Wednesday, 29 October 2014

#WhatDoesBHWant? A Q&A with @ContactSalkida about #BokoHaram - 01/11/14 at 8:00PM

8:00PM on Saturday 1st November 2014 – Nigerian time.
The plan
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim and Akin Akintayo have been invited to moderate a Q&A session with Ahmad Salkida about Boko Haram, its ideology, its operations, the violent onslaught and other difficult to understand activities of the sect.
Boko Haram is crudely translated to ‘Western Education is forbidden’ and officially known as Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad).
To many of us, what Boko Haram does is just purely unfathomable madness, yet, I would suggest that for centuries we never understood what madness was, what caused it, why people were affected and what impact it had on people society would suggest are mad.
Explaining the madness
With the development of psychiatry and psychology, we have a better understanding of madness, or rather mental illness and in some cases medicine and therapy has provided the means to manage it and probably suppress the very lunatic episodes.
With that thinking borne in mind, I want to opine that Ahmad Salkida who has written extensively about Boko Haram is like our psychiatrist, the expert who can explain the madness that appears to drive Boko Haram and bring some understanding to the issues that hopefully would help us contain and probably neutralise the menacing and marauding activities of Boko Haram.
Our frustrations
Going into the 7th month, the Chibok Girls are still in captivity, the #BringBackOurGirls movement is unrelenting in their protests, carnage has destroyed life and property, states have been under a State of Emergency for over a year and yet, Boko Haram seems to run writ large on Nigerian sovereign territory.
With every engagement with the Nigerian armed forces, we are left us none the wiser about who is winning, who is losing, what agreements have been reached if a ceasefire exists and whether there is any justice or peace at the end of all this.
Ahmad Salkida will bring some insight and hopefully some enlightenment in this objective forum, and this is something we need within the turmoil of confusion and uncertainty about terrorism in Nigeria.
Thank you.
The Rules
In offering to moderate this Q&A session, these are the ground rules.
1.   The Q&A session will kick off at 20:00 hours on Saturday the 1st of November 2014 – Nigerian time, which is 19:00 GMT.
2.   All questions should be in clear and plain English and must use the hashtag #WhatDoesBHWant
3.    Every enquirer must exercise the best of manners - be civil, be polite, be respectful and be friendly.
4.    Every Question must be in the context of learning and understanding #WhatDoesBHWant, we will not digress from that mandate to tackle distractions.
5.   Questions that attempt to excite passions and display personal animus will be ignored, the Q&A is NOT a forum to score points or settle scores.
6.   We all have every reason to direct our anger at Boko Haram, however, Ahmad Salkida is NOT a member of Boko Haram, he is a knowledge expert and he has offered to share his knowledge and insights with us out of good faith.
7.    No abuse or aggression will be tolerated during this Q&A session, all frustrations must be tempered with the utmost self-control.
8.   We would try to have as many questions answered as possible, there can be follow on questions, but we would not revisit questions that have already been answered. At the end of the Q&A session, the conversation will be Storified and published for people to review for posterity.
We hope that all well-meaning Nigerians would participate in this discussion in patriotic good faith and we can all come away wiser and more understanding of what we need to do to end the problems that Boko Haram exacerbates on Nigeria and its neighbours.
Thank you.
Further Reading
Nigerian reporter threatened over Boko Haram coverage [Committee to Protect Journalists – March 2012]
Another Look At The Boko Haram Philosophy- Ahmad Salkida [Peace and Collaborative Development Network – November 2012]


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Thought Picnic: A history of my conservative view on drink

Drinks exposure
I might well be considered a conservative for expecting people to be able to put one foot in front of the other surely, if they are able-bodied and regardless of the hour of the day.
Generally, I do not have a palate for much drink, I did my share by the time I was 15. I had already done light beer at 10 and rum by 14, all outside parental supervision, but still with guidance.
Cancer exposure
At 15, my first job was in a brewery laboratory, I did a few things from determining the pH value of water used in the fermentation tank farms and the also measuring the chlorine levels of water used in processes around the brewery.
There were lax safety rules because, the senior lab analysts knew o-toluidine used to test for chlorine was a human carcinogen, yet they were happy for this young man to handle it without any protection of gloves or defined processes.
With time, I got to looking at dead yeast cells under a microscope, the ones stained blue were dead, we needed a ratio of dead to living yeast cells to end the fermentation process and start filtration to draw out the lager. This was all a long time ago.
Wild exposure
However, rather than acquire a taste for beer, I completely went off it. The only thing I like was called the first wort which was the first liquid extract from cooked malted barley, before the hops, sugar, salt and yeast were added to start the brewing process. It was rumoured to be a good aphrodisiac, but for a 15 year old?
The grounds of the factory were wild, I got stung twice by bees and once saw a deadly snake slither into its hole. It was no place for the faint-hearted.
Life exposure
As I grew older, where many of my colleagues became teetotal for religious reasons, mine was just because I had no palate for the stuff. Now, I am fine with wines, but mainly with meals, I never drink alone and whatever I try is with almost extreme moderation.
I know to be at home if ever I seem to get light-headed and the once I had a hangover, having had a dry sherry and a port in one night that I was utterly sickened, I have been as well behaved as saint.
I have seen drink do silly things to people, mess up their gait, loosen their tongues and strip away dignity like nothing else could. I do not know what drives people to drink, yet those who seek help are probably on the way to recovery.
Character exposure
The social drinkers however, who appear to think they have no problem and do it to excess with regularity are probably the most dangerous. They would be reckless enough to drink-drive and nasty enough to do the most dastardly things.
I broke up a friendship of 21 years when a ‘friend’ having so stupidly gotten so inebriated in broad daylight said the most atrocious things to me. I had tolerated this behaviour for years until a point that I decided I was not taking it any more. We have not spoken for over 2 years and I do not intend to renew that relationship without a grovelling apology.
Drink should never be an excuse for bad behaviour, it simply reveals what people really are, from the lack of self-control giving place to lasciviousness to utterly reprehensible conduct.
Maybe in that way I am a conservative because I have a very low tolerance for the abuse of alcohol and if you are doing that before high noon, the less said as it leaves much to be desired.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Opinion: How we sentimentally undermine our justice system

Until broke
The criminal justice system in developed democracies exists to suggest that everyone is equal before the law. It is an ideal we aspire to, but the reality is, whilst everyone can have their day in court, not everyone has competent or exemplary legal representation.
There is an often paraphrased saying attributed to Prof. Alan Dershowitz, "Everyone is innocent until proven broke."
I think he said this about one of this high-profile trials of a Kennedy scion, O. J. Simpson or Michael Jackson, either way, the respondents got off, or got off lightly.
By intimidation
In Nigeria, the reality is, justice is procured by intimidation. There is no limit on the number of senior lawyers that can represent you in court. The Nigerian equivalent of the UK's Queen's Counsel (QC) is the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
A typical high-profile case can have over 5 SANs representing the respondent and thereby in advertently intimidating the opposing counsel and the bench whilst getting the most atrocious verdicts in the process. It is a travesty in need of urgent review.
Yet a case well-argued can have a defendant literally getting away with murder. A situation that can exercise the public and lead to the mass expression of displeasure at what is put forth as justice. The system has built-in mechanisms to correct this, if the will remains to pursue such.
Avoiding sentiment
However, justice in the criminal justice system has to derive from law and statute, not from sentiment. If society cannot abide or tolerate a judgement for its harshness or its leniency, it is incumbent on the state to review, reassess and probably appeal. That is how the system works.
Once judgement is passed and the sentence served, that due to society has been paid even if the crime that elicited judgement is atrocious, despicable or heinous. Justice cannot be the domain of public opinion or sentiment in civilised societies or we cede order and peace to the mob.
I am concerned for the situation where some members of the public have initiated petitions to additionally thwart the return to productive engagement in society because they are unhappy with the crime and the supposed criminal who has served their sentence.
Undermining the role of justice
For someone not to be able to return to their profession, though influential but not directly engaged with vulnerable members of society because some people have gathered to oppose it is unfair.
It defeats the whole purpose of punishment for crimes as part of a criminal justice system that sanctions as a deterrent and the purpose of prison as a place of correction and rehabilitation for return to society.
We must be careful not to become members of a sanctimonious and sententious mob of petitioners whose busybody distractions militate against order to exercise sentiment oversight of a fully-functional criminal justice system that has fulfilled the needs of the law.

Thought Picnic: Paper bound in leather and glue

The memory from before
“It’s only a book, paper bound in leather and glue.”
These were the words of a song I heard on a children’s programme too many decades ago for me to remember who sang it or what the name of the programme was.
However, the tune and the music were striking enough for the lyrics to stick in memory that any time I remember the song, I feel like I am watching that programme again.
The book is just what it is; paper bound in leather and glue. Yet, what is written in the book might be useful or it might be useless. The evolution of the book through history is long, from cave drawings through Egyptian papyrus, parchment, animal skins, paper, printing and now petabytes of electronic data.
Words unread are nothing
The book stands as a record unaltered, words written for posterity which might be reprinted, edited or laid waste if no desired for the knowledge contained therein endures.
The words however do not come to life of their own volition, nor does the book animate like some living thing, the words have to be read and comprehended, then in the mind of those that process the words, the book gains potency in the actions or reactions of people.
The value we place on a book should be based on the derived content brought to use by the reader, properly understood in its context, setting, relevance and intention.
Where we miss these elements, the book becomes a guide for malevolence, something misread, misunderstood or misinterpreted, something read out of context, applied to the wrong setting, finding no particular relevance or pandering to the wrong motives and the seeds of destruction are sown to reap a harvest of carnage.
Wholly unholy acts
Yet, even in these modern times, we have people of the Book, religions tied to holy tomes that appear to have all the answers to life and living, read and use to destroy life, liberty and livelihood as a demonstration of power and influence.
The barely educated wielding tyranny like a deaf child being handed a loaded machine gun and at the same time shouted at to put the gun down. The danger not being in the book itself, but in how what was apparently learnt from the book is demonstrated.
That we give the books names and titles, does not change it from it physical and material constituents, and whilst the words therein might bring great meaning to some, the body should not by that suddenly become sacred, except where the words need to be preserved, and alternatives abound.
Book your context right
For instance, if I downloaded a holy book unto my laptop and then destroyed the laptop, would I suffer as much sanction as if I burnt the book? We need to be reasonable and exercise a lot of reasonableness about the things we so easily elect to have offend us.
As a repository, the book does have value, it archives and stores knowledge, but it is not the end of the world, it is paper bound in leather and glue.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Nigeria: The Collapse of Order

Collapse upon collapse
Like the head of the synagogue upbraided Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath, the contemporary head of the synagogue now threatens us with wrath, retribution and terror for asking the sensible questions. A collapse of reasonableness.
A month has passed since a building collapse claimed over a 100 lives of which more than 80 were South Africans, the many who had come on a sort of pilgrimage to Lagos to prolong their lives with the expectation of miracles bordering on magical acts for healing, peace or some particular touch of grace, mercy or favour for this man of God. A catastrophic building collapse.
The man has every right to go about his business, but it must not be at the expense of lives carelessly lost for the very likelihood that building codes were flouted and ignored. Yet, this is a collapse of institutional heft to ensure laws are adhered to.
The untenable collapses
The whole idea that some unidentified flying object hovering over the building shook it to its pulverised destruction according the head of the synagogue is as fantastic as it is risible, yet this atrocity has had no one held responsible for it. Suffice it to say, this is a collapse of reason.
Each apparent message that appears to come out from the establishment seems to put the focus on the head of the synagogue as the victim of machinations both spiritual and temporary, his own personal crisis that he intends to overcome. No doubt the collapse of accountability that is the everyday expectation of the powerful in Nigeria.
The hapless victims sacrificed to this atrocity have been labelled martyrs and surreptitiously this characterisation lends itself to exculpating the whole officialdom of the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) from any responsibility for the deaths of these people. Besides the collapse of responsibility is the collapse of real compassion for the lost.
The inexcusable collapses
The government itself has been derelict in its responsibility too by pandering to the whims of men of God, fearful of their power and followership that the law consequently grants immunity for more impunity by these demigods. The collapse of the lien of civil authority to ensure public order is kept by holding everyone equal before the law.
The president and the governor should by rights have visited the site of the disaster, but were ill-advised to have a photo opportunity with the head of the synagogue until they had established the truth about the building collapse. The collapse of discernment and discretion on the part of people who should have known better.
Besides, the visit could have precipitated a diplomatic crisis with South Africa and soured relations with them, considering South Africa was more forthcoming about the numbers of their citizens lost than the head of the synagogue who while schmoozing with the press for favourable coverage wanted them to concentrate on mentioning survivors of the mishap. A collapse of diplomatic tact considering the number of foreigners that perished in the incident, it was utterly careless.
Avoid more collapses
Sadly, if nothing is done to bring the law to bear on this event with at the minimum indictments of manslaughter imposed on the leadership and the corporate person of the (Synagogue Church of All Nations) SCOAN, we would have lost the best opportunity to show that no one is above the law regardless of whether the person is a religious leader or not, and that someone can and should be held accountable for avoidable accidents as a result of people acting unlawfully and carelessly. A collapse of our criminal justice system resulting in the collapse of justice for the victims and of judicial process.
Nigeria needs to be delivered from the stranglehold of untouchable men of God answerable to no temporal authority and thereby are deluded into acting with untrammelled licence leave destruction in their wake and leaving God to clean up their mess. Here we risk the collapse of the primacy of the secular state that applies the law equitably, expeditiously and rightly.