Sunday, 29 April 2007

The rise of the Frankenstein Sugars

Sweet headache

Years ago, I just could not understand why I was having repeated migraines for no seemingly apparent reason, then they all suddenly stopped; on reflection it was when I ran out of chewable Vitamin C tablet supplements.

It all came together when I bought some wafers from a shop and then shared the problem with a friend who had a medical background, he suggested the migraines might be diet related, probably artificial sweeteners.

So, I looked at the container of my Vitamin C supplements, the wrapper on the wafer and a few experiments of consciously taking foods with sweeteners and I nailed the culprit.

Aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester

I had never been a fan of diet drinks, so that was easy, however, I had to consciously check foods for sugar-free or low sugar content usually Aspartame marketed under trade names as Equal, Nutrasweet or Canderel and Acesulfame K used in chewing gum, drinks and all kinds of low sugar foods.

In fact, there are a whole group of artificial sweeteners that are hundred of times sweeter than table sugar but of low calorific value, saccharine happens to be the oldest of the lot.

For those who have to contend with sugar related diseases, these sweeteners for taste are a welcome substitute.

The names of these chemical concoctions are coined to instil sheer terror - Aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester for Aspartame and the potassium salt of 6-methyl-1,2,3- oxathiazine-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide for Acesulfame K - K being the potassium.

Brain tumours from artificial sweetener

However, I got a lot more worried about sweeteners even though I had discontinued ingesting them when I was trying to get an alternative booking to Paris after the Channel Tunnel fire when the travel agent was about to fleece me - the Internet came in handy as I was just as informed as they were on flight information and my rights as they were ABTA bonded.

I did a quick search for ABTA, then Netscape Navigator was the rage and I ended up at the American Brain Tumours Association where a number of studies had suggested a dramatic increase in the incidence of brain tumours since the acceptance of Nutrasweet by the FDA in the American food chain.

As usual with food science, there are claims and counter-claims, it is a minefield of information and one just has to be a bit smart about how to respond to the advice.

I bookmarked that page and refined my search with ABTA Travel, this then took me to the Association of British Travel Agents where I was able to read about my rights and sort out my travel.

The doctors not sweetened

That was in 1996 when the FDA was about to approve Acesulfame K as a sweetener and scientists were against extending the use of the chemical to other foodstuffs; the lobbyists must have sewn it up because it got approved in America and this allowed it to have acceptance all over the world too.

Recently, Dr. Morando Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation found that Aspartame which consists of two amino acids and a methanol binding agent - note methanol - caused multiple cancers in rats, however, this has brought the FDA out fighting because of possible culpability allowing what might have been a carcinogenic poison in the food chain.

A few days ago, I read in the online edition of the Daily Mail that Sainsbury's - the third largest supermarket chain in the UK - were taking chemicals out of their brand drinks and other products as more research indicates concerns about the safety of Aspartame and other sweeteners and artificial flavourings.

So the sweet chemical was to be replaced with sucralose - a low calorie sweetener made from sugar - for many people that would be the end of the story, I almost rejoiced.

Frankenstein sugars

Sucralose indeed made from sugar as scientists have found ways of strengthening the potency of sugar to between 350 - 1000 times the strength of table sugar, which makes it better than most other artificial sweeteners - it is marketed under the name of Splenda or generic Altern.

1,6-dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-β-D-fructo-furanosyl 4-chloro-4-deoxy-α-D-galactopyranoside is the chemical name, and it is produced by substituting three of the sucrose hydroxyl groups with chlorine atoms - in layman terms, sugar is chlorinated to create sucralose.

In fact the sweetness is too potent to be used unadulterated that it has to be mixed with Maltodextrin as a packing agent to be used domestically.

However, the concern is about changing the natural state of a naturally occurring substance into a Frankenstein sugar which is a chlorocarbon that bothers medical circles, another source of chlorine is added to the food chain beyond salt and chlorinated water besides the other halogenous compounds of fluorine and iodine that we ingest.

Basically, with insufficient studies and research into the long-term effects of the usage of these chemically enhanced natural substances, we do not have to worry about brain tumours as much as one can now consider organ, genetic and reproductive damage, one wonders if measuring the pain-threshold of sweetener side-effects is the benchmark for approval.

What wellbeing we give up for keeping things sweet.

Four weddings and a lesbian

Strangely not fiction

You probably have heard it said, there is no smoke without fire; well, that is the accepted wisdom in all places but the home country - it is never smoke or fire, it is usually an explosion, how and why is usually unfathomable.

News is a strange commodity in Nigeria; the truth is hard to gather, rumour and speculation is rife, everything seems to be stranger than fiction, superstition hinders objective analysis, urban legends have no time to develop because all is sudden like a miracle and impossible to investigate like waiting for a miracle.

I do, I do, I do and I do

Take for instance, a "devout" Muslim man is allowed to take up to four wives but rarely have we seen the four wives taken at one wedding ceremony; one such ceremony allegedly took place in Kano State last weekend. The venue where the event took place has now been flattened because it did not meet planning regulations apparently.

Civil law enforcement would not have been too concerned about the event but religious law enforcement using a vigilante volunteer force of busy-body people working in parallel or sometimes at odds with the police are out enforcing Islamic law and are after the "bridegroom" and brides who all seem to have gone into hiding.

Funding fo(u)r weddings

The big gathering was not a wedding, we are told by the "groom", but a fundraising event to provide for the weddings of the four brides who presumably are singular brides of different grooms, in fact, the "groom" refers to the brides as sisters and it appears "Big Brother" was just trying to help out little sisters - plausible enough, one can accept that at face value - weddings are an expensive business in Nigeria.

Those who have besmirched the name of the "groom" will find a robust counter-offensive to clear the good name of this benevolent sibling, considering the "groom" until now never knew the adjective used to describe the fiesta ever existed, talk less of the practical consequences of the noun as a lifestyle.

Only in Nigeria

Now, gender equality still has a long way to go in Nigeria, and we cannot even begin to talk about sexuality issues where homosexuality is viewed as abominable and un-African - we know where they are coming from - heap on that the concept of Lesbianism and people go into hiding, buildings fall, Islamic courts are agog and maybe we have a news story or a Nigerian farce.

So, imagine a situation where the groom is anatomically female going by the name Aunty Maiduguri and the incredible is almost drowned out by the derisive laughter around the world - It is Nigeria, where things do happen so differently, you can always expect to be pleasantly surprised, shocked or confounded.

This is not a good time for sexual orientation rights in Nigeria and it is not enhanced by this unravelling saga.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Making do with an executive suite

Almost why me

I could almost declare it official; I seem to attract situations of unsatisfactory service.

Before that, at the airport, I finally found value with my frequent flyer card, I can now jump queues at boarding regardless of the looks I receive has I halt to the air steward.

However, I cannot seem to understand the glum idiot chairman of our apartment owners collective, we were on the same flight, he simply looked through me as I acknowledged him, the same has happened even when we have been in the same lift in our apartment block - such self-importance of peasant-made-good people is always amusing.

Lest I forget, someone at the airport must have read my blog, I wish, or some more perturbed English passenger must have complained, the signs have changed from "Please keep your passport ready" to "Please have your passport ready".

No room at the inn

Anyway, I finally got to my hotel in Berlin and was met with a rather interesting but inconvenient situation, the hotel was fully booked. I did not walk to the door looking for room in the inn; I had booked this room a good 11 days before.

I sniggered and listened as the excuse of problems with the reservation system got me quite incensed, well, I was too tired to muster anger, which was good.

What do you mean the hotel is fully booked? It was booked 11 days ago, I have stayed here at least 6 times before, it had to have been obvious that a regular customer should not be faced with this kind of shoddy arrangement. Besides, I have an Accor Favourite Guest Card which guarantees my booking, so quit messing about.

In the ensuing discourse, the receptionist had offered free drinks, a night in a hotel I suspected was not worthy of my custom and a free taxi ride to and from that hotel when I returned on the morrow.

As usual they were trying to make it appear as if they were doing me a favour, I was having none of it, and I was trying to make them realise I would brook no participation in covering their mistake.

I am no tramp

So, out came the manager, as if that matters to me, the core principle still is; I am not a vexatious customer, I am just one with a requirement which I generally expect to be met.

He introduced himself and was about to go through the sorry story I had already gotten enough of again, I could not bear to hear it twice, so I told him so.

Switching to mildly aggressive negotiation mode, I told them, I would not be sleep round Berlin hotels like some tramp, I had come on holiday for four nights and I expect to spend four nights in one hotel in a very accessible part of Berlin; fix that, and peace will come upon ye all.

I advised the manager to do what he had to do and reconciled myself to the bar drowning my displeasure with a glass of orange juice - never do alcohol when you are fuming. Well, in fact, my card entitles me to a free complimentary drink anyhow.

That would do nicely

He probably had to phone round Berlin to all the hotels in the Accor group - he took his time and it was coming to 23:00 - I keep myself to Sofitel, Dorint, Novotel and Mercure preferring 4-stars or better - from my reckoning it means they bend over backwards to sort out your every issue without you having to go down to the reception desk.

He finally came up with a Dorint Novotel in the centre not far from the zoo; see, I knew these people were capable with properly persuaded and given the chance after a discussion.

I acquiesced and ended up in an executive suite for the same price, much as I could have exacted more, suffice it to say that the manager would be getting a severe reprimand from his superiors and more so, if I am of the inclination to make a complaint about how my card privileges were invalidated because of incompetence in the hotel chain.

Remember, I once had my room triple booked and one guest walked into my room as I pranced around in indecent poise.

Sometimes things just crawl

As the taxi driver opined through a journey that felt like I was riding in Fred Flintstone's car, the hotel was useless with over-bookings; since it was my first bad experience, I did not say much since I am not averse to opulence as barely acceptable compensation. The final insult was when the bell-boy gave me some discount voucher for another stay, I would get it for cheaper - I told him as I threw the voucher in the bin, I book hotels for convenience not for cheapness.

Roll over - sleep, dream and snore - zzz ZZZ!

Friday, 27 April 2007

A cad kisses a pretty woman

Oh! Brother

http://www.youtube.com/v/3oMsUtQhgH4

At the earliest opportunity they were out on the streets burning effigies, pictures and chanting all sorts of abuse.

That in itself contributes to the greenhouse gases but this also seems to be a common type of displaying displeasure in civil demonstrations in the Asian sub-continent.

And would have brought this about? Shilpa Shetty of the UK Celebrity Big Brother 2007 fame and shame was hosting an AIDS awareness event in India and she pulled Richard Gere on stage.

It transpired that after a brief talk Richard Gere took her hand, kissed it, then pulled her towards him, hugged her and then kissed her and kissed her again repeatedly as he leaned well over her.

The audiences applauded until some right-wing Hindu organisation, politicians and lawyers decided this was seemingly outraging public decency and now; Shilpa and Richard have to answer to a judge with the possibility of serving time.

Mr. Gere was no Officer and a Gentleman in his actions, he was playing out Pretty Woman to the extreme such that one felt a bit squeamish after viewing the first kiss.

The backlash is however interesting considering this is the country that gave us Kama Sutra; one would be forgiven for thinking the way India got to be the second most populous country in the world was by thinking of the birds and the bees.

Such rank hypocrisy belittles a people with a long, varied and interesting history; backward, illiterate, regressive and ignorant are words that come to mind; but they can never be used to describe India in this context, however, I might be wrong.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Rubbish elections or elections rubbish

In a week or two

Surely, the irony could not have been lost on any Nigerian, a person with a Nigerian heritage or relationship living in the United Kingdom.

The local elections would take place in a few days and the issue that is exciting the people and the campaigners is that of either collecting rubbish weekly or fortnightly.

The weekly collection deals with the issue of smells and vermin whilst in some way encouraging laxity in recycling and costing councils fortunes in landfill charges. The fortnightly collections do the opposite and the people are not happy with having to keep their rubbish for long periods especially in the heat of the approaching summer. Fair point.

Well, 4 out of 10 councils now do the fortnightly collections and there is a possibility that the Carbon Nazis would get into the heads of the administrators forcing them to install electronic chips on the bins (some bins already have them but have been vandalised) to record dumping and assess charges.

Somehow, someone is not comfortable with this revolt from the shires and is trying to make this issue become insignificant - Let's see.

Before I digress, did I see the rubbish of an election in Nigeria and an election on rubbish about to sweep the United Kingdom? Such, is the mystery of democracy.

Yes, size does matter

Smartening the ladies up

I remember one Sunday morning as I started channel hopping I happened to pause on the business channel which had offered air-time to the business of God.

The preacher at that point was skirting (an atrocious pun, pardon me) an interesting point of the difference between spinsters (an ancient word) and those ladies who had hitched their prince and then allowed the comfort zone of marriage and motherhood to replace the adjective sexy with frumpy.

He exhorted them to make a beeline to Victoria's Secret, where glamorous lingerie might just be the kindling to a relationship that was getting less interesting than ordinary.

Practical tips for change

Such practical living exhortations would do a few people a lot of good though I would not have known what to do when I approached an extended queue at a Marks and Spencer till a few years ago. The supervisor asked a free cashier to open another till where I found myself asking if I could have one with under-wire.

Well, the cashier had a name tag and title, the title read Bra Advisor; I could think of a few people I had seen who could have found her advice very useful, from the need for augmentation to the one of keeping them hidden.

Selling the unmentionable

Descending further into the satisfaction of self, a lady had a business plan many years ago, but was fobbed off with the statement that women are not interested in sex; I would not know, but the sales of vibrators had grown to 3 million a year in 2006.

When she tried to open a store in the very Catholic Dublin she got a bullet in the post, but that store is one of the top three performing stores in her business empire.

No, she was not at some seedy location, she was addressing the Institute of Directors yesterday as the head of the Ann Summers chain - Jacqueline Gold.

Finally, she had the answers to the three questions men always ask but never voice out - in her words - "Yes, I do wear our underwear. No, I do not test every product and yes, size does matter." I must have lived a sheltered life; I would not know for the life of me what the questions were and what she is talking about.

Ann Summers was my nanny.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Save us from the Carbon Nazis

The earth is changing

It is getting relentless and distracting, switch on your television and the chance is you are watching a drying up river, a depleted forest, marooned polar animals and wayfaring icebergs.

Amongst us, it is reports of severe drought in Australia, desert encroachment in Africa, floods in Asia, forest fires in America, severe hurricanes in the Caribbean or heat waves in Europe.

The sum of it all, global warming, or at least that is what we are beginning to believe it is.

We do need to do something about it, however, I do wonder if the way we are going about it has not been hijacked by a more sophisticated erstwhile membership of the anarchist Animal Liberation Front.

Offsetting your footprint

So, we have to measure our carbon footprints, reduce our carbon generating activities and consider carbon offsetting if our nominal carbon footprint is extended for satisfying out luxurious tastes.

Now, I naturally cannot sleep with my lights off or without having some sound playing in the background, I would be travelling to Berlin in the weekend and the choice between a 2-hour round-trip and a 12-hour journey is obvious if I want to maximise my holiday time, travelling by air than by train.

I would like to switch off my television, DVD recorder, video tape player, stereo player and microwave oven instead of leaving them in standby mode, but I would loose channels, time, settings such that getting the systems up and running would be an utter inconvenience, it should be manufacturers creating systems that retain all that in non-volatile memory.

Have to keep them going

Forget my fridge and alarm clock, and I need a night light; I have not been able to eat enough carrots to see in the dark. The supermarket on the ground floor brings food from all corners of the world, I am spoilt for choice and it closes at 9:00PM. If I want local produce, I have to go to the market, which is open till about 4:00PM when I would still be at work.

Supermarket food contains enough additives to keep for a while, fresh produce whilst tasteful has to be consumed sooner which means more inconvenient trips a week for foodstuffs.

Anyway, that is my selfish attitude to Global Warming, mind you, I do not have a car, and I mainly use public transport and do not directly use any fossil fuels in my house.

The march of the Carbon Nazis

But it is getting a bit too far, a whole lot of sanctimonious tree-huggers are now saying we should stop flying - now, I am no fan of no-frills air travel, they have rubbished the quality of travel one was once accustomed to hardly 10 years ago.

However, I would not squeeze into a cattle-class seat for the price of an imperial suite on QE2, it is annoying enough that the cost of flights is just 60% of taxes when it comes to European travel.

Then some people who desperately need to get a life queued up from 03:00AM for the £5.00 "I'm not a plastic bag" bag at Sainsbury's, this green thing might just gain traction if such interesting people were composted for plant nutrition.

They have also co-opted the Queen of England into this outrageous carbon trading scam, no, she would not be kayaking across the Atlantic to America, rather her courtiers would be finding ways to offset her carbon footprint - the last time I looked, though her feet were in shoes, they were hardly half the size of my long boats. Green Queen, they say - give me peace!

Gosh! I forgot, she was 81 on Saturday - Belated wishes, Ma'am.

The march of the carbon army is like some marauding pillage of our heretofore sacred liberties, that I am now screaming - Save us from the Carbon Nazis.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

I am friendly, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman

Oversight overdue

The Democrats in American Congress are beginning to take down the house that Don (Donald Rumsfeld) built, brick by brick. Do not tell me you have forgotten the erstwhile Secretary of Defense, who having been the longest serving appointee to that role and architect of two wars going places but to victory is now consigned to history.

Not exactly, the de-construction of Rumsfeld is being played back in the presence of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee as they hear of people who were decorated as heroes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were in fact not what they were cut out to be.

Saving Private Lynch

How can we forget the commando raid that looked like a rerun of Raid on Entebbe in Saving Private Lynch?

An outrageous media spin by the Ministry of Defense indicating the lady had had stab and bullet wounds and that she had been slapped about on her hospital bed and interrogated, when in fact, she was treated with the utmost dignity having the only specialist bed in that hospital and the soldiers who came to rescue her were only firing blanks.

However, for a reality show, it made good public relations, possibly boosting the morale of soldiers on a lie, Private Jessica Lynch tried as much as possible to debunk the spin and now finally had the chance before the committee to reveal that one of the greater casualties of the war is the truth.

All-American spin

I am no warmonger, though that does not make me a pacifist, if we tried to move out of our entrenched positions and converse to reach a compromise and an agreeable consensus maybe a lot more peace would be in this world, but man is sometimes like a vampire, baying for blood and until their thirst is assuaged, peace eludes all.

One was moved to the point of deep sorrow and compassion when news arrived of a young man who was about to sign on to a great professional football career but had caught the bug of going out to defend the fatherland in Afghanistan.

So much was made of this All-American hero who would give up the comforts of luxurious living for tracking down Al Qaeda and their cohorts.

In that time, there were probably many young men going about their lives who were persuaded by this gesture to sign up to this escapade for the fatherland, dreaming of coming back to ticker-tape parades after V-day in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Friendly fire

Corporal Pat Tillman did not make it back, I cannot relate this, his brother appeared before the committee and I cannot better what he said at his hearing - this is the text of what was said verbatim - "Authorities constructed not only a story of combat action -- accompanied by a silver medal - but lied about his medical care, saying he was transferred to a field hospital for continued medical care for 90 minutes after the incident, when the back of his head was blown off."

His head was blown off by friendly fire, a term too distressing to explain; where whilst in a hostile and precarious war setting a soldier gets inadvertently shot by members of his own troop.

However, the Pentagon did not just play up this falsehood; the brother who was also serving in the same area was not informed of this situation and his parents and the American Public were strung along in a deceitful morass of fictional tales to deflect focus from the Abu Ghraib scandal.

It is debatable if this manipulation of events, disappearance of eye witness accounts and destruction of crucial evidence was not sanction from the very top.

However, one witness recalls that the last words of Corporal Pat Tillman were "I am friendly, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman."

The young man knew he was done by his own people.

Accountability before irrelevance required

We have learnt that there was end to the advice given the war planners about troop numbers, executing the war, winning the peace, having conclusive and realizable goals, but the dissenters who would not acquiesce to feeding the bloody thirstiness of the neo-conservatives for war got sidelined one by one.

Chief amongst them was the soon to retire General Eric Shinseki who was the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army appointed by President Clinton.

His estimate of what was required to win the war conclusively in Iraq was dismissed by Rumsfeld - a politician - almost 4 years on, the commanders in charge said General Shinseki's estimates are proven correct.

It is important that the whole truth about how media manipulation was used to paint a completely different picture from reality be investigated and Donald Rumsfeld should be accorded the opportunity to defend himself against this malfeasance and deceitful conduct of the war before he is completely consigned to history and irrelevance.

Mr. Rumsfeld represented the stick-necked, stubborn and obstinate resolve of the Bush administration to stay a course with change regardless of the consequences and to all those who put their hands to this venture of shame should the General's words resound from now henceforth.

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" - Irrelevance comes upon these men like a billowing dark dense cloud, and not wind of spin shall blow it away.

Cow piss makes them touchable

Touching the untouchable

Moving on from untouchable subjects one finds light relief in another situation that is supposed to make the untouchable touchable in India.

Apparently, a high-caste teacher and her accomplice performed a ritual of exorcism by spraying cow urine on low-caste students in order to purify them and help them study better.

Just like Nigeria, religion holds great sway that the ability to objectively analyse a situation with God-given brains and intellect is given up for the adherence to practices and doctrines that sometimes make the mental health of the practitioners questionable.

One sometimes wonders how prayers would work if an understanding of the situation is not properly grasped, researched and appreciated - instead, we pray vacuous words of incoherence and hope the jumble would line up properly somewhere and an answer not so obvious would materialise as a miracle.

Suddenly, the warmth of holy cow water might have a better soothing effect than calloused knees.

Meddling with another untouchable

For instance, one area in which people have required supernatural intervention is dealing with cancer; many expect a flash of light or some sudden enlightenment almost too reminiscent of a night club and disco lights.

Whereas, from a medical perspective we know that cancer requires nutrients; blood, water and minerals from the foods and nourishment we take, to thrive; certain drugs are being developed to starve cancers of nutrients thereby shrivelling the growths and making treatment even more effective.

A prayer or affirmation along the lines of denying cancers of nutrients you have taken to nourish your body might just be the key to a miracle; else another cup of cow urine might serve as tonic too.

My final thought on the Nigerian Elections

Nigerians abroad

This is the final post I would write in the aftermath of the Nigerian Elections.

There is a garland of pride or burden of ignominy that accompanies every declaration of being Nigerian in Diaspora.

The early 90s were a difficult time to be Nigerian abroad, your passports were checked many times over, your word was not taken as given, our bodies violated in search of drugs and our certificates and degrees treated with contempt.

We had to do that extra thing to prove ourselves honest, reliable, capable, trustworthy and responsible.

This was as a result of both the attitudes people who had besmirched the name and honour of Nigeria here and the happenings in the fatherland.

Say you are Nigerian anywhere and the easiest thing to recall is one of 419s, a footballer or endemic corruption. At that point we all go into auto-pilot trying to prove that Nigeria is a lot better.

Ambassadors of Nigerian to the world

Every time some news comes out of Nigeria we become the point-person, the de facto ambassadors of Nigeria to the people around us.

We might be the only Nigerians they ever get to meet and we are the yardstick by which they assess Nigerians abroad against the happenings in the country.

If we ever dare to perform and excel at what we do here, they wonder why our country has the problems it has and sometimes share our disappointment or deride our misfortunes.

Many are convinced of what they see of us out here that Nigeria has talent, ability and prospects all wasted and probably better exploited abroad.

I had most of my education in Nigeria, it was based on a serious work-ethic, excellence and performance, that principle still influences my ability to be a consultant in a non-English speaking country and still thrive, hopefully, I excel in all I do.

Schizophrenic images of Nigeria

However, my colleagues all read about the elections in Nigeria and wondered aloud why that could still be happening.

I cannot explain why, but the epithet of corrupt Nigeria would be reinforced, any person entering the market as a project manager would have to elevate the discussion beyond the shoddy planning of INEC.

It would appear many in Diaspora have already accepted their lot dealing with the schizophrenic impressions of who we are in Diaspora and what we reveal as a nation.

Having spent a total of over 22 years in Europe, I am still quite passionate about Nigeria and what happens there even though by birth it is more convenient to be English and forget about it all.

What came out of Nigeria in the last two weeks would implicitly or explicitly reflect upon Nigerians wherever they are, it would also make one wonder if any of us had had the honour or even poisoned chalice of running the INEC if we would have been proud to associate ourselves with the events of the last few days.

Nigeria is not some Bantustan in the middle of nowhere, we are a country that exerts considerable influence in the world by reason of our size, our resources, and our talent and dare I say our democracy.

It is obvious which ones shine through and ones which we have refused to allow our resourcefulness to address with purposeful resolve.

Nothing new here

Finally, let us take the drama out of this issue of handing over to another civilian regime, the man at the centre of this is the same man who was at the centre of the issue 1979, he handed over to a regime that plundered the country under the seemingly benign leadership of Alhaji Shehu Shagari after the challenges in the courts that ended up in that interesting 12 2/3rds ruling of the Supreme Court.

Basically, it would appear nothing has changed, we are simply reliving history 28 years on.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Responding to a generation of low expectations

10 deep breaths

Now, I am seriously incensed, but not yet angry because I cannot physiologically manage that emotion. 10 deep breaths - Uhm! Ah! Uhm! Ah!

I just read a blog imploring the Election Monitoring Groups to shut-up followed with the usual low-expectation polemic when Nigerians prefer not to face up to the fact that we have performed poorly.

I could not resist replying to the blog which Imnakoya of Grandiose Parlour thought was a joke or some satire, I would have been taken by that; but I once read a write-up about the INEC/Atiku disqualification, it meant I could not let this opportunity pass me by or I would have done the young man a disservice.

My response

You disappoint me, four sets of election monitors declared this election as barely meeting the minimum standards of a democratic process.

No responsible project manager would run an election within 24 hours if the ballot papers for the same election were in still in South Africa. We were laughed to scorn around the world because of that and it became the news instead of the elections itself.

You forget that Nigeria is a mirror of Africa to the world in terms of democracy, transparency and prudence, none of which we managed to excel at during these elections.

With all the talent and brains that have their roots from Nigeria, it beggars belief that anyone would condone the disgrace and stupidity exhibited by our leaders as sufficiently indicative of Nigeria's greater abilities.

However, if there are people of your generation who would feed this low-expectation complex, it would thrive.

I am also a Nigerian

As a Nigerian, it is not good enough, we live in a global community, it is time to expect everything we do to stand up to scrutiny, just as you would like your Nigerian degree to be accepted anywhere in the world.

The monitors have nothing to gain, they see electioneering as a fundamental human right, and it is unfortunate that you cannot see that it is that right they are trying to defend for you and other Nigerians who had the opportunity to vote.

I should have replied and rubbished your write up about INEC and Atiku weeks ago; I wonder what your views of the Supreme Court are now?

My last emotion on writing this is still utter disappointment.

Preparing for a one-party state

The numbers are dangerous

We can safely say that the numbers peddled as results of the Nigerian Election in 2007 would be the basis for a lot more than we reckoned.

Already, people are looking forward to 4 years time and I really think that is being naively optimistic.

The ruling party has just swept about 70% of the vote for both the Executive and Legislature which gives them the ability to enact incumbency laws, gerrymandering commissions and change the constitution probably without the help of any member of the opposition.

You only have to look at the type of person who is going to the Nigerian Senate, the son, the assistant to the son and the son-in-law of Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the stark illiterate and celebrated hoodlum from Oyo State.

It only takes one idiot to look at the might of the PDP to start advocating a one-party state and that would go through the House and Senate in a breeze; just like the incoming President was able to spearhead the institution of Sharia Law in his state and the follow-ons in other Northern States.

Our Mark of the Beast

If we do not sort out this charade that is masquerading as democracy now, be prepared to be a card-carrying member of PDP to get anything done in Nigeria. We would have signed up for the proverbial "Mark of the Beast" and there would be no April 2011 for multi-party elections.

Four years is a long time in politics and plenty of time for a overwhelmingly powerful party to subscribe to the cult of eternal incumbency.

The examples of lame oppositions are rife in Africa and Nigeria is about to join that list. Africa used to have the most one-party states most of which went into decline in the 1990s giving birth to pluralism and multi-party politics, but if the state apparatus is so engrained in the ruling party it would be impossible to effect change except through revolutionary means.

We might all read this in denial, but just as sure as night follows day, we are already on that slippery slope to a one-party state, it would take a seriously disciplined executive and legislature to prevent that, if the Judiciary does not rise to claim our democracy from the tyranny of megalomania.

If I am just being a Prophet of Doom, please forgive me.

Before we lose the Nigerian elections gracefully

Understanding the rules of contest

Before we close shop and walk away from the bad situation of the elections in Nigeria, let us review some of the issues at hand.

There is an increasing tendency to accept that the deed is done to the extent that some are now being dubbed sore losers who cannot accept defeat gracefully.

Any contest should have a set of rules which are adhered to, there is a way to declare a winner through some sort of point-scoring managed by some umpire; that process should be seen to be just and fair for the loser to concede defeat gracefully and the winner take all the spoils in victory.

When it comes to the Nigerian elections, whilst the umpire in this case is INEC we have had international election monitoring observers review the process by planting independent personnel all over the country to ascertain that the voting process meets international standards.

Their conclusion is, the Nigerian election does not measure up to international standards, and this would be regardless of the reports of Nigerian bloggers whose oversight in terms of the election would be too narrow in scale and sampling to appreciate the trend towards fairness or irregularities.

Nobody is trying to do Nigeria down, rather these observers are trying to help Nigeria realise the real benefits of a democracy which by definition is the government of the people by the people for the people.

We have too long been plagued with a variant which is the government of the people by some people for their people (Read pockets and narrow interests).

One might wonder what international standards are and why we do need elections observed at all.

Quoting liberally from the OSCE Election Observation Handbook updated in January 2007, this forms the crux of what a democracy should expect as part of a democratic process.

Why Observe Elections?

Elections are a celebration of fundamental human rights and, more specifically, civil and political rights, and election observation therefore contributes to the overall promotion and protection of these rights.

A genuine election is a political competition that takes place in an environment characterized by confidence, transparency, and accountability and that provides voters with an informed choice between distinct political alternatives.

A genuine democratic election process presupposes respect for freedom of expression and free media; freedom of association, assembly, and movement; adherence to the rule of law; the right to establish political parties and compete for public office; non-discrimination and equal rights for all citizens; freedom from intimidation; and a range of other fundamental human rights and freedoms that all OSCE participating States have committed themselves to protect and promote.

Election observation enhances accountability and transparency, thereby boosting both domestic and international confidence in the process. The mere presence of international observers alone, however, should not be viewed as adding legitimacy or credibility to an election process.

Although the presence of observers may indicate that the process merits observation, it is the observers' conclusions about the process, based on the ODIHR's (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) methodology, that will form the ODIHR's opinion on the election.

Observers safeguard our democracy

Election monitoring involves being able to observe all phases of the election process this includes the preparation, the registration, access to the candidates, the electioneering campaigns, the voting process, the vote counting, the results collation, the results declaration and then allowing the winners to duly assume the position to which they have been elected.

However, what people miss about this whole electioneering process is the fact that elections are a fundamental human right in a democracy, this context seems to be missing from the minds of both the politicians and the their electorate.

It allows for politicians to think villages, towns, states or regions are theirs for the taking without contest or competition and the people acquiesce to that delusion such that their votes fail to count.

This ought not to be so; Annex A of the same reference document says "Democratic government is based on the will of the people, expressed regularly through free and fair elections."

Democratic countries must subscribe to the principle that affirms that everyone has the right to participate in free and fair elections.

The poor preparations of INEC are well-discussed and documented, the flawed gubernatorial elections of the weekend of the 16th of April and the jaw-dropping ill-preparedness for the elections of last weekend which had ballot papers still in South Africa 24 hours to elections are evident.

The verdict

However, on the whole, when the observers reviewed the whole process, the elections had fallen far short of basic international standards and were marred by violence, poor organisation, lack of transparency, widespread irregularities, significant fraud, voter disenfranchisement and bias.

That is as damning an indictment of a process that one can get in diplomatic language, noting that we did not even scrape the very basic international standards, those who think we should forget this and move on would have to reflect this matter again.

The chief EU observer went on to say, "These elections have not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be considered to have been credible."

Before we get all defensive about Nigeria and the Rome that was not built in a day, the observer has nothing to gain apart from hoping that people of our country get the government they have elected through processes that are not too extraneous to oversee.

We should be disappointed because this election was supposed to set an example for all other nascent democracies, but the lessons that would come from this would probably harden the inability-complex of many who prefer to conduct elections shabbily rather than encourage others to excel in protecting the democratic rights of their people.

Belling the cat

In the extreme, one can say with regards to the Nigerian Elections that the commendation for good work done as elicited by the Chairman of INEC is really trying to persuade Nigerians that in allowing for their fundamental human rights to be breached, abused and taken, they can be proud of having no one to lead them against this atrocious onslaught.

Who of those who aspire to lead Nigeria can stand up for the rights of every Nigerian to be able to know that whatever votes they have cast would be the votes that were counted and those that are honestly reported?

For now, there are none brave enough to bell the cat, either winners who know for sure that the elections that have rigged in their favour and have no integrity to challenge the injustice or the losers who knowing that this is the case would clog the process with the courts for their own ends rather than the principle of demanding the restoration of the fundamental human rights of 60 million Nigerians who were eligible to vote.

Because there is no one to bell the cat, we Nigerians would be lumbered with another unaccountable self-serving indolent machinery of nepotism, corruption and graft, four years on from now, would things have changed? I think NOT!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Beyond planting a suicide in the headlines

Mere mortals at NASA too

Hardly 100 hours had passed since the horror of Virginia Tech when a seriously troubled young man first gunned down two people in a dormitory, then posted a multimedia package of his thoughts to NBC and returned to snuff out another 30 including himself; another saga was playing out at NASA.

A man who had been a NASA contractor for 12 years took two people hostage and ended up kill both himself and one of the hostages. He had a bad job review, but is that all there is to it?

In the passed few months it would appear there is an underbelly of troubled NASA personnel who till recently had probably been sent to the NASA sanatorium but are some are now escaping detection and playing out their desperately flawed humanity for all to see.

There would be inquiries as to how security was breeched in a premier Ministry of Defence location, what psychological frame of mind the man was in, what triggered it and how to avoid such embarrassing shows of instability.

The fear of dying unsung

However, there is a deeper issue to be reviewed here which is now beyond the right to bear death (arms), this is the way fragile people with a grievance now seem to assuage their troubles with a suicide mission and a suicide.

Suicides occur everyday, but are seriously under-reported and they never allow for a decent professional analysis of why it happened as the fear of dying unsung and uncelebrated clouds the mind of the person. So, it has been become a standard activity in America for suicides to include innocent people in their demise as if to properly highlight why they killed themselves.

Whether that gets adequate airing as others grieve for their lost loved ones and recriminations fly as blame is apportioned all around is left to be seen. But a good study of why and the social underpinnings of what lead to the outrage and carnage has to be objectively taken to be able to see the early signs of a disintegrating human before they take out themselves and innocent bystanders.

David in Thoughts of a Naija man begins an analysis of what could have lead to the massacre at Virginia Tech.

References

Inside Cho's head

Commending the civic Nigerian

Arise, O Compatriots

First, I must commend ordinary Nigerians, for their longsuffering, unquenchable hope, infectious optimism and sense of civil duty.

The vote was arranged and despite the rotten lack of preparation and planning that would outrage any paying customer, they went out to their local polling stations queued up, waited and eventually some got served, they voted and moved on, they had done their part.

The next level of optimism is in expecting that single vote to count along with all other legitimate votes to produce the for majority will of the people, that person that has ministered the prospective best for Nigeria or the probably aspiration to improving the lot of Nigerians.

I got a feel of this expectation and hope when I spoke to my mum yesterday morning, she was half-hoping her vote would count and half-worried that whatever counts would not produce a mandate accountable to Nigerians, such that the elected once in office would go out to line their pockets as those before them.

The coverage

The BBC and CNN gave considerable coverage to the elections in Nigeria all through the day and I had a suspicious feeling that this was as a result of the shameless gaffe of the Chairman of the INEC when he let out on Friday that the ballot papers were still in South Africa.

It is interesting to note that Nigeria seemingly does not have the kind of facilities secure enough to produce sensitive ballot papers keep those under wraps till needed, for a country that has such a large number of law enforcement agents and armed forces, one would have thought; first a secret location for the activity would be found, then a rotation of personnel would keep the place secure.

However, one might surmise that those personnel could have been persuaded to turn a blind eye to highly place miscreants who want to steal the ballots, though printing the ballots in South Africa would only have put that out of sight of poor resourced bandits.

The wayward ballot

As the day began we heard about a failed attempt to blow up the INEC headquarters with a petrol tanker; I do not know the layout of the area, but one would wonder how such an important building could have be erected in such a vulnerable place at the foot of an incline. Ijebuman has a very interesting take on why the attack was not successful - it would have funny if it were not so tragic, said Chxta; it would have been tragic if it were not so funny, said I.

The ballot papers did arrive in Nigeria at 16:00 on Friday and there began the frenzy to get the ballots out to the polling stations which were to open 2 hours late. INEC even suggested the Air Force might to called upon to help get the papers out to the nether regions, well they should not have been on standby, they should have been engaged in the logistics process as a sure run.

However, a BBC correspondent only had to go to a polling station on the outskirts of Abuja to find that the papers had not arrived hours after the station were supposed to be open.

When some voters learnt that the ballot papers provided who not go round the number of registered voters, they went into a rampage, one of the violent reactions resulted in the death of a few policemen.

Forbearance and patience is giving way to frustration and that gets taken out on hapless officials who have to stretch resources to accommodate the criminal failings of the centre.

All lights come from CNN

When the vote ended, the shame of it all was exposed with an innocuous news item on CNN, the ballot enumerators were seemingly counting in the dark and the lights from CNN were used to help them do the tallies - Why? The most critical infrastructure problem in Nigeria which is the distribution of electricity had failed at a point where Nigeria's great democracy was being exposed to the world.

In secondary school we had lanterns for nights when the light were out, the enumerators could have been given high luminosity lanterns - the quip the the followed the report highlighted the long trail of un-preparedness that the Chairman of INEC would eventually come out to declare a success.

One Ambassador Young appeared on CNN in an interview and tried to equate the irregularities in Nigeria with happenings in Florida 2000 and Georgia, the interviewer did not buy any of that trash.

Religious men or men of integrity

This brings me another issue, about the vote and the progress of democracy. When I called home the undercurrent I received in terms of who people would vote for was that everyone wanted to vote for a godly man.

In fact, it was not so much a godly man because that is a representation of character but religious men, people who wear their religion on their sleeves, whose every waking word includes God vouching for their every deed but whose reality is probably a deceitful lip-service that counts for too much in Nigeria.

It occurred to me that what we really need are men of integrity, honest, truthful and with a sense of responsibility and duty regardless of if they go to Church everyday, pray at the mosque 10 times a day or make chicken sacrifices to animist gods in the deepest jungles.

Basically, religion does not make an honest man, however, if it forms the basis of the principles that guide a man of integrity that is fine. Unfortunately, a lot of religious people would be voted for and if there be a man if integrity amongst them, hopefully that person also has a deep sense of responsibility to know that it is call to serve the people.

Nobody is building Rome again

Rome was not built in a day we hear, time and again, my question is who is trying to build Rome again? That Rome has come and gone and new Rome exists hopefully built on the lessons of the Romes of the past.

In the same vein, nobody goes about reinventing the wheel; we take the same principle and apply to the unsophisticated push cart, the bicycle or expensive automobile.

Why is it that when it comes to democracy in Nigeria we cannot take lessons from other democracies and brains from the conduct of elections even in places like South Africa and Ghana, probably India or the new democracies of Eastern Europe, perhaps the young democracies of Spain and Portugal?

I left out America, Australia, Canada and the UK because the countries mentioned have hardly practiced democracy from more than 60 years, in fact, most have been doing so in the last 10 to 30 years.

Using the experiences of others

It is not as if we do not utilise the best technologies in our banks and business or use the best gadgets to make life easier in Nigeria, at least during the voter registration exercise some bloggers commented about the use of fingerprint technologies.

If for our individual and business good we adopt all these methods, process, procedures and technologies why should the most important common good of Nigeria be left to expectations of poor performance and everyone subscribe to the excuses rather than a clear determination to do things right having learnt lessons and acquired expertise from those who have done it successfully before?

We cannot continue to rely on the hopeful miracle of everything turning out right when adequate planning can do a lot to ensuring that everything does turn out right.

Meanwhile we wait for the legitimate count of the votes, but if 24 instead of 25 presidential hopefuls appear on the ballot papers, we would be doing this again very soon - If the keeps bottle anger permanently corked is another matter entirely.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Last testament Feng shui

Flower arrangements

Many a time, one has been quite dismissive of the Western adoption of the Eastern practice of Feng shui. Fundamentally, it is simply interior decoration for those consumed with superstitious foreboding hoping that right flower arrangement and placement of stool would be a good channel for luck.

Now, I would now pooh-pooh the practice, it works for those who believe in its efficacy and bully to them.

However, this become interesting because the once richest woman in Asia, Nina Wang who died on the 3rd of April having battled with her father-in-law for the fortune of her husband who was abducted in 1990 and never seen again.

She built the business after his disappearance into a large conglomerate but was known for her eccentricity and thriftiness; she normally dressed up like a teenage school girl and preferred fast-food outlets to restaurants.

Will you sign?

A few years ago, she made a will to benefit a charity, since she had no issues and her fortune was an estimated $4.2 billion and that is quite a largesse.

However, until her more current and disputable will was read two days ago, it was not clear what relationship she had with her Feng shui guide and fortune teller - Chan Chun-chuen who becomes the main beneficiary of the Wang estate with the commendation from Mrs. Wang that he fully understood her personal philosophy.

I, being one who has scoffed at charlatan fortune tellers who seem to see everyone's misfortune but none of their own good fortune, this is an interest diversion from the norm because this fortune teller has come into great fortune, though I wonder if he has seen if he would win through the courts.

Meanwhile, back to the practice of arrangements called Feng shui, even a last testament requires for an expert to advise you about where to sign, especially if you are signing it off to your fortune teller.

Sitting here in limbo

After death, then what?

I am no expert in paedo-theology, the religiosity of the unborn or the spirituality of the foetus, but a document released by the Vatican International Theological Commission brings this topic into new focus.

Obviously, there are dogmatic differences between Christian denominations on the matter of infant baptism and the issues of salvation before or after death, the posthumous expectations do matter a lot to those still living.

In contemporary terms, we view limbo as a place of undecided and unresolved situations, Catholic Theology has viewed it as a place not in heaven and definitely not in hell, but an almost there place in view of salvation but not entering into the presence of the Almighty.

The doctrine of the dead child

The Catholics have also agonised about the spiritual status of the aborted unborn child or children who die before they are baptised - this has varied from outright damnation to an almost heaven place.

The study now aims to redefine limbo in terms of the more comfortable green room but never getting to meet the host, though there is hope.

Suffer the children

Whilst I would not deign to challenge the authority of the Pope, I would recall that his boss Jesus Christ made such an issue of asking children to His company and blessing them whilst admonishing the learned adults that flocked Him that except they, the adults became like children they would not enter the Kingdom of God.

Other preachers listeners to repent and be baptised - whilst this is no exegesis of religious dogma, a few points are clear from these issues - children exhibit innocence and dependencies of trust that are necessary to establish a strong relationship with God and baptism accompanies repentance, indicating the person who is baptised be accountable, that person cannot be an infant.

Jesus was never ambiguous about children belonging in the presence of God and this is at variance with extant Catholic teaching.

Hope of salvation

However, in what is looking like trying to bolster the social views against abortion and committing a child to a religious association they do not understand; parents in those unfortunate circumstances of worrying about the loss or the possible loss of a child now have serious indulgence-like obligations to distress the child with a baptism service lest they have to regret leaving the child in a state of near damnation but with one eye of God on the child.

What I would hate to happen is a new doctrine that emerges on the conclusions of this one suggesting that the child can be prayed out of limbo into the arms of God through the much reviled indulgences of old, thus, playing on the hopes of the vulnerable parents.

Let me say we have the makings of a new Protestant reformation brewing whilst I am sitting here in limbo.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Nigerian ballots probably in the air

The admission of flaws

The conversion of INEC into the Sultans of the Ballot and the Genies of the Vote continues apace.

Having had the President finally admit that there were flaws in the elections conducted last week is probably more a damage limitation exercise than one of sincere contrition.

It would appear some external pressure has been applied to make the government wake up to some stark realities which the President expressed in quite succinct words - The world is watching us and we cannot afford to disappoint ourselves, our friends and the world - indeed, we have all been watching how the vote that went in produced a tally of some other spurious count from which some pre-determined winner emerges, though like a fellow blogger noticed, those winners seem to go into hiding rather than come out to celebrate - Go figure!

Ballots are in the air

However, what leaves me breathless like I have just been punched violently in the belly is the response of the Chairman of INEC to the rumour that a truckload of ballot papers marked in favour of the ruling party had been seized.

Apparently, sorry, the reality is, the ballot papers needed to conduct the elections throughout the whole of Nigeria tomorrow are not yet in the country. Yes, the ballot papers are not yet in the country; they are being printed in South Africa after the outrageous politicking adventure of INEC came unstuck.

In fact, the Federal Government, earlier in the week had to release NGN 15 billion to INEC to help them handle this development which everyone but INEC knew would happen - I suppose the INEC budget had already been expended on other matters of graft and importuning than the conduct of elections.

So, INEC has just less than 24 hours to ensure that ballot papers reach the nether regions of the country such that the people have full access to the choices available which should include Atiku Abubakar, the current Vice President of Nigeria.

One can say, if the ballots have left South Africa already, then they would be in the air, just the reality of the elections being conducted with any level of professional ability would be welcome.

Candidates amiss

However, I predicted over a month ago that the Vice President's application to contest would probably be granted so late that some people would not have the choice of voting for him, allowing those whose names appear on the ballot to capture alternative preference votes, handing the Presidency to someone else, which would probably be the Healthy Sick-man from Katsina State - Umaru Yar' Adua.

The simple thing is that INEC whilst anticipating the fact that they might lose the battle to disqualify the Vice President, they did not have the contingency that the Chairman said was available to handle the eventuality that is now the current situation.

So, rather than postpone the election to ensure that all due processes for conducting free and fair elections are met, the polling booths would open two hours later on Saturday.

Only a forlorn miracle

From INEC's track record, if they had some polling booths opening 6 hours late or not at all last Saturday, having had all the time to adequately prepare, but wished for a miracle of efficiency rather than the effectiveness of proper planning; they cannot have improved enough to manage the logistical failures of last week in a better way for this weekend.

It is within this circumstance that we find Nigeria's true democracy sacrificed to the criminal mismanagement of the elections which would result in the lack of culpability for committing Nigeria to a possible state of disquiet, unrest and anarchy, just because INEC could not be bothered to do it right.

We probably should forget about counting the ballots and start counting on judges to make sure our votes count.

References

The INEC Blogs

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Does your inside leg have class?

Between I and me

Nothing excites the English more than to realise that the dormant class war has been jolted into an active volcano with pyroclastic flows of hints for the middle classes to burnish their airs of snobbery in ways that would make Hyacinth Bucket look common.

This was brought about by the break-up of Prince William and Kate Middleton whose greatest sin was to have a mother who responded with a "Pleased to meet you" than the proper, "How do you do?" and asked for the toilet when one does ask for the lavatory.

One remembers remodelling one's manner of speech to say "pardon" rather than bark out "What" considering that too rude for everyday conversation for which one could be accused of dumbing down.

The class frenzy in the papers

So, the Daily Telegraph which one finally persuaded the local newsagents to obtain for one's reading each morning went into overdrive on snippets of being proper enough to have truck loads of toffee on one's nose though not guaranteeing the dosh for readers to travel posh.

Things like laying down your cutlery whilst chewing; having guests wear morning dress to weddings and so on would have those striving to keep up with the Joneses in a tizzy.

However, the greatest putdown in the class war in contemporary times was delivered by Alan Clark when he said of Lord Heseltine who then was a mere Micheal Heseltine - a successful politician and multi-millionaire - a man who bought his own furniture.

The irony is not lost on anyone that many of those in aristocratic circles once had ancestors who bought their own furniture as would eventually never be said of Lord Heseltine's descendants.

The class of your suit

So imagine how I chuckled when I found an advertisement in the Telegraph about a tailor from Hong Kong elbowing his way into the turf of the Savile Row purveyors of formal menswear peddling the best of British cloth and cuts of class under-cutting Savile Row prices tremendously.

He is making the rounds of well-appointed hotels around England measuring up gentlemen for bespoke tailoring all the way from Hong Kong, it reads like a symphonic orchestra calling at theatres all around the country as opposed to pop concerts calling at rowdy stadiums.

Obviously, it is not proper to ask the price of anything indicating you cannot afford it, nor is it of the best manners to blatantly seek out bargains, seeing that is an affectation of the middle classes - this is suffocating as I swoon with a backhand to my tilted forehead - do these people live in this world?

One is not being served

The clincher in the advertisement can only be delivered verbatim - under the title - Even the price suits you, Sir (how common) one paragraph reads -

"In other words, customers can now buy two bespoke, custom and hand-stitched suits, made from fine, British or Italian cloth and measured by a master tailor for the price of one off-the-peg, chain store suit cut by a computer out of cheap fabric and sold to you by a gentleman with spiky gelled hair and who wouldn't know a side vent or a notch lapel from a PlayStation." Ouch! Ouch! Meow!

Now, if he were not making more affordable (read cheap-er) suits, he might have been a prospect for a Royal Warrant - But who says the middle classes are not smarter on the money?

If you must, Raja Fashions can have a tape measure on your inside leg sooner than you had time to smirk at the offer as you ask for gold buttons on ermine.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

INEC & OBJ might just get away with it

The perfect con

Herein is the error of our ways, and the non-vigilance of Nigerians that would make President Olusegun Obasanjo assume the mantle of "evil genius" from IBB.

Inadvertently, INEC let the cat out of the bag with an excuse that would leave many aghast with horror as the future of Nigeria is mortgaged on the megalomania of people who think our votes are to be trifled with being made of no significance.

About the issue of cases of ballot boxes being hijacked by hoodlums and unscrupulous politicians, INEC casts the blame on the security agencies.

The job of INEC is mainly to conduct elections as Philip Umeadi the INEC Commissioner for information says.

Mainly to conduct elections?

So how did they get involved in disqualifying candidates that their whole program is now in a mess they might now have to postpone the presidential elections?

How is it that polling stations were not open promptly in many locations?

How is that many observers deemed most of the voting activities as irregular, tainted and abused?

How is it that INEC did not realize that security is the most crucial element of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria, that not only did they have to engage all arms of law enforcement, they had to ensure all materials in the conduct of the elections were secure and safe?

INEC basically was an organisation completely oblivious of its brief or something dangerously sinister is at play.

This is cop-out that beggars belief, did Obasanjo hire people who could perfect incompetence and pontificate such lame excuses to commit the greatest election crime in the world's largest black democracy and smartly get away with it? These are professional confidence tricksters hired to fix the elections and now pretending to be incompetent.

Methinks they might just get away with it; they might just get away with the disenfranchisement of Nigerians.

Achtung! Schwarz Neger

Coming to your local cinema

As if we were to expect anything less, the proud members of the Aryan race who being the grand-brood of the former Hitler Jugend that grew up to serve in the Panzer divisions that overran Northern France during World War II released their training video to much acclaim.

It featured a lion being taunted or rather, baited with a large juicy piece of bloody fresh meat; the lion snarled and roared then having had enough of the baiting lunged for the chunk of spicy beef, but just missed it by a fraction of an inch – they captured it all on film; what the director wanted was the action-play, even the National Geographic Channel would be put in the shade with this excellent storyboard and real life action.

Sorry, I must be writing about something else; I meant, the lion was a recruit being goaded into aggressive soldier behaviour and the bloody fresh meat was really a narration given to incense the soldier enough to show raw aggression, as one would expect at war.

A black narrative

That narration went thus – “You're in the Bronx, a black van pulls up in front of you and three African-Americans get out and start really insulting your mother... act!”

Now, that is some imagination the instructor has, the stuff that good German military prowess is made of.

From that narration, one would suppose the Bronx is one hell-hole, a black van is a vehicle of aggression, African-Americans are savages and this soldier loves his mother. To have abuse heaped on his mother by black strangers would have been enough to get any soldier-boy to ACT – I suppose that means charge with a gun and kill all the black men – amazing how words can create pictures in ones mind and urge you to express an aggressive emotion.

The habit of generations

Well, it was the same German army that had holiday snaps from Afghanistan posing with skulls, dare I say, the skulls once belonged to living members of the human race, the same troop had a World War II symbol on their vehicle – what skullduggery.

This is becoming a very long story being fleshed out in needless translation, I would say, the instructor simply bellowed with a very loud voice pointing the forward direction – “Achtung! Schwarz Neger” – you do not need much more to get the best out the German Army.

Monday, 16 April 2007

The right to bear death

The right they should lose

Obviously, the gun lobby in America would be wondering if a backlash would occur on the validity of the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.

What one can say in the light of the great tragedy that has befallen America with the worst mass shooting ever and that on a university, one of many shootings that happen in schools as an American way of life is that something feeds this rage and guns are easily available.

I reiterate that the right to bear arms should and must only be for legally sanctioned law enforcement and organised armed forces for the defence of the realm - America is no more the Wild West, it is time to put away the primitive instinct to point and shoot at the slightest provocation.

For the 32 that have died, it is a tragedy so great and my prayers are with their families, loved ones and friends - if America would have some soul-searching and go out to deal with the real problem is another issue all together.

Today, we grieve in sorrow and pray for succour.

Atiku can, INEC cannot

INEC - Not smart at all

Even a half-wit, crippled dog blinded in one eye and oozing with sores could have predicted without the need for a bark that the Independent National Electoral Commission was on to a loser by politicking instead of ensuring that elections in Nigeria were conducted freely and fairly.

The Supreme Court and there is no higher body of justice in Nigeria has reaffirmed the ruling the lower court that INEC does not have the power to disqualify candidates. - BBC

The ruling was unanimous and it would put INEC in a scurry to ensure that the Vice President is duly presented to the electorate in all regions of Nigeria on Saturday.

Basically, Atiku Abubakar can run and INEC cannot stop him, somehow, INEC had confused the job of vetting for eligibility with assessing for disqualification, the former being their role and the latter completely out of their remit and realm of influence.

Like I have said before, INEC has no logistical preparedness to serve the nation in a just poll; the weekend showed late openings, usurped ballot boxes that then were returned and still ended up being counted, poor security amongst other failings.

The fear is, by Saturday, Atiku Abubakar would not be on the ballot papers in some nether regions, causing confusion, exacerbating chaos and creating unrest.

A reckless risk taker

Now, the Professor of Pharmacognosy deigned to suggest that the conduct of the elections was a success and this is where I have a serious problem with his credibility.

Professor Iwu shows himself to be a man who takes reckless risks regardless of the consequences and contrary outcomes. As a pharmacist, one begins to wonder how many risks he has taken in drug research and the possible exposure of humans to dangerous, harmful or deadly substances in the name of medical research.

Any other smart person would have erred on the side of caution seeking the widest breath of legal advise when skirt the limits of the remit of an executing entity, but Professor Iwu threw caution to the winds to risk the democratic stability of his fatherland and deny his fellow countrymen due diligence in the discharge of his duties.

A fall so great looms

In the end, I would cast Professor Iwu as an archetypal Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, a senior Catholic Archbishop of England when Henry VIII was king. He promised to seek the dissolution of the king's first marriage from the pope and failed. It lead to the English Reformation, the persecution of Catholics and the execution of a few of the king's wives.

Professor Iwu, we can plainly say under the orders of the executive has failed to conclusively exclude the Vice President from the elections, if a fate worse than his archetype befalls him, it would have been as a result of his scant regard for the responsibility he holds.

To paraphrase the final words of a remorseful Cardinal Wolsey - "If Professor had served his country as diligently as he has done the wicked will of the President, we would have commended him a man of honour to be celebrated amongst the great men of Nigeria".

Alas! The man would leave a legacy befitting a thief.

PS: Meanwhile back to the INEC website, the piece of news has not yet been posted and I note that the part for election observers contains nothing though he did address election observers with the view to challenge their status rather than offer transparency - this a charade and it must not continue any longer.

References

The INEC Blogs

A welcome but unprincely separation

A Prince unworthy

Obviously, one is saddened by the fact that the seeming royal romance between Prince William and Kate Middleton has come to an end.

Seeing the Prince leave a night club at 3:00AM in morning must have been instructive of the fact that the young man is more a man about town than one who really wants to "settle down" and become responsible to use the Nigerian euphemism of coercion to get married.

In these times, there are very few who do get married in their early 20s and the Prince being 24 means that he probably does not think he has played the field enough to accommodate the boring and restraining prospect of marital bliss.

From the reports emanating from anonymous close friends, unnamed palace sources and deluded royal experts, Prince William had been advised to make serious considerations about taking the relationship to a decent conclusion or aborting the affair so as not to have kept the young lady of 25 from prospects that would have been more willing and more appreciative of her.

In fact, this seems to the mirror the case of the Duchess of Cornwall who Prince Charles did not offer a proposal that she went on to marry another man - Anthony Parker Bowles; who now has the accolade of having given life and wife for king and country.

Aristocratic snobbery

Beyond this is the unsightly stuffiness of aristocracy with an inbred culture that is resistant to modern ways and the changing times or what might call the infiltration of the middle classes.

Kate Middleton is the daughter of self-made millionaires whose ancestry is not particularly distinguished and whose mother was once an air stewardess.

This should really have no bearing on the merits of Kate as an individual and partner who being quite well educated as a peer of the Prince, has been not only a close friend but confidant of the Prince throughout university.

However, it is generally the unspoken rule amongst aristocrats that only females in line for offices of state need be educated in formal settings, else, everyone else goes to finishing school learning to be supportive of their future husbands of blue blood in being baby-making machines providing heirs to keep the family name and titles extant and playing hostess to burnish the aristocratic mien of that lineage.

That is the career path of any lady who marries into aristocracy; to adopt any other focus like Diana, Princess of Wales did beyond mother and glamour clothes-horse was to be extending oneself into areas too cerebral for their calling.

This would have been the fate waiting to befall Kate Middleton and in some ways she has mercifully been delivered from that situation.

A stupid brood of idiots

What grates the more is the cretins who only become something by birth rather than by achievement that call themselves friends of the Prince who when Kate made an appearance whispered - Doors to manual - alluding to her mother's old profession as an air hostess; that the Prince could not defend the honour and integrity of his beau by outlawing such talk simply goes to show that Kate is better off with another man.

Maybe in 20 or 30 years time, after almost definitely an unsuitable bride is found to fulfill the aristocratic wife role of providing heirs and hospitality, Kate and William might end up in a Charles and Camilla encore; there is no telling, with royalty; history always seems to repeat itself again and again.

Sometimes, it takes a man time to really develop real respect for the lady who really matters to him. Meanwhile, I wish Kate Middleton well in all she puts her hand to do.