Saturday, 6 February 2016

Nigeria: President Buhari, get to work and honestly, shut up!

Just a few black sheep
In some tweets and probably some blogs I have railed about how certain Nigerians resort to criminal enterprise in Diaspora. It is sad that the activity of those Nigerians eventually has a deleterious effect on the lives of other Nigerians once a stereotype is created from the few events, usually borne of the reportage that follows.
For every few black sheep Nigerians involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud, swindles, corruption and other crimes of reputational impact, there multitudes of Nigerians who as world citizens dispersed around the globe living decent, honest, valuable, amazing and commendable lives in their communities bringing pride and showing exemplary conduct.
Archaic at best, ignorant at worst
In a recent visit to the UK, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have expressed opinions of an archaic, ill-informed and frankly ignorant nature about his fellow citizens abroad, having failed to qualify his statements and thereby unwittingly and unforgivably besmirched the reputation and integrity of the Nigerian majority in Diaspora.
There is no doubt that in his words, “We have an image problem abroad and we are on our way to salvage that.” But that is hardly the whole story. [The Telegraph]
He went on to say, “Some Nigerians claim is that life is too difficult back home, but they have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking, I don't think Nigerians have anybody to blame. They can remain at home, where their services are required to rebuild the country.
The potential never realised
We need to break this down, I have been in Europe a total of over 30 years, I was born in the UK, we returned to Nigeria after the civil war and the promise and ideal that was Nigeria for the decade of the 1970s became a rapid decline in the 1980s, a good few of us left Nigeria, disillusioned young men and women as the 1980s closed and we got into the 1990s and that with much reason.
Whilst things might not have been difficult for me in general, things were made difficult by a system that neither celebrated merit nor honesty, there was a rent-seeker down the chain of every attempt to do anything in the public and the private sector that expected a backhander, it was suffocating.
Others experienced worse, university courses stunted by incessant strikes, job opportunities going to those who could peddle the right sort of influence, people persecuted for being different, insurrection and militancy creating impossible living conditions and in the words of a friend that recently left Nigeria, “We keep hoping for the best for the nation but when the government does not think it criminal to owe its employees’ wages, the employees have to look for another means of surviving.”
This is ill-informed
The President seems either blinkered, myopic or indifferent to the plight of the Nigerian majority suffering at home to come over to the UK and pass unqualified and unfair judgement on Nigerians abroad, on the basis of the infractions and the criminal enterprise of a few.
Indeed, Nigeria can do with the services of amazingly resourceful, knowledgeable and expert fellow countrymen, but there must be an unbreakable contract in the provision of this service, the most important of this is paying promptly for the products and the services; extending to employee rights, the duty for employers in all sectors to pay salaries in full and on time, the prospect of career development, the right not to have to work in exacting conditions of abuse, disrespect and forms of bonded slavery.
People leaving school should know they have a possible work life in Nigeria that would exploit their potential to the fullest. The issue of infrastructure needs to be addressed with the engagement of Nigerian talent in roads and transportation, power, health, education and other areas of development.
That war on corruption must be prosecuted to the fullest extent and the looted funds ploughed back into the economy, the insurgencies and militancy need to be contained for the regions affected to see development and much else.
Get to work and honestly, shut up!
President Muhammadu Buhari has his work cut out, the greatest of which is restoring the promise that Nigeria once was at her independence and rewriting a contract of citizenship with Nigerians that shows we have a place and a stake in Nigeria. He is not going to get far with insinuation and vituperation masquerading as frank patrician talk to the foreign press, it is just bad form.
What comes into Nigeria from Diaspora is great and not to be belittled, yet, until the project that is Nigeria heads towards a greater prospect which is for his leadership to conduct and direct, the exodus from Nigeria will continue and for good reason, we all have one life to live and everyone wants to make the best of that life regardless of where that can be done, for some, it is outside Nigeria.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

There was only one Dick

Time and tide
As one grows old with the passage of that thing that never stops called time, the memories come and go of things that have gone before.
For me, there is much else to ponder for my mental capacity to remember and recollect, the recall of dates and events from the auspicious to the inauspicious that I hopes that this does not become as ritualistic as it could be defining and debilitating of the security of reason and the reasonable.
Yet, one must be reminded of those who have crossed our paths and made significant contributions of friendship, of love, of joy, of comfort and of much else that gives life true and enduring meaning.
Memories of one
It is in this vein that I remember a very dear friend, who six years ago died quite peacefully at home having lost a battle against cancer.
I was called the day after he died and I was fortunate to see him lain in his bed, in his own home, dressed very smartly as if preparing for a very formal outing, almost lifelike but not breathing, his journey, his pains, his labours and his concerns meaning no more to him, for he had gone to another place.
A goodbye forever
As I stood by his bed, I wept silently and whispered a goodbye to him, I had to return again to see him before we buried him five days later on what would have been his 58th birthday.
Nothing could have prepared all of us his friends from far and near for his passing, but we all gathered on that cold Monday morning to celebrate his amazing, giving, loving, considerate and gregarious life before he was committed to earth.
For each and every one of us whose life was touched by the grace and favour of Dick van Galen Last, we remember him fondly, he is sorely missed, but never forgotten.

Adieu Dick, rust goed.

Friday, 29 January 2016

An appeal: My sister, Feyike is fighting end stage renal disease

My sister, my daughter
One strange evening in a moment of unusual mother and child interaction and that was probably the first and the last for a long time, my mother called me into her room and told me in confidence that she was having a baby at 40.
Until that time, my youngest sibling who is now noticeably obstreperous was already 6 years old.
The arrival of Oluwafeyike was not particularly auspicious for me, I did not attend the naming ceremonies of my last two siblings, besides I was a somewhat problem teenager looking for ways to be away from home and I literally had ceased permanent residency from the age of 10, this was final by the time I was 19.
The almost 17-year gap between us, Feyike or 'our little mummy' as we nicknamed her, had her implicitly as my daughter, though I took no responsibilities at any time to act as overbearing big brother or 'father'.
Many life issues
Soon, I learnt that she had health challenges and she was in and out of hospital, something to do with her kidneys and the body's ability to rid itself of impurities. I was not taken into confidence about most of this detail, I was just expected to play some ill-defined part on fuzzy filial affinity.
With time, medicine and extreme religion on the part of my mother brought some respite, she had seasons of wellness and occasional relapses.
She as the last child and I as the first were preoccupations of my mother, God bless her, as we travelled to temples and grottos, seeing prophets and shamans, engaging in all sorts of rituals to find solutions to first my psychological health problems and then my sister's life-threatening physical health issues.
This she did, running a secondary school, trying a distribution business, raising 6 children and always as it seemed to me, fighting for her marriage from the moment I noticed I had parents.
Where we are now
As a first child, I was privileged in many ways, however, it goes without saying that Feyike as a last child with her attendant condition, was to an extent spoilt.
With a bit of discipline and common-sense actions, her condition could probably have been managed, but we are where we are now, with complications of end stage renal disease and anaemia that will require a kidney transplant.
She ideally should be on dialysis thrice a week, but we can barely afford it once a week. Without the removal of waste products and excess water from her blood, we have had a psychotic episode, difficult to understand until I read up on some of the symptoms of chronic kidney disease.
My appeal
I having once come through cancer, I can well appreciate and understand the seriousness and urgency to find a lasting medical solution to this condition.
Therefore, I am appealing to you all who read this blog in whatever way you can, to help and contribute towards the fund for treatment and kidney transplant that Feyike requires in Nigeria.
The breakdown of costs are as follows:

We have opened a GoFundMe account to receive donations towards her treatment, and your generous donations will be greatly appreciated.
She brings love, fun and joy into our lives and despite her challenges, is well in the prime of her life at 32.
Thank you for your help.
With the kindest regards,
Akin Akintayo.

The accompanying letter from her medical consultant:

Monday, 25 January 2016

Thought Picnic: On a journey they cannot understand

Understanding my journey
As I was reviewing my Facebook timeline yesterday, I came a across a quote that I could relate to in every way, with respect to being afflicted and maybe not so much as it reflects on others.
I have paraphrased the quote a bit and having done a search, the providence is unknown.
Not everyone will understand your journey. That's fine. It's not their journey to make sense of. It's yours to live your own life.
My own journey
My journey as a life has been easy at the start, exciting at other times, interesting and intriguing at certain points and I dare say, difficult and challenging in the recent past.
My journey has literally and exclusively been mine even if I have walked part of the way in company or have been helped along to the way to reach the milestones that dot the road to a destination yet unknown.
Many parts of the journey some fully appreciate and other parts people are literally completely clueless, they are the secrets and recesses in life that have happened and become what I usually refer to as the story.
My hidden journey
Most interestingly, the greater part of my journey is literally unknown to my blood relations. For the affinity we might have, the truth is they cannot even begin to understand the difficult and challenging parts of my journey. Where some might have been interested in my journey, they seem to have a path they expect me to ply to a destination they have chosen and hope that I put my vehicle on that road without quibble – one such journey is the one of marriage.
I put paid to that suggestion in one clear statement in a conversation with my dad a few weeks ago, I categorically stated, it is not my life, the vehemence with which I made that statement seemed to both shocked and have effect, but it might well not be the end of that matter.
There were parts of that conversation that felt like checking if my balls had already descended into my ball sack, the ignorance of three decades of this journey will provide accommodation for disrespect and contempt, it comes with the territory.
My private journey
The truth is, the parts of the journey that they even think they know is hardly the journey that was my reality, there are elements of depression and sexual abuse that I have only better understood long after I was a victim in the care and the protection of people assigned to care for us.
However, one journey that has never been understood at all is the one where my life was almost extinguished by cancer in 2009 and the process of losing everything within three years of that.
They might have an inkling, probably an idea, but hardly the knowledge not the experience. It is not like anyone asked the questions that will elicit the responses that will intimate them of the reality of things. Yet, if this knowledge were shared unprompted, it will almost read like a pity party.
My unknown journey
Then again, in my leaving one of my homes, for my homes are many, I probably abandoned them and conversely, I should feel no hurt even when in my hour of need I felt I was somewhat abandoned. A stoicism and desire to chart my own course has always driven most of what I have sought to do and so in my rise and my fall and my rise again, I am just living my own life.
The truth is, they probably will never understand my journey, I do not expect them to understand any part of my journey, but where conflict does arise is where in their journeys which for each individual is unique and different, they forget that as long as you are not walking in the same shoes, on the same road, with the same mind and in the same person as the other, you might catch a glimpse of that journey, but you may still never make sense of that journey.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Nigeria: Don't ignore the Dambazau shoeshiner skit

Surely, this is the past
There was a time one might have mistakenly thought that the time of egotistical megalomania had passed with the exit of the unconscionable kakistocracy that held Nigeria at the throat up until the end of May 2015, but some habits do die hard.
What has come on social media is a video of Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau enthroned at some function and being waited on by possibly an armed orderly, that some suggest is an officer of Nigeria’s secret police, the State Security Service, who stoops to clean the minister's shoes.
This should never have happened
Now, there is no telling what Abdulrahman Dambazau might have stepped into whilst arriving at this function, but whatever it might have been, he could have easily have found a private place to clean his shoes. Alternatively, since one cannot put it beyond, very important pricks, sorry personalities in Nigeria, he could have travelled with a coterie of assistants that would ensure he had a second pair of everything to hand, just in case there was a need for changes.
One must not rush to judgement on the viewing of the video, yet there is a lot revealing about it that makes one very uncomfortable and rather sad.
A crude alabaster box re-enactment?
As the person approaches and lifts the shodden foot of the ‘honourable’ minister, you notice that apparent indifference of the man, literally paying no regard to the minion who had become the accidental shoeshiner and on cleaning the first shoe, the minister lifts his second foot for a dusting, unperturbed and concentrating on the distant activity that he was invited to attend.
It makes one wonder if this was some crude Nigerian version of the breaking of the alabaster box where an apparently very sinful woman visited Jesus Christ at a function and humbly anointed his feet with expensive perfume wiping his feet with her hair. Whilst some objected to the activity, Jesus fully acknowledged her and blessed her.
There is nothing in this activity to compare the status, the honour, the person or the dignity of Abdulrahman Dambazau to Jesus Christ as to warrant this level of obsequious subservience even if he is a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Let’s speak up against abuse
Besides, it saddens one that for the fear of men and other breakdowns that lead to the abuse of staff by bosses and employers who corral their staff into activities as highly paid bag-handlers to do menial jobs to burnish their atrocious egos, no one objected and the minister in a moment lacking in empathy and character could not be bothered to show the slightest appreciation which is poor form at best and quite reprehensible, if not contemptible.
We have always had this problem in Nigeria, with people who have been given responsibility that have chosen to exert it with irresponsibility, from the kings of old who never spat to the ground but in the mouths of human spittoons through the aggrandisement and excess of the overly flamboyant Finance Minister of the First Republic, Festus Okotie-Eboh [The pictures tell the story] to politicians who have lost the ability to reflect that all positions are ephemeral when called to serve.
One hopes
It is my hope that Abdulrahman Dambazau will reflect on this episode with a sense of humility and in doing so adjust his egotistical propensity towards one of a person who acknowledges the burden of leadership, service and the example he represents for this government before we sink into another morass of unconscionable kakistocrats, and worse for him, that he be remembered for this and nothing else.
We all forget that we live in an age where nothing happens in private anymore, anything that is viewable is recordable, even by stealth and it can be easily made available to view by the whole world in seconds. It is unlikely, regardless of the backstory that people will view this with sympathy and in the end, it is causes unnecessary embarrassment for all, we are better than this.
The great deeds of men are usually written in sand and their misdeeds are mostly engraved on stone.