Monday, 27 March 2017

Seeing the unnecessary and Nigerian dysfunction through a Kaduna Polytechnic vacancy

Long ago in memory
This morning, a tweet flashed through my timeline that attracted my interest, nostalgic interest at that. The Kaduna Polytechnic had published a vacancy for the post of rector. The polytechnic currently has an acting rector and in the recent times, there has been some industrial action by the faculty which apparently led to ousting of a previous rector. [The Nigerian Voice]
The nostalgic part of my interest stems from the fact that we first settled in Kaduna after my parents returned from their studies in the UK. Both were lecturers at the polytechnic in 1971, before my father moved to Jos in early 1972.
In the mid-1970s, we returned in Kaduna and lived in Tudun Wada, an uncle of mine towards the end of that decade graduated the best student of his class in Quantity Surveying, I used to walk by the front of the polytechnic to the Panteka ironmongery, scrap and arts market and further on to the main Kaduna market where my mother ran a side business market stall.
A vision without sight and a mission without path
However, going back to the vacancy notice, reading through it, I began to see issues with the way it was crafted, the kinds of information required and I will provide an analysis of the vacancy as a prism into how unnecessary processes make Nigeria a difficult working environment, why easy of doing business is fraught with red tape, bureaucracy, rent-seekers and ineptitude.
The Vision and Mission Statement aspires to a practice that does not exist, nor does it show any indication that anyone desires it. Reading the text of the vacancy, it states: “To be recognized (US English spelling) as a unique Polytechnic of international repute, setting (a) high standard in education, training and innovation.”
The mission in the vacancy goes on to state: “To be an innovative institution of repute, empowering people to compete successfully in the global arena of work by providing relevant research centered, technology driven and skill-oriented education with (an) entrepreneurial outlook.”
The needed and the unnecessary
The responsibilities related to the post of the rector suggest the person will be the chief academic, administrative and accounting officer of the polytechnic. The requirements for the post look nice enough requiring a minimum academic qualification, experience, leadership, published papers, information technology proficiency and the capacity to attract funding and grants.
The evidence of medical fitness is probably a requirement, though you wonder if it is necessary, the judgement elements of morally sound, of impeccable probity and integrity are in general subjective, though useful for anyone who would aspire to such a role. Being free from financial embarrassment is loaded and probably intrusive.
That the candidate should not be more than 60 years old at the point where they assume the role is in my view unnecessary. Our political leadership tends towards the septuagenarian. Someone in their 60s probably brings at least 30 years of experience to a role that would be more than useful to advance that institution. The age-limited qualification for academic roles is at best an anachronism if the said person meets all the essential requirements that pertain to performing the role.
This is reflecting the stone age
The methods of application, however, must come in for sanction and excoriation. Why an institution that vaunts its claims to innovation, technology driven and skill-oriented education requires an application to be submitted in 15 copies in 2017, beggars belief. It makes you wonder if they are promoting an ascetic existence harking back to prehistoric times. Whatever happened to electronic communication?
The post of rector should be one filled by qualification and merit, such that several elements of information asked for in the application are both unnecessary and superfluous. State of origin and local government area, makes no sense, either in Nigeria or if a foreigner decides to apply for the job. One would think the institution would be going for the best person for the job.
Patently unnecessary
Whilst knowing the marital status of the applicant can be useful, would there be an issue if the person never married? It is very likely if the person were married the age requirement might put the person in a grandparent bracket that the need for the number of children and their dates of birth makes no sense.
Obviously, if the institution does have to make provision for relocation of families of the successful applicant, that can come up at interview stage and should primarily be with the human resources department.
There is no reason apart from the subjective to require that information for an academic role. If they are asking for an email address, then this whole application should be accessible online and posted online, that is innovation.
Surely, you can do better than this
The other parts requiring supporting documents for academic achievement and publications could be done at this stage or they should better apply for transcripts from the academic institutions, it is 2017. Publications can be referenced online, especially if they are in reputable journals. There is probably not one need for a piece of paper submitted for this vacancy beyond showing an identity document.
Applications submitted in sealed envelopes, come on, Kaduna Polytechnic, you can move swiftly into the 21st Century. In fact, I believe there are probably people who because of the lack of technical nous in the publication of this vacancy that would give it a miss except if they want to take on the challenge the status quo, dragging the polytechnic out of archaic times into the modern age.
For one of the premier institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, the mode and method of the publication of this vacancy is a great let-down to its history, to Nigeria and many of us who have nostalgic affinities to Kaduna Polytechnic. This is a shame and shambles, fix this travesty.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Opinion: We are not Khalid Masood

The surfeit of names
His name was Khalid Masood at the time of his death, aged 52 and meeting his end having mowed down innocent people on Westminster Bridge and then running into the grounds of the Palace of Westminster where he stabbed an unarmed police officer to death before he was shot by an armed policeman and there he died, whilst receiving first aid from someone more human than he had ever been.
Khalid was born someone else, he was born Adrian Elms to a mother who was 17 at the time, when he was 4 years old she married Philip Ajao who became Khalid’s stepfather and the Adrian Elms became Adrian Russell Ajao. [Telegraph]
None of this would have been significant apart from the fact that a religious extremist had taken on a form of religion that in his mind gave him licence to commit senseless murder on the streets of London towards a goal that leaves one begging about the suicidal exploits of these mentally deranged people who think they get nearer to some deity by unmitigated evil, nothing could be further from the truth, if they and their handlers are visited by the truth.
The complex of identity
Janet Ajao, Khalid Masood’s mother lives a quiet and idyllic life in a Welsh-speaking village of Trelech, making bespoke cushions and until this terrorist attack perpetrated by her son upset the balance of her life with Philip Ajao, her husband being ill in hospital. They have been married since 1966 and have two boys who seem to be doing well. [Telegraph]
It was the Ajao surname that immersed me into this narrative because it is of Yoruba origin from South-West Nigeria and I am of Nigerian heritage.
Within the complex of identity and community, it is very easy as a minority to find issues to relate to and identify with. As a black man, I would celebrate the successes of other black people just because they are like me, and there is no link between us apart from that. It is a subconscious response schooled into our sense of identity and being that we should be ambassadorial and representative, we carry a mantle for the identity that we have.
Of subliminal identification
Breaking it down, you begin to find affinities with race, with nationality, with tribe, with clan and any element of diversity that differentiates you from the majority in the quest to retain some form of identity even when you find that you need to integrate with other cultures, communities and societies to be of relevance.
Therein lies the conundrum, we live in societies predicated on individuality and separateness, responsibility is rarely imputed on broader communities of the majority, but once the majority finds a collective by which you can be identified, it is easier for the majority to address the collective and individual and vice versa.
Stereotypes are the Shibboleths that we inadvertently lend ourselves to, that in celebrating the good amongst us, they are seen is individual but the criminals amongst us give licence to label all of us the same.
Of individual responsibility
Khalid Masood, Adrian Elms and Adrian Russell Ajao were one and the same person, in various stages of his life that was completely and essentially British. That he had a Nigeria stepfather did not make him Nigerian by any stretch of the imagination, he was not radicalised by a Nigerian construct, he charted his own path and must be held responsible for his own crimes.
Khalid Masood was a home-grown British-born terrorist, radicalised by anything from disaffection to persuasion within a frame of reference that is entirely British. His stint as an English teacher in Saudi Arabia was a projection of his Britishness, maybe not of British values, but that is debatable.
The association of his terrorist criminality with Philip Ajao is at best tenuous and even though there is some affinity with Philip as possibly of Nigerian heritage, he has spent a good deal of his lifetime in the United Kingdom, so it begs the question why we allow the mischief of depicting Khalid Masood as having anything to do with Nigeria.
On the crisis of identity
It is very likely that Khalid Masood’s conversion to Islam was related to a crisis of identity in a society that can be institutionally racist. Some disaffection about who and what he represents in the British society might have given impetus to his decision to murder people in broad daylight, that it was done in the name of religion is completely beside the point, a criminal is a criminal and a terrorist is just that, a terrorist.
However, within the forming of our core identity which is heightened in a different cultural setting and host society, as we celebrate successes we find ourselves conflicted and afflicted by the failings of some amongst us, we coalesce in trying to understand what has gone wrong in our communities rather than with the individual, because in our home cultures, we are brought up within a village construct of family, extended relations and society at large. To be individual is to go rogue.
We are not Khalid Masood
Yet, we need that essential individuality linked with purpose to thrive in societies outside our native ones, in that, we must conserve identity more to the individual and resist the temptation to identify easily with groups such that when the majority is looking for someone to blame, we get lumped together, blameless as we are.
Our identity is significant and must be constantly refreshed with wholesome community activity, but we must cultivate how we identify before we are consumed in a guilt complex brought on by no other association that the remotest tenuous links.
No, we are not Khalid Masood, he alone must answer for his crimes, not the black community, not the Muslim community, not Nigerians, not the Yoruba, not his stepfather, not his mother, not his half-brothers, not his wife, nor his children, except where they as named individuals have been co-conspirators or accomplices to his crimes.

Does anyone feel pain like I do?

I have sometimes been alone,
Alone in my thoughts,
Thoughts that linger,
Linger for a day,
Day in, day out,
Out on my own in the cold,
Cold and wondering,
Wondering does anyone,
Anyone feel my pain,
Pain that goes deep,
Deep into my being,
Being here and thinking,
Thinking it does not matter,
Matter to anyone really,
Really to be bothered,
Bothered with what,
What the story is about,
About the things in my mind,
Mind, body, soul and life,
Life of many tales,
Tales yet untold to anyone,
Anyone who would care,
Care enough to hear my cries,
Cries too silent, I can’t hear myself,
Myself on in my head,
Head heavy with burdens,
Burdens I dare to bear,
Bear with grace and hope,
Hope beyond the fears,
Fears I can’t find words for,
For I am not perfect,
Perfect and sure,
Sure enough on many things
Things I cannot control,
Control and order,
Order that I like,
Like to address,
Address in yours and mine,
Mine being hard,
Hard but not as yours,
Yours makes me worry,
Worry about what I can do,
Do to help if I could,
Could if I had the means,
Means I do not presently have,
Have like I did at one time,
Time weighs heavily,
Heavily for what to say,
Say how I feel again,
Again that I’m only human,
Human as human as I know,
Know it’s all screwed up,
Up with me,

Friday, 24 March 2017

Hospital: That was brutal

What a start
Wednesday could only have been termed brutal in more ways than one, I returned home from the hospital and just went straight to bed to sleep off the feeling.
It was my biennial check-up, the one I was prepared to go for a month ago, only to realise that it was a month later. I got my appointment card and called an Uber cab to take me to the hospital and that is where my physiological problems began.
The Uber driver in the quest to cut out traffic ran into road blocks and other traffic that the 40-minute leeway I gave to getting to the hospital was being eaten up that I was getting anxious. The journey only takes 20 minutes, I arrived, just in time.
The pressure of the world
Then through the labyrinthic corridors to the Out-Patients’, I wended my way, half-hobbling and almost reduced to panting when at the reception I realised that I had forgotten to put my appointment card and treatment journal in my pocket. Though I did not need that to identify myself, I was at that point flustered when I was directed to sit in the waiting area.
Minutes later, I was called in for a weighing and blood pressure assessment. My weight has been going down, but the numbers that came up for my blood pressure were astronomical, both the systolic and diastolic measures in the 3 figures.
We tried the other arm, but I was already in a state, the numbers did not radically change. The nurse opined as did the doctor later on that certain patients have a white-coat syndrome that heightens their blood pressure in a hospital setting and that hospitals are rarely the best place to take blood pressure measurements.
A doctor I miss
I did not think I had a white-coat syndrome, I have known the inside of hospitals from the day I was born, there had to be other factors. My little sleep, the Uber ride, my forgetfulness and any other factor that is as yet undetermined. I did measure my blood pressure in the relaxed setting of my home yesterday and the numbers looked within the ranges of normal.
I was meeting the doctor for the first time, he introduced himself as a registrar, I have lost count of the different faces that make up this department. The head of this department when I first attended this hospital some two years ago, an affable and friendly man with a gentlemanly mien and comforting bedside manner had retired and was out in Burma doing charity work. I last saw him in October and he was the one who suggested I had a big do for my 50th birthday.
Then I had had the opportunity to research the incoming head before I met her in the middle of the last year, we got on quite well. However, as the new doctor began to go through my notes, his apparently calming assurances left me in more discomfort and anxiety than I have ever felt meeting consultants in the last 8 years.
The whole works and working over
Maybe it was a confluence of events, but by the time I had seen a few more unpronounceable names to do with my liver, my kidneys, my gall bladder and my bile ducts, none of which on further research back home presented an alarming set of circumstances, I felt like I had gone in for acne and ended up in intensive care.
He was being thorough, at least that is what he told me and invariably, my drug regime might be modified in 6 months’ time based on cost, and I have a battery of tests to follow, bloods, liver scan, cognitive impairment and a ‘non-judgemental’ review of my sex life. Then he put my numbers through QRISK to determine my susceptibility to cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years and having stopped smoking 33 years ago, I was denoted an ex-smoker rather than a non-smoker; technically, he was right and thorough, if not pedantic. It was the full works and brutal.
I took copious notes and at the end, we did not even have a customary handshake before he was out to pick up the notes for the next victim, sorry, patient.
That was brutal
I put in my prescriptions at the pharmacy and joined the long queue at the phlebotomist’s, where a bit of gallows humour appeared to lighten up the day. When someone asked if they had lunch breaks, I quipped as to whether vampires ever took breaks from bloodsucking.
When I finally got home, I just went to bed, too much had happened in such a short day. Yes, it was brutal, by all standards. I am not looking forward to meeting this doctor again and it is probably nothing to do with him, I was just completely ill at ease chatting to him.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Thought Picnic: I remain a friend

Understanding self-absorption
There are times in life where one can become quite self-absorbed and oblivious of the world around. Forgetting all the various things that make for life and living from within oneself and from around in places where we might have literally no influence.
Self-absorption can so easily create blindness, blindness to reality, blindness to facility, blindness to opportunity and a decline into seething resentment and a sense of apathy.
Yet, self-absorption should not be discounted, it is being caught in the maelstrom of experience, the howling winds, the battering of the storm, the foreboding and present scent of danger in reaction to infirmity, incapability, adversity, grief, or other kinds of human experience.
Thank you for being a friend
What matters most is to find some respite, some insight, maybe some therapy in talk or the turn that gives a person the opportunity to reassess a situation and hopefully find a new purpose. It takes longer to get to a smile, but a seed of hope is being sown.
Nothing helps you out of self-absorption better than a friend, a friend who can feel your pain, a friend that can hear that soundless cry of questions you have never given voice to, neither would they put you in an uncomfortable place, they ease you through to a better place.
That help I found when many things came together in a perfect storm presaging an almost compulsion to act. Over a number of conversations, we walked through stages of anger, resentment, depression, bargaining and acceptance, like the Kubler-Ross model for addressing grief had come to the matter of self-absorption brought on by extenuating circumstances.
Don’t underestimate past relationships
What I learnt the most at the end of the last conversation was the tendency to feel powerless because of inactivity and by that underestimate ourselves where a reputation that had been formed in a setting spoke enough about a person without the need to force issues.
If you have taken the time to foster relationships and friendships, believe in the ability of those to work without agency. Impressions are made on people you know, and despite what their self-interest might dictate, with the passage of time, good impressions last and with that eventually you will win through.
I remain a friend
In another setting, having to accommodate the irritable and uncouth drew on the deepest reserves of patience and tolerance. You refrain from the bitter riposte and eliminate the tendency to use an engagement to foment the irrational like you might excuse the occasional rant of a drunk who says the most untoward things just because you see a bigger person unfortunately overtaken by drink.
The drink, in this case, was some physical pain, some stress and exasperation, and though I am sad that such behaviour was exhibited, I know in my heart of hearts that I like the person a lot more than that. Maybe in due course, something positive will come of it, friendships established on a firm ground would weather the storms of self-absorption.
It is the deed that matters rather than the words, in whatever we do with the relationships we cultivate, may we always find every way to foster then best in ourselves and in others that speaks to the heart, saying, “I remain a friend,” if you still want to be a friend.