be there - next week I will see this plan," he told a news conference.

Zelenskiy did not reveal details of the reforms. He said issues at military medical commissions and recruitment centres would be addressed.

Ukraine is facing increasing pressure on its recruitment effort as it fights a larger Russian army.

Recruitment offices have been occasionally rocked by scandals involving graft or heavy-handed recruitment tactics.

Earlier this week, several Ukrainian lawmakers said they had been preparing a multifaceted legal bill to improve the mobilisation process.

In August, Zelenskiy dismissed all the heads of Ukraine's regional army recruitment centres as numerous cases of corruption and involvement in draft evasion were reported.

 

RT/Reuters

The people who used to shout most about the need for a revolution to happen in Nigeria are now the blokes making many arguments against revolution. 

The former activists and campaigners for radical change are now singing a new song on the need to give democracy a chance. 

As almost everybody knows all over the planet, things always change only to remain the same in good old Nigeria. 

These are arguably the hardest times for ordinary hardworking Nigerians throughout the history of the benighted country. 

People can hardly make ends meet, and stories are being bandied about how the former regime handed over a bankrupt government to the new regime.

Even so, the new blokes of government are heavy with a budget of presidential yacht, lavish furnishings for the palaces of imperial wives, and super-duper costly legislative SUVs. 

Not even the lunatic escapades of the fictions of magical realism can match the demented doings of the government of the day. 

Dissent has been driven underground while lickspittles and toadies of a bloated government are all over the place asking to be given more time for things to get right. 

Maybe all Nigerians would be dead before the promised Eldorado will manifest over a graveyard marked with green and white buntings. 

The ready recourse for the down-and-out is suicide, either by jumping into the lagoon or drinking the poison known as Sniper.

Something needs to be done fast before a Nigerian sets himself on fire and thus puts the entire nation on fire of eternal damnation.  

It did happen elsewhere because one man changed the history of the world by setting himself on fire. 

The Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, was unable to find work and had to make ends meet by selling fruits at a roadside stand. 

On December 17, 2010 a municipal inspector confiscated his wares, and barely an hour later, Bouazizi doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire. 

His death on January 4, 2011 brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system in Tunisia: the unemployed, political and human rights activists, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and many others. 

Thus began the Tunisian Revolution, the uprising that led to the sacking of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, thus ending his 23 years in power. 

Some 10 days after the sacking of President Ben Ali in Tunisia, protests began in Egypt on January 25, 2011 and ran for 18 days. 

Beginning around midnight on January 28, the Egyptian government attempted to eliminate the nation’s internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters’ ability to organize through social media.

It was all in vain for, on February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was forced to flee from power, after being in office for about 30 years.

Then the revolution spread to Libya, the land of the then strongman Muammar Gaddafi who, to give him his due, was putting his country in fine fettle.  

The Libya protests lasted till October 20, 2011 when Gaddafi met with the most gruesome of deaths.  

The uprisings that swept through the Arab world were given the name: The Arab Spring. 

The fear of the Arab Spring spreading to other parts of the world got on the front burner in the day and age of social media. 

Through the Internet, Facebook, Twitter etc., landmark protests could easily be organized in the twinkle of an eye. 

Nigeria had a spectre of the Arab Spring when the then President Goodluck Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy on January 1, 2012. 

The New Year “gift” sparked off anti-government demonstrations in many Nigerian cities the very next day, that is, on January 2. 

Many Nigerian towns were on fire as many protesters marched on the streets with placards, and made bonfires. 

The demonstrations brought together the unemployed, the under-employed, the employed, the poor, ill-assorted classes of people, the educated, the uneducated, the artisans, sundry workers, musicians, diverse artists, students, all kinds of activists and, yes, tribesmen. 

The name that was given to the crusade was “Occupy Nigeria”, and a melting pot of the struggle was the Gani Fawehinmi Square in Ojota, Lagos. 

For a week, from sunup to sundown, the many classes of Nigerians converged at the square, and the number of protesters increased steadily. 

The “Occupy Nigeria” protests petered out when Jonathan announced that the government had reached an agreement with the labour unions to put petrol price at 97 Naira from the high of 141 Naira. 

Leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress decided to call off the strike. 

And thus was averted what would have amounted to the Nigerian Spring, or a revolution, as some of the then activists would tag it. 

Let’s get to the present tense of the here and now, because fuel subsidy has again been arbitrarily removed. 

The cost of fuel is beyond the ken of Nigerians, and the exchange rate of the Naira has become well-nigh unbearable. 

Inflation is king, and poor Nigeria has bagged the unwanted title of the poverty capital of the world.

The pathetic aspect of the Nigerian matter is that the activists and revolutionaries who mobilized the protests in the past are now the ones making excuses on behalf of government.     

The hunger that made Tunisia’s Mohammed Bouazizi to set himself on fire, thus sparking off the Arab Spring, is an everyday Nigerian nightmare now. 

Anything can happen because one small misstep can lead to cataclysmic tragedy in this bad time of election rigging, judicial abracadabra and democratic dictatorship.    

Given the mess the countries of the Arab Spring are in today, Nigeria should learn the lesson of being saved from anarchy.

A Nigerian must not be driven to set himself on fire because the consequences are dire, not minding the living in denial of Nigeria’s erstwhile activists and expired revolutionaries. 

The fear of revolution by the people is real here.     

  • Drone swarms shown to talk, collaborate and split up duties using human language, making it easier for operators to understand the machines' behaviour
  • The technology has potential for use in security patrols, rescue operations and aerial logistics and transport, research team says

A team of Chinese scientists has developed drones that can engage in "group chats" to discuss and assign tasks among themselves, much like human teams.

The technology could be used to improve security patrols, disaster rescueand aerial logistics, the researchers said.

While communication strategies for drone swarms are typically designed to simulate bee and ant colonies, the Chinese team designed swarms with the ability to talk and collaborate like humans.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

Drone group chats also help make the machines' thinking transparent to humans, allowing researchers to better understand their behaviour.

The technology comes from Li Xuelong and his team at the School of Artificial Intelligence, Optics and Electronics at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Shaanxi province.

The research brings large language models like ChatGPT "to life", integrating them into practical applications, according to a WeChat post from the university's official account.

The post included a demonstration video from the researchers, showing how a team of five drones successfully located a set of keys in an outdoor park.

"The drones showcased key abilities, including humanlike dialogue interaction, proactive environmental awareness and autonomous entity control," the WeChat report said. Autonomous entity control refers to the drone cluster's ability to adjust flight status in real time based on environmental feedback.

The technology equips each drone with a "human brain", allowing them to chat with each other using natural language. This ability was developed based on a Chinese open-source large language model called InternLM, according to the report.

The capacity for dialogue enables both operators and drones to communicate in human language, breaking down barriers between humans and machines.

In the key-finding experiment, after a user tasked the drones with the search, three of them promptly "volunteered" their search abilities while two others, equipped with grippers, told the group they could retrieve the keys. The division of tasks was independently decided by the drone cluster.

Once the keys were found, the drones also shared images with the user via the group chat for confirmation. "This level of dialogue at crucial points significantly improves the stability and safety in executing complex tasks," the report said.

Equipped with multiple sensors and algorithms for low-altitude search, dynamic obstacle avoidance and visual positioning, the drones are designed to perceive their surroundings from different angles and positions, enabling them to collect data and execute tasks efficiently.

These abilities are referred to as proactive environmental awareness, which allows them to understand and adapt to their surroundings.

Each of the four drones was assigned a specific area to search. As they looked for the keys, the drones coordinated their movements to cover these areas efficiently. They generated a simplified map of the terrain to guide their efforts, and were also able to identify and avoid human operators in their path, ensuring safer flights.

The report noted that the technology has potential for use in security inspections, disaster relief and drone-based transport and logistics.

Previously, Li's team explored optics-driven drones that use high-energy lasers for remote power supply, providing them with potentially limitless endurance.

In October, Li spearheaded the development of an underwater droneguidance system named Navigator.

 

South China Morning Post

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