Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Thought Picnic: Meeting Spaces

Dutch Communion
When I lived in the Netherlands, I used to think meetings were a chore, highly soporific talk shops of near inanity, I suffered.
They are a cultural thing with the purpose being consensus and the achievement being you had spoken, having made your views known regardless of whether it did anything to promote consensus.
The convenor whilst heading the meeting never made unilateral decisions; that just created resentment, some meetings achieved nothing more than the convenience of a séance.
Time for crime
Amongst us was always a contrarian with a tangential thought planted in our midst as an advocate of Lucifer to bring disarray, disorder, distraction, confusion and chaos to the proceedings, it took tact to shut them up with finality.
Back in the UK, much as there is a culture to meetings, and like the Dutch, meetings that could go on until we were found centuries hence, bones of a long lost civilisation giving archaeologist grounds for specious speculation, salvation comes with the need to attend other meetings.
I once asked why we did not have the meetings standing up, they would be done in 10 minutes flat with clear decisions made, discomfort makes for agility and alacrity.
Useless words and sentences
We mostly attend teleconferences now, this links people together from various time zones and cultures.
Whilst in the Netherlands, many speak English murdering with aplomb the rules of grammar that the cringingly loathsome becomes funny and incredulous - accents abound, here, we do converse in English with the generous abuse of spiel, -speak and jargon.
Specious space
Everything as I have recently learnt is a space, we have all sorts of spaces for ideas, objects, plans, events, people, vacuums and dare I say, idiocy, or rather sensible idiocy and tolerable stupefaction.
The space is taken up by the space of fresh manure that an observer might creditably call bullshit. There is space for fertilizer in my garden too.
Yet, for all the space that takes up space in the space the agitates the eardrums, the sound-space does suggest the medium of interaction is the English-space, only that the space for understanding the multitude of words is void of meaningfulness.
Not my kind of English
It is as tortuous as it is desperately tending to intemperance to have to live through it without becoming suicidal, but many subsumed into this space revel in saying so much to say very little. It is English reserve that prevents one from stating the obvious.
At which point you really want to ask as the essential salvation of slumber does not spare you this encounter - Is there space for a little bit of plain-speaking effective communication?
The straw man touching base with his offline priorities can only look up at that point for inspirational Blue-Sky thinking, the kind of thinking that is outside the box.
Why am I in this meeting?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Opinion: Save the children from these people - Part III - Helen Ukpabio's removal from the UK

A nasty woman
Nothing could have pleased me more than to hear that the self-styled apostle Helen Ukpabio had been bundled out of the UK with no option for future entry.
Helen Ukpabio is notorious for the absurd pseudo-Christian ministry of stigmatising helpless children as practitioners of witchcraft in Nigeria and then conducting macabre exorcisms that brutalise the so accused in ways too evil to depict.
What is most repugnant about her sorcery is having trained as a nurse, she propounds that if children are distressed at night, crying and running high fevers, the said kids are in the employ of Satan.
A religious quack
That anyone would believe this, let alone act on this criminally contemptible quackery is indicative of the mesmerising hold her atrocious doctrine in the name of religion has over an easily manipulated and vulnerable people who can be cajoled into ascribing every misfortune in their lives to some agency of evil spiritual forces.
In the process, stigmatised children have been abused, violated, brutalised, abandoned, starved and sometimes murdered. It sickens beyond anything tolerable that such barbarity finds adherents, supporters and proselytes.
That is why she was in the UK to promote amongst us unconscionably superstitious and animist-like rituals suggestive of questionable Christian provenance.
Frustrate this evil enterprise
From the moment she landed for her odious campaign, activists got onto her case, and had the venue owners hosting her meetings rescind the arrangement, then agitated to have her removed from the country.
Some children suffer enough in the UK due to all sorts of unfortunate, unforgivable and avoidable issues in parenting, care and the system than to have that compounded by the likes of Helen Ukpabio.
Her breakaway from the cultish Brotherhood of Cross and Star to form a ministry that trades in fearful stigmatisation along with the thugs in her ambit who foment violence on those who oppose her views makes her a danger to any community at home or abroad.
Prosecute this to all lengths
The ideal situation would be to close down her theatre of the absurd along with finding ways to make her responsible for the grievous harm committed against children as a result of her influential and abhorrent teachings.
Failing that, deportations, discomfort, disruptions and anything to arrest the abuse of the helpless and innocent in the name of religion must be done.
Helen Ukpabio must be persona non grata in any civilised setting and especially in Nigeria, her activities must be trammelled and supervised to ensure no other child comes to any harm.
She is evil, there are no better words to describe her.
Yet, it is imperative that we save the children from people like Helen Ukpabio who acts irresponsibly with the power she has to convince people of religious absurdities that gross atrocities are committed against defenceless and innocent children.

Opinion: Save the children from these people - Part II - The Boko Haram Abduction of Girls

Abducted and enslaved
In Nigeria, two issues are conflated with a religious dimension to them but the worst of it is the pain of parents not knowing where their children are.
It just makes ones blood run cold that for over a week, about 230 girls were abducted from their boarding school by an extreme religious sect, Boko Haram.
What compounds the issue is that over 40 girls have managed to escape, some during prayers or when they were already pressed into slavery cooking for the terrorists.
We must note that none of the girls have been rescued by the authorities, they escaped and one cannot say if any in the process of escaping have been recaptured by Boko Haram and probably summarily executed for their daring-do, the thought just makes one shudder.
It is just unimaginable
Considering how many of these sorts of religionists have persuaded sexually repressed men to become suicide bombers with the promise of 72 virgins in heaven, one cannot begin to imagine the possibility that the girls are also used as sex slaves and forced into marriage completely against their will and without any justifiability apart from atrocious criminality.
For the principal to say not enough is being done to rescue the girls is not just a damning indictment of the security services, it beggars belief that for a region under a State of Emergency the Boko Haram brigandage literally has writ large to perpetrate unmitigated and untrammelled evil and criminality with fear that they even visited the federal capital with a bomb last week.
What are they doing?
One also asks how it is that the escapees do not seem to have been debriefed to pinpoint where they escaped from and have the encampment surrounded as they lay siege on this rotten escapade.
Yet, one understands that the Nigerian security services are more trigger-happy than considered to be sent into such a domain without it resulting in carnage. What we need is probably people able to contact and negotiate the release of the girls in some sort of quid pro quo arrangement leaving the fighting until another day when there are no hostages at risk.
That the parents had to hire vigilante groups to go after the Boko Haram registers on the scale of extremely unfortunate and beyond words.
Failed by the system
We as Nigerians are sadly constantly failed by a system of leadership and apparatchiks completely bereft of empathy and redolent of their responsibilities we have to do everything for ourselves including go after terrorists to obtain the release of our most precious offspring.
How have we been so accursed with a system that sees no urgency and necessity to be out there, working everything possible to get the girls back is beyond sadness, it is a tragedy.
It is not enough to pray for their release unharmed and unscarred, we need the authorities to assume responsibility and start acting responsibly so that no other lives are put in peril in the quest to get the girls back.
My heart goes out to the girls and their parents along with the staff under whose care they were but would have been helpless against a marauding atrocious and rabid religious mob that has no respect for anything either of humanity or of the deity they claim to worship.
Yet we must save the children from those who have no sense of responsibility in their quest for aims that debase our humanity.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Opinion: Save the children from these people - Part I - The South Korean Ferry disaster

The father in me
Maybe just a word or two needs to be said about a number tragedies that have involved children that I have tweeted about lately.
I find myself having never exploited the possibility of having children and now by reason of the effects of chemotherapy possibly having no ability to bear my own children.
That said, age and maturity suggests and imposes on me a sense of both parenthood and grandparenthood that it is impossible for me not to at the very least feel like a parent would about their child or children in every way from the ordinary things of life, the celebration of successes or the unfortunate waves of anxiety and tragedy.
A lost integrity
In faraway South Korea, it was the man-made disaster of a ferry sinking that took with it hundreds of children’s lives as the captain of the ship shirked his responsibility and posed as a victim to get treatment.
Maritime responsibility has changed since the days of the Titanic or before then when the captain, Edward Smith went down with his ship rather than turn up later with crocodile tears asking for forgiveness and what not.
The ethos and integrity of captainship does not seem to have been installed in the captain of Costa Concordia and now MV Sewol, which meant that passengers under their care suffered where they should have been better cared for especially where the accidents in both cases were caused by grave errors of judgement committed by men with character flaws undiscovered until tragedy struck.
English for disasters
There is the other issue about the crew who were both chaotic and indecisive considering it was clear that the situation they were in was beyond redemption. Maybe it is a problem with the Power Distance Index of the Korean language as Malcolm Gladwell observed in his book Outliers with regards to air accidents.
It makes one suggest that in times of an emergency one should dispense with protocols and get straight to the point about what the power is, who it affects, what help is needed and be clear as to how soon they need that assistance.
From what transpired between the crew in the harbourmasters, neither was authoritative nor clear, in the process we have the tragedy of the needless loss of life that could been avoided even if the ship was definitely going to be lost. English offers clarity removing unnecessary hierarchies and probably should become the maritime language of communication as we have for aviation.
Peace, they must find
The agony of the parents unaware of the fact of their children’s watery demise is beyond what words can express, beyond being sorry for their loss, even enforcing the most severe penalties against the cowardly crew would not begin to assuage the pain of the death of the innocents.
May they find strength, comfort and some peace through their faith or any support systems made available to them in these troubling times.
Yet, we must save the children from those who would not assume the responsibility they have in despatching their duties.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Half Of A Yellow Sun - Review of the movie

The flag of the Republic of Biafra - Courtesy of Wikipedia

A history missing
I was born just before the first military coup in the fledgling Federal Republic of Nigeria, far away from the madding cacophony and chaos that presaged the breakdown of order, the massacre of Igbos in the North and the civil war.
We returned to Nigeria, in the year the civil war ended, my parents excited and ready to participate in the new Nigeria led by the military leader Yakubu Gowon, whose surname became the reconciliatory acronym of Go On With One Nigeria.
The history of Nigeria that I did in school ended just after Nigerian independence and took off again after the end of the Civil War. It meant we as Yorubas from the South-West of Nigeria could choose wherever we wanted to live in the country, as we first set up base in Kaduna and then in Jos.
The stories that informed the reasons for the turmoil in the Western Region, the corruption and misgovernment that led to the first and second military coups of 1966 and the swagger of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu were just the subject of folklore.
Making history obvious
The closest I came to appreciating what happened in the Civil War was in the photographs taken by Peter Obe, in a book titled, Nigeria: A Decade of Crises in Pictures (Paperback) which contained iconic and haunting photographs of the Republic of Biafra during the Civil War.
Enter, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a novel that apparently wove the realities of Biafra into a human interest story of everyday lives and how people were affected by the war.
I never read the book, but I have just returned from watching the Half of a Yellow Sun film showing in just one cinema theatre in Manchester.
Having read and watched reviews of the film, it had somewhat prepared me for possible disappointment, but there was a compelling need to see for myself.
Half of a fading sun
The film was well made, the acting superb and worthy of great accolades, but I am not sure if what is said of the novel did translate properly to the screenplay that became the template for the film.
I cannot say that I learnt anything I did not already know of the Republic of Biafra apart from the visual representation of the geographical landmass that constituted Biafra.
The flag of Biafra, composed of a horizontal tricolour with the yellow glow of a rising sun was as optimistic as the braggadocio of the man that led the secession from Nigeria, but one can safely say the sun had already set on Biafra from the get-go.
A warped history
Whether much could have been done to have the original coups more encompassing that it did not seem like an Igbo coup in a futile power grab can be the subject of extensive debate, but the birth of Nigeria as an independent country was as flawed and fractured as it could ever be.
There probably was never a golden dawn of Nigeria beyond the speech that the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa gave on the night we gained independence on the 1st of October, 1960.
A privileged view of the war
However, back to the film, the narratives were unusual and somewhat foreign in my view, as it revolved around two highly educated daughters and their love and family lives.
Thandie Newton playing Olanna with her love interest Odenigbo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and her sister Anika Noni Rose as Kainene with her American husband Joseph Mawle as Richard.
I did not recognise the songstress Onyeka Onwenu for her part as Odenigbo’s mother; times do mature the visage of those one once knew so well, decades ago. Since, I am not a Nollywood fan, the other actors were just actors.
Half of a Yellow Sun in the movie was the Biafran War from the perspective of the very privileged and well-connected in the early 1960’s.
An unfamiliar Nigeria
Throw in infidelity, a love child, an adoption, an interracial marriage and the luxury of being able to pack a bag and drive off in a car when trouble came close, and this became a very different Nigeria from that of those who did see suffering.
The violence and tragedies in the film cannot be said to have done justice to bringing life to a history very few Nigerians born after 1970 know anything about.
Yet, there were two characters that found opportunity by being in privileged surroundings, Ugwu the houseboy who witnessed much, said little and had the benevolence of being sent back to school where at the end of the film we are told became a writer and Baby, the love child who was accepted by Olanna as her daughter and eventually became a medical doctor.
Just a good film
I do not know if the film was to spare us the gruesomeness of the war or it was more intent on the love soap opera at the expense of the war.
Yet, the mind of Odenigbo was interesting enough about his revolutionary zeal and his fearful view of Nigerian identity as was the capitalist machinations of Kainene as a profiteer in the war, who in one of her runs went missing and was never seen again.
A good film in general, but not one to do Nigerian history at a leisurely pace with sweet popcorn and Pepsi Cola.