Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nigeria: Time to bring accountability to sexual assault in all forms

Let’s talk about sexual assault
Two very notable and important stories appeared in recent weeks and pertained to accountability coming to men who had either been accused of or indicted of acts of sexual assault. The men concerned due to recent events were about to assume high political or academic office and it is my hope that neither do, as a sign that we are beginning to recognise that sexual assault in whatever guise is unacceptable and punishable too.
I did not comment much on any of the cases in particular, but I had decided to write about that one that did not hit social media like a storm, eliciting commentary from all and sundry, reflecting how society still finds itself scandalised to the point of silence, acquiescence and the acceptance of sexual assault as the norm.
Not knowing how to begin the blog for days, I let the idea percolate in my mind until this morning when through a direct message on Twitter, I was asked my views about the rape story and the following messages formed my impressions of the matter.
Expressing an opinion
I am more interested in the UniUyo sexual assault one which I have been trying to write about, but in a few tweets yesterday, I expressed my frustration with how victims are victimised many times over if they share their ordeal.
I believe a young girl was taken advantage of by people who had an entitlement to impunity and the audacity never to be made accountable because of their status and how society protects them from sanction.
I guess my blog has begun.
To the comment that the current case was confusing, I responded.
I am not confused at all. Consent has a wide spectrum just as rape does. A student can consent to sex with a lecturer under duress with the threat of failure, whilst the student willingly engaged in the act, the method of obtaining consent comes into question. In my view, an act in the rape spectrum has occurred whilst the law terms it sexual harassment.
With power and influence the poor girl was trapped in a situation she had no control over, she was already on a slippery slope to sexual assault the moment she encountered dishonourable men and they took advantage of her naïveté to satisfy their lusts.
That this what I have to say in general about the case that has consumed social media as I begin to discuss the one pertaining to the University of Uyo.
This abuse of power was egregious
I was interested in the University of Uyo sexual assault case because, the man at the centre of the issue is now the prospective vice chancellor and the outgoing vice chancellor, Comfort Ekpo has asked for this appointment to be suspended until the matters at issue are properly resolved.
As it transpired, Enefiok Essien allegedly demanded sexual favours of Linda Onyebuchi Essell who was accused of examination malpractice by the then Mr Essien who is now a professor in 1995. However, it appears Mr Essien might have gotten his way at some time and then threatened to ruin Ms Essell’s academic career if she did not accede to his proclivities.
Invariably, having manipulated the university system against Ms Essell and the courts found that he was involved in utterly reprehensible and disreputable conduct, having stood as accuser, judge, jury and executioner leading to Ms Essell’s expulsion from the university in 1997, one must commend Ms Essell for fighting her case through the courts to win at the Federal High Curt and the Court of Appeal in 2005.
Does anything matter here?
Her victory set aside her expulsion and she eventually went on to complete her degree at the same university, but the court also found and indicted Mr Essien for forgery and sexual assault. It is staggering that a man with such as reputation slur should have remained in academia, been promoted through the system as a professor of commercial law and had become the dean of the faculty of law at the University of Uyo.
It is either both reputations and indictments count for nothing or victims of sexual assault, no matter how egregious especially when it also involves the abuse of authority, power and office are irrelevant in the scheme of things.
Either way, it is astounding that any man accused of forgery by the indictment of a high court, even if he was presumably absent in the UK working on his Ph.D. will be considered for higher office on the one hand and that he on returning to Nigeria will do nothing to clear his name.
This smacks of complicit ineptitude
Professor Kimse Okoko who is the pro-chancellor of the university and headed the committee that appointed Professor Essien the prospective vice chancellor of the university says he only received notice of the standing indictment after the appointment was made, which really beggars belief, because the university and Mr Essien were co-respondents in the cases brought by Ms Essell, and it was the university that took the case to appeal where they lost again and had to rescind their decision to expel Ms Essell.
Now, either the university is completely lax in record keeping that suggest a reputation-shaping case just 10 years ago was forgotten or they like society had acquiesced to the view that the powerful and prominent are never answerable for sexual assault criminality that they must be excused and the victims further victimised by further approbation and vindication of perpetrators of sexual assault.
Is there any justice in this world?
In a just world, Professor Enefiok Essien should not only be dismissed on the basis of that indictment of 2005, he should be stripped of all honours and then made to face the courts for his alleged dishonesty, abuse of process and sexual assault which I might be persuaded to belief did not just involve Ms Essell.
If Professor Essien does become the vice chancellor of the University of Uyo on the 1st of December 2015, it would be a travesty and the battle that many victims of sexual assault fight to get justice would have been setback seriously, rubbished and lost.
For the very first time, let society speak up for the victim and speak loud and clear that there is no statute of limitation for making anybody accountable for sexual assault, no matter where that person is placed in society and what time has passed since the event happen. There is no statute of limitation of the lifelong damage that is done to the body and the soul of a person violated sexually, neither should there be one for calling the perpetrator to account.
I hope she is doing well
Finally, all the laurels must go to Linda Onyebuchi Essell who challenged the pre-eminence of a system that is rarely made to account for its accounts in a country where the pursuit of justice comes at a high and almost unaffordable price to the many. I hope she is doing well and I hope her fight for justice will not only be recognised, but commended by more.
The least of all in recognition of her should be that Professor Essien is never inaugurated as the vice chancellor of the University of Uyo.

South Africa: From Sandton to Melrose Arch through Sandton

In any case
There is a more important blog I wanted to write that I have been ruminating over for days already and have not been able to write the first word of a sentence, yet it is working and forming in my mind as it is not ready to be birthed and given the light of expression.
On a lighter note, however, I hailed an Uber ride from my hotel to Melrose Arch, the driver decided to take the back roads through Sandton and it was quite revealing.
I would have loved to take pictures, but this might have been considered a security risk and probably endangered my life before I was given the opportunity to explain my interest.
Prisons of defence
Whilst I find the security at my hotel a bit superfluous and cumbersome because it requires all drivers of vehicles into the grounds sign in apart from the fact that gates are manned and have barriers, what obtains in residential Sandton is quite enhanced.
Literally all compounds have high walls topped with barbed wire fenced that I believe is also electrified. To my English mind, the affluent literally lived in the equivalent of prisons, if not fearful, at least concerned about the world beyond their walls that is violent and so far removed from wealth and access to opportunity.
The walls themselves are architectural pieces and there are some notices that suggest that there are armed response units ready to tackle any trespassers.
Overwrought oasis
On arriving at this apparently exciting Melrose Arch that exudes affluence so alien to the generality of South Africa served by many from the townships spruced up to slave in genuflection to the presumably sophisticated or nouveau riche, it looked very much like an oasis in a vast desert, the appearance of Melrose Arch from the motorway read true in reality.
I first stopped at Sunglass Hut where I asked for lens cleaners having forgotten to pack any for my journey and the store assistant quickly offered a luxury case with a refillable spray cleaner, a washable ‘Microfiber’ cloth and a jeweller’s screwdriver. Meanwhile, he offered to clean my glasses.
When it came to paying for the goods, he could not operate the till, and after fumbling for minutes, he called his boss who was out of the shop on some business and he immediately appeared to sort things out. Why Sunglass Hut needs to have a mobile phone number to conclude a transaction escapes me, and if not because I felt a bit amenable since I was paying cash, I would not have parted with any information about me.
Cavalier cravats and more
My view was almost coloured by this experience until I was accosted further on by some affable gentlemen who looked rather dandier than I was. They run the Cavalier gentlemen’s fitters shop where for once they seemed to have everything that exuded class, taste and sophistication.
They had seen me walk by and came out to compliment my dressing and even averred that they have never seen someone as smartly dressed as I come by their shop before. They had me when they said they also had day cravats. This considering that last time I asked for cravats in Sandton, I was presented with a Velcro-fastened bib. The horror.
The variety of colours and quality of the stuff, I could not resist, yet I restrained myself, I left with two beautiful cravats, and to their recommendation of getting matching pocket squares, I intimated them of the fashion faux of matching pocket squares to ties, it should never be done.
Yet, I did like the way they wore their pocket squares, much like a blooming origami rose, I should have asked to be shown how to do that. I might well be inclined to have a bespoke Savile Row suit made for South African prices made for me. We’ll see.
After shopping at Woolworths a brand that looks a bit classy in South Africa though long since extinct in the UK and probably never really related to the one that once rules the shopping precincts of the UK, I hail an Uber ride back to my hotel having learnt again of the great disparities that ail South Africa.
Postscript: I have since learnt Woolworths of South Africa is modelled after Marks and Spencer of the UK and has never been related to the old Woolworth’s brand in the UK.

Friday, 27 November 2015

South Africa: Uber despite the annoyances

Uber knows
Being in a strange city or a foreign country, apart from airport shuttles to my hotel, I have been quite confident to use the Uber taxi service to get around town.
In Johannesburg where places could be so obscure, and some addresses are at best a guess rather than a precise location, that relying on the Uber navigation aids is very useful.
However, whilst reviewing some of my journeys to and from our offices dotted around Johannesburg and the suburbs, I could not help but think I was being taken for a ride in some sort of disadvantageous collusion between Uber and the driver against me.
Uber throes
Some journeys just seemed to be twice as long in the distance without really making up for time or missing the traffic and with that an unexpected tour of the periphery of Johannesburg, the cost, no doubt outrageous.
It got to a head that I had to register a complaint with Uber about my trips, because to my mind I was being unfairly taken advantage of, either through design, some Machiavellian scheme or the quirks of technology having a mind of its own. My complaint:
I am unhappy that on a number of journeys between Randburg and Sandton, I am taken on unnecessarily long journeys via the freeway doubling the distance that would have been covered without the need for a bypass especially when there is light traffic going into Sandton.
The idea that the distance from Randburg/North Riding to Sandton should be 33km is outrageous and a total rip-off.
One would have expected Uber to provide options of the shortest and probably the most optimal journeys rather than defaulting to the longest possible marathon coverable between 2 points in Johannesburg.
I have no problems with the drivers, but between Uber and the guidance offered by your navigation systems, this customer relationship is not only badly served, but seriously fleeced too.
Please do not spam my mail box with requests for comment, just sort this matter out.
Thank you.
Uber blows
Uber eventually apologised and offered a ZAR 50 compensation that was deducted from my next journey and whilst it appears things have been a bit better, it does not half ameliorate the fact that I have been well and truly rogered and ultimately fleeced.
The additional annoyance is that for every comment I leave, I get more spam from Uber asking me to comment on my comments, I really do not have the time for more small talk, just have the service delivered with professionalism and consideration.
I guess one other thing that will not go amiss on the Uber app is giving me the list of my most recent locations and destinations as well as not generalising street names when there is a possibility that there are many occurrences of that street name in the same city.
Uber glows
On such event was where there were two Industrial Roads in Johannesburg, the one we first arrived at was not right and in one morning I had a 66-kilometre ride on Uber for what should never have been more than 18 kilometres just because I trusted Uber to know better than I did about where I was going.
Besides all this, I will still happily use Uber, even if drivers end up on the wrong side of the road and I have to hobble across the wide and dangerous Johannesburg roads, cane in hand to join my ride.
For better for worse, Uber is here to stay, it, however, should get better at precision, direction, instruction and value.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Nigeria: Let us include the rite of the autopsy in the burying of the dead

Speculation was rife
The apparently sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu who was more or less on the cusp of a gubernatorial victory has elicited much commentary on social media.
When the news of his death as we were awaiting the announcement of the electoral results first emerged, I was persuaded to overlook the breaking news and curb my curiosity for the frenzy to dissipate enough for the facts and the truth to emerge.
The only truth that has emerged from this tragic tale is that he is deceased and has been interred according to Islamic rites, everything else with regards to manner of death, cause of death and other extenuating factors has been a matter of accusation, supposition, speculation, conjecture, suggestion, rumour, innuendo and fable. This list is hardly exhaustive.
Nothing really was known
I cannot attribute anything, but in all the reports I have read, there has been mention of cardiac arrest, stroke, poisoning, paranormal activity, voodoo and all sorts of silliness. None of this helps the matter at all.
For all the enlightenment we have acquired, we tend to heighten our superstitious predilections at times of birth, at marriages and at death, even if our general lives are hardly lived in any recognised adherence to faith or religion and the tenets the books require us to espouse to be model examples of our belief systems to our common humanity.
Now, I have no medical training, but the most recent pictures of the man depicted an unhealthy pallor, very much like that of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua when he ailed with nephrological complications that led to his demise.
Besides looking overweight and other deleterious conditions that might evolve from that, it is very likely that there is a clear-cut medical condition that resulted in the man’s death.
Bound to ages gone
Yet, as we live in the 21st Century, our lives and livelihoods are majorly trumped by belief systems, traditions and cultures that have not evolved for many quincentenaries, that we fail to benefit from the knowledge, logic, reason and developments that have brought humanity to the amazing modernity and comforts of the present times.
One such area we fail to deploy at death is medical examination and autopsies, the advances in modern medicine can in most cases determine the cause of death, not only to put beyond doubt the rife speculations that surround a sudden death, but such knowledge in either a minor or major way can also help the living.
Knowledge from deaths
In cases of cancer, it might cause survivors to check if they might be susceptible to the same  type of cancer especially if there is a genetic predisposition to it. It might aid medical science in know what to look for if anyone presents symptoms that might lead to complications. This is a valuable knowledge that goes beyond the individual and the present tragedy to the greater good of humanity.
Part of what has given medicine the tools to treat many ailments has come from the study of the dead and much as it has from observation of the living. It is sad that one only has to leaf through the pages of a Nigerian newspaper to read obituaries of many of died of a brief illness. The brief illness is a catch-all term that covers everything from a fatal asthma attack, through epileptic fits to cancer discovered so late that nothing could be done beyond providing palliative hospice care.
Bringing reason to belief
Whilst there is nothing wrong with being religious, we allow religiosity to becloud both judgement and reason. In the absence of a modicum of reasonableness compounded by grief and loss, we accentuate a fanatical tendency to fatalism, providence and destiny allowing the burning questions to remain unanswered in submission to the primordial where ignorance becomes the cradle of bliss and succour.
Whether, there is a soul or not, once the force that animates and enlivens the body is gone, we have just a body in the process of decay and disintegration. We must respect the memory of the person departed and treat the body of the said departed with dignity, but there is no rule created in anticipation of the modern times that prevents gaining knowledge from an autopsy.
The rite of the autopsy
In times past, there were probably no means of preserving the dead, the Egyptians of old used mummification and embalmment for their pharaohs, other cultures found burial, cremation or some other means of disposing of their dead. Yet, we attach ourselves to age-old customs at our convenience when at other times we desperately avail ourselves of the benefits of medical science.
We need to rethink this clash of options and the time has come to include the autopsy in the burial rites and have civil law demand that where cause of death is inconclusive or death is sudden, internment will not proceed before medical examination, else the body will be exhumed for final determination.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

South Africa: Chance encounters of the uncouth kind

Chance encounters
As a lone traveller and guest in a hotel, I would normally go down to the restaurant with some reading material, usually a magazine. However, I might be fortunate enough to meet another guest and strike up a conversation.
However, at breakfast yesterday morning, having placed my magazine on a table and gone to make tea, another guest took up the table to the right of mine, seeing the magazine, picked it up, had a brief look and put it back.
Not a likeable person
When I returned to my table, I said hello and before we could commence a conversation, an acquaintance of his passed by and they disputed about some matter that required the other person send him an email since the day before which he did not and the exchange degenerated into belittling him and calling the other man ‘full of shit’.
From there, he descended to stereotyping black people as unreasonable and unreliable, that he had never met a black man that either delivered or kept his word. Addressing me, he asked why black men were always like this.
I answered, back saying he should expand his circle of acquaintances because my job is primarily based on delivering on projects apart from the fact that I always keep to time. I then attempted to educate him on cultural differences between the West and other places where time is based on season and convenience rather than on strict adherence to the hour and minute hands of the clock.
Tempering bad sentiment
He should know by doing business in Africa, the cultural differences and adapt to it. At which point he said, he knew two black people who were quite impressive in their attitude to agreements and time before letting on that he had a meeting with a number of white people that should have started hours ago, but they had not yet arrived. I guess that just affirmed the point I made earlier about the issue of the cultural issues of adherence to agreements and time.
The conversation moved on to other things as he observed that I had a Wiko phone which was a competitor to a phone that he had exclusive rights to distribute in South Africa. He was garrulous and in many ways uncouth, the kind of Englishman that irritates abroad with a sense of superiority that needs to be challenged.
A working class oaf pretending to standards and class abroad when at home the only things he might have plenty of will be the gift of the garb, money and the same shit he said black people have. When he learnt I am English too, he toned down his nonsense, I was saved much of additional tripe when another of his ilk appeared and their banter assume a tone best left out of hearing.
They disparage in packs
Later on, I went out socialising in some drearily dark scary part of Johannesburg that I doubt I will return to again. My arranged taxi ride back to my hotel was not available, so the club recommended an alternative service.
As I got my jacket, a group of four men arrived and the mouthiest of the lot saw me and made a rather disparaging remark about me in a language, they all thought I did not understand.
They continued in their banter of sighting people and finding something uncomplimentary to say about them as I watched and smiled before I said in that same language they thought I did not speak that ‘I have travelled the whole world and now I have come to meet Yoruba folk here.’
The shock and horror of realising that their bad attitude was observed and understood was interesting to watch as they made to apologise. It did not matter, I have seen this kind of behaviour many times before amongst the Yoruba and this might be because I do understand the language, and it might well be prevalent in any other ethnic group that believes they cannot be overhead or understood.
There’s always a better way
Yet, the other prejudicial part of this kind of behaviour is a kind of prissy superiority complex that thrives of disparaging and belittling others in order to feel good within oneself. It suggests a low self-esteem with a tendency to bullying others if the opportunity arises.
Genuinely, self-assured people with confidence rarely have the time to belittle others when more can be gained by helping others be better expressions of themselves. Even if there is much opportunity to insult or abuse, there is a better path if one can find encourage, praise and good advice to give.
However, in the two cases above, entrenched preconceptions close the mind to new experiences, stereotypes colour the view and deny the person the wholesome experience of seeing people as uniquely individual even if they easily fit into a group.
In South Africa, many of these elements of prejudice and cultural adjustment show, people lazily belong to group and class, then someone with a completely different cultural outlook and perspective upsets the accepted norms by not subscribing to the stereotype. It can make for interesting conversation and I have had a few of those.