Friday, 31 August 2007

A barking rich bitch

Between class and trash

Two grand dames of New York died within a week of each other and the Economist ran an obituary comparing and contrasting both women.

Brooke Astor who died at 105 had an air of comportment, grace and class about her, whilst Leona Helmsley dying at 87 was literally the opposite.

Both had a sense of eccentricity about them, though this only became all the more compelling on the death of the latter.

The rich bitch

Now, the best retort I have ever heard at being called a bitch went thus.

I am married to the witch, we’ve got a cat called snitch and the dog is the bitch.

So the “Queen of Mean” knowing she could not take her money to the grave, gave $5 million each to two of her four grandchildren, cut out the other two for reasons they should know which can never be resolved except in a séance or in court and gave $12 million to her bitch called Trouble.

Now, Trouble had better have some seriously good lawyers, because this would spell trouble unparalleled as the ones left out would scramble to do Trouble out of her well deserved Pedigree Chum gourmet meals prepared by 6-star barking Michelin chefs.

At death which would almost certainly come quickly for all sorts of natural reasons, the bitch shall be interred in the family mausoleum.

Beyond that, $3 million has been set aside to tend the graves, such hubris in death is legendary, it is like dust to gold dust.

Derision follows ultimately

Beyond this is the moral reality with sombre reflection of the fact that the Good Book does say that one should leave in store for the children and the children’s children, this comes by setting your house in order before you depart, something she obviously failed to achieve.

The fact that she could not find anyone of her descendants to take on the upkeep of the dog but her brother who walked away with $2 million less than the dog is interesting to say the least.

Herein, we have a case of those who were rich beyond their dreams and in leaving to the great beyond sowed even more animosity as to bring disdain upon their passing.

This situation presents a lesson and definitely no good example, it would appear, the evil women do can also live after them. How a dog can really survive with the poo-change of $12 million escapes me when Nobel, Ford, Rockfeller, Carnegie & Wellcome blazed the trail of large bequests to humanity for charity, endowment and development.

So much for a life well lived with the epitaph – In all the opportunity she had to bequeath to humanity something to celebrate her memory, all that she had can be summed in one phrase – She left it all to the dog.

Monday, 27 August 2007

The shabby handling of the Naira redenomination

The rotten announcement

Reading about the news of the suspension of the Naira Redenomination exercise by the “Chief Law Officer” of Nigeria Mr. Michael Aondoakaaon (SAN) Chxta’s World brought cold comfort.

Someone then left a comment that included a link to that announcement and disappointment was not the only thing that registered in my countenance as I watched what would definitely end up being a rotten farce.


Click to see the video

Real life re-denomination

Now, I am no economist or monetarist as to be able to determine in any way the likeable success of redenominating the same currency in order to make it appreciate in value. However, I was witness to the Netherland Guilder to the Euro transition and I can say that the only thing that seemed to appreciate in value was the cost of goods and services.

In some instances, retailers simply struck off the Guilder sign and stuck on the Euro sign without changing the numerals, even when the exchange rate was 2.20371 NLG to 1 Euro. Much as the government tried to gloss over the situation by saying there was no widespread price inflation, the man in the street stridently differed.

If the knock off 2 zeros ploy were to work in Nigeria where logistics, documentation and market research would be hardly as advanced as in the West, I would wonder how this would stem inflation from a monitored perspective, it probably would have been better to introduce an entirely new currency and severely restrict the time of exchange.

Many developing countries have redenominated their currencies, so it is no new exercise; in fact, Layna Mosley presented a peer-reviewed working paper titled Dropping Zeros, Gaining Credibility? Currency Redenomination in Developing Nations [PDF] in 2005 which in some cases shows that redenomination does not necessarily arrest inflation or garner confidence in monetary policy - See Page 4.

Disgraceful, immature nitpicking

However, that is not the point I am interested in, rather, I am quite taken aback by the onslaught of a toady Attorney General who somehow brought to the President’s attention provisions of Section 19 in the Central Bank Act (2007 as amended, which I could not find) which presumably the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria had forgotten to adhere to.

The said provisions of Section 19 which deals with the Denomination and form of currency notes and coins which appears below from the Act of 1999 should not be radically different and it does require presidential approval of the board’s recommendation, but definitely not all this political bluster.

Section 19 - Central Bank of Nigeria Act 1999

Now, in any setting where civility, respect and maturity thrives, one would have expected that the dynamics of government to have Attorney General make overtures to the Governor about what might have been an oversight and arranged for the so-called written endorsement of the President in closed diplomatic circles.

Schism between Presidency and monetary policy

I cannot believe that such a radical re-alignment of monetary policy which is clearly the mandate of the Central Bank of Nigeria can have been announced without the knowledge of the President – however, given the possibility that this was not the case because the Governor was having “maverick” tendencies, embarrassing him and undermining his remit in this way does more damage to confidence in the Nigerian economic policy internally and internationally, it is a myopic and demeaning posture that borders on disgraceful.

The so-called “Chief Law Officer” who also happens to hold the coveted Senior Advocate of Nigeria designation leaves me wondering if this title has become so devalued that once people attain political office they lose all civility, decorum, respect and dignity in the pursuit of wielding more influence rather than serving the purpose of their offices.

This definitely exposes serious team-dynamic issues within the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the sooner we have all the personnel including the President recognise the authority and demeanour of their offices which should be above the murky waters of village politics, the sooner we can get to solving problems in Nigeria.

Nigeria - a technocrat’s nemesis?

Beyond this, is the subject of technocrats in Nigerian politics, one does begin to wonder if they have any place in serving the country when like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, they are systematically undermined and frustrated into resigning as a last resort to retain their honour and dignity, regardless of their principled stances.

The President cannot summarily sack the Governor, it requires the approval of the Senate, just as the appointment of a new Governor – so the easier way to create change is to frustrate the incumbent with nitpicking public announcements that challenge his professional judgement and conduct.

As usual, what would happen is some father of a vested interest would come into the fray to mediate in some exclusive mansion and help settle what is comparable to dogs marking territory and all would be forgiven or forgotten, however, if the Governor would stand for anymore of this nonsense is left to be seen.

Shame on the President and his cohorts on this matter, they could have shown more integrity and maturity in handling their discontent with the Naira redenomination exercise, but they could not rise to that standard of civility.

References

A Brief on the Central Bank of Nigeria {CBN} Act, 2007

Central Bank of Nigeria

Central Bank of Nigeria - Decree No. 24 of 1991 - Decree No. 41 of 1999 (Amended)

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Oosterpark in the morning

Up before Eight

One ride through Oosterpark in Amsterdam East long before 8:00AM was quite an insight. I could not believe the number of senior citizens who were up and doing whilst we the younger generations were having our Saturday morning lie-ins.

In fact, my mind went back to a resident in my apartment block who always seemed to be returning from some shopping trip or activity before 8:00AM – a quite capable man even though also quite advanced in years and of very few words that acknowledged one every time we met.

I would say I have never seen him out in the normal daytime, talk less of evenings or nights, however, I do wish there is someone, somewhere who comes round to say hello.

Human-beings and human-doings

So, back to the park, my observation as I rode into the park made me decide to loiter a bit on my bike to see what it was like, because I had always cycled through in haste, never seeing, never waiting completely indifferent.

Up by the skater’s half rounds and flats, a husband and wife from the Far East, possibly ready for a golden wedding anniversary were doing their tai-chi exercises, and then on to one of the children’s play areas, one was stretching as others were exercising on the bars.

Over the pond at the park benches, 5 or 6 who might have been friends for decades were chatting away with 3 noticeably non-Caucasians, laughter broke out as one smoked away.

Further down in the mowed green grass, some travelling back-packers had camped out without any shelter, supposedly, they had spent the night outside.

Not one dog walker in sight, no noise from children, none of the youth that terrify others minding their own businesses; just an idyllic setting where the older generation have captured their piece of Amsterdam devoid of the societal morass that fills our news wires day in and day out.

Their world, our world

I would suppose these grand people of sane and hardly senile society would tarry till about 10:00AM before the sun begins to burn away the peace for the onset of chaos as insane society begins to stir up and infect the world with the madness these good people have wisely avoided by rising up like the early bird for the worm.

Looking at the situation again, these are retired people who still get up early and do things that gives value and substance to their lives in community and social settings amongst their long known peers; whereas our ideas of retirement are about slumber, sloth, loafing, sauntering, idling and lazy sun worshipping, aborting certain routines of our earlier lives and looking for new locations to emigrate to in some ideal setting, separating ourselves from the lifeblood of the community of enduring fellowship and hence quickening the steps of the grim reaper.

I think we have lots to learn from those lively, healthy, laughing and wise senior citizens who wake up each morning to see the new dawn – How to start the day and how to relax – as we bay for the setting of the sun. I like Amsterdam in the early morning at the park.

Friday, 24 August 2007

New Age Evangelist?

Of course, one has to send hearty congratulations to the family of Captain Peter Watson and Sister Jade Watson, one is not sure of the relationship – sibling, spouse, relation or plain coincidence – that does not matter.

These two good people have been involved in the work of the church and recently have been appointed to positions that should help in the growth of the church.

As lay members, the Captain has been appointed Children’s Evangelist in West Andover (Diocese of Winchester ), the Sister is to be Fresh Expressions Evangelist at the HMP Winchester also in the same diocese.

Pray! What is a Fresh Expressions Evangelist?

Found in the Appointments in the Clergy section of the Daily Telegraph, see the Church Times confirmation.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Disgraceful police behaviour

Nigerian in Amsterdam

Yesterday evening I was quite up for some eating out at a Nigerian Restaurant, well in most cases it is Southern Nigerian Cuisine.

A few months ago, one of my colleagues at work took me to this joint in South East Amsterdam just around the corner from Gein Metro Station.

It has the aptly named African Kitchen moniker, though; we found on our second visit that the taxi cab we hired had no clue about how to get to the place.

A quick surfing on my PDA phone revealed the address that was then fed in the satellite navigation system and got us to our destination after doing the rounds.

Then we also had in company an English lady who quite got into the meals with much concern for the spiciness that had other African men sweating buckets.

Informal, ordinary but lovely

The setting is quite informal, no menus or strict restaurant procedures, in fact, certain clientele might be asked to pay before they are served, it is a sign of some of the rottenness our people can be up to.

The atmosphere was quite lovely, the music of the 80s when we were growing up, such memories and company, it had to be done again.

This time, yesterday, literally everyone pulled out for all sorts of reasons, but I made it with another colleague who doubles as a disc jockey on Saturdays at the restaurant.

Police racism

When we finished, my friend called up an acquaintance to cart us home in his taxi and it was there that I realised a underbelly of racial tension and hatred that gets meted out to ethnic minorities in Amsterdam.

Now, the South East of Amsterdam has more than its fair share of ethnic minorities, many from Africa represented by Ghanaians and Nigerians and then the ex-colony of Suriname.

It would also appear the police have cut their teeth on undue harassment and reckless exercise of legal privilege by haranguing these immigrants who sometimes for the fear of getting apprehended with illegal resident status exhibit more fear for the unnecessary terror unleashed in the name of keeping the law.

The taxi driver narrated an incident where the police literally tailed him for 20 kilometres, doing nothing to stop him but just following him.

It got to a stage that he stopped and the police then pulled alongside him and wondered why he was out at 3:00AM.

Well, I would not know if there was any law against ethnic minorities being out at that time, but this was enough to incense the taxi driver who does have a bit of fiery disposition when met with scenarios like this.

Bad mentoring exposed

He got out of the cab and approached the police, remonstrating about being tailed for miles and then being asked a question which was just an idle fishing exercise bordering on plain harassment.

The occupants of the police car had a man possibly in his fifties and a lad hardly in his mid-twenties, the older man conducting the witch hunt.

So, the taxi driver looked in the car and then pointed at the older man saying instead of mentoring the younger colleague in positive law enforcement his tutelage was now poisoning the innocent mind to begin harbouring hatred and dislike of ethnic minorities for no particular reason than for the thrills of supposed racial superiority.

The older man was embarrassed beyond words that all he could do was ask the younger man to drive off; one can say as serious message had been imparted.

Standing up and speaking out

But herein is a situation where the police run roughshod over the rights of ethnic minorities and display such hubris thinking they can get away with it only to meet firebrands, refuseniks or people who just know their rights and would not be pushed around.

He also narrated one instance where the police had come round to round up a few ethnic minorities and he instigated a mini-insurrection that lead to the young men being uncuffed and released.

The police should and must go about their lawful duties and in doing what is lawful, it should be fair, just and above reproach. Sometimes these standards of professional conduct are difficult for the police to maintain when they meet foreigners and that is a shame.

Eating out at

African Kitchen
Wisseloord 164-B
1106MC Amsterdam
+31 20 365 1686

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

$6Billion to keep youth in Africa with boring and farming

Lost in the waters of migration

I am not sure if I should see this as a welcome development but it is a start.

The images of migrants and asylum seekers hanging on for dear life as they cross the desert and set sail in boats that are basically watery graves, that come into their own when the occupants are far from help are distressing enough.

Then those who seem to come within sight of help from fishermen trawlers who try to balance out the economic need for more fishing than the compassionate need to save desperate life, usually plumb for the former and they are left to be overcome by the seas and lost.

Money to keep them at home

The fact that the West African Economic Monetary Union (UEMOA) has noticed the problem and decided on a development initiative to help migrants seek opportunities at home is heartening.

$6 billion has been earmarked to this effort, $5bn of which was pledged by foreign donors and the African Development Bank since last November.

I am however not sure that where this money gets directed to would be the panacea to the youth of Africa risking their lives for the uncertain but compelling opportunities in the West.

Boring and farming opportunities

This is supposed to help halt the emigration of young people from the West African region with the exciting job prospects of drilling 3,000 boreholes which should benefit the arid Sahel region, hence allowing people to earn more for their crops giving them less reason to leave their rural existence to the cities where their disappointments might encourage emigration.

I am not aware of many of a youthful age who work on farms or want to eek out an existence on farmer where elements of genuine fair trade do not exist, or enough is known as to how to manage their produce for markets beyond the local ones.

The longer term incentive

It would have been a different thing if these youth were given decent educational opportunities and national governance dealt with issues of nepotism, corruption and abuse of authority such that these youth can meritoriously gain a foothold in the economies of their countries and career prospects that would occupy them with developing their scopes of influence.

The only real development here is the recognition of the emigration of the youth, beyond that, this would probably be another white elephant, with this kind of money about, one would have expected a better inspired goal for giving the youth hope in their futures at home.

There is no doubt that this money would help rural areas, but to stem the flow of the youth from West Africa to the West, somebody should go back to the drawing board and come up with something that would work.

What the youth want

What the youth need is relevant education, untrammelled opportunity, inspired mentoring, the ability to use the skills they have acquired and access to finance for the entrepreneurially minded to become independent and productive members of their societies – if they become the engineers and project managers of the borehole projects with the requisite skills to run projects to their beneficial conclusions, we might have something going, if it is to sweat out digging and toiling like slave hands ordered around by overpaid under-qualified foreign “experts”, this would be a non-starter.

Let us see how this evolves.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Pissed Dr. Beetroot stole my liver

A South African Maelstrom

It would appear I have pitched my tent in Southern Africa over the last week and not without reason.

Mr. Thabo Mbeki seems to have stirred the hornet’s nest and will come a-stinging without respite.

As the Economist opines in their leader of last week, Mr. Mbeki sacked the wrong minister by sacking the deputy rather than the substantive holder of the portfolio.

Much as been made of the relationship that goes back 40 years between Dr. Beetroot and Mr. Mbeki and that leader goes on to say that he has favoured loyalty over competence.

In-bred cliques

Indeed, any leader would want all his “Yes-men” to be competent, but as we have in the Bush administration where 150 of the staff are from the Regent University which was founded by Pat Robertson.

When leaders fail to make their teams a broad church representative of all spectra of the people they govern, they lose out on competencies that might not necessarily be prevalent in their nominal entourage of fawning admirers.

It cannot be said that this clique of alumni of what is essentially a Christian Madrasah have not influenced policy and skewed debate in on the hot-button issues like abortion, gay-rights, stem-cell research, the projection of American might and Middle-East issues.

In a stealing position again

However, back to South Africa, the gloves have now come off for both Mr. Mbeki and Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the ailing Health Minister with the credibility of the president at stake.

A news investigation has revealed what might turn out to be a rotten scandal. Dr. Beetroot is alleged to have jumped the queue for a liver transplant whilst suffering from alcoholism.

This had better not be true, but the government has come out with a half-hearted rebuttal of this story being “false and speculative”.

Beyond that, another story emerged that Dr. Beetroot was convicted – not just caught and charged or reprimanded – she was convicted of stealing from a patient when she worked as a medical superintendent in Botswana.

Loyalty paybacks

What makes this story look like the ebbing before a humongous tsunami is there allegation that the President brought his office and influence to bear on the surgeons to approve the transplant for the minister.

In effect, leaving this liability of a Health Minister to thrive when she should have been summarily sacked years ago is about to drag the President into a quagmire he would wish he has the means to escape.

I would suspect there is more to come to substantiate these allegations with the other skeletons that might fall out of cupboards to embrace those not looking.

There definitely would have been others genuinely in need of a liver transplant not given to drink, that person has been sacrificed on a less than principled premise of retaining incompetence and ridicule.

Thereby, nepotism and outrageous influence peddling in a country shaking off the shackles of apartheid is about to tarnish the work of those gone before.

If anything can be learnt from this matter, it is that blind loyalty can sink the sycophant and the master whilst obvious competence does elevate the proponent and the master might just have to learn to live with it and the lesser satisfaction that they had the foresight to chose the competent person in the first place.

References

How a 'fourth tier' religious law school infiltrated the US Government

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Damn the Mugabe apologists

Not more than one

It only takes another ancient freedom or liberation fighter of old who helped assume independence for his country through seemingly democratic means than then turn into a dictator with bizarre political and economic policies that were ruinous for the fatherland to bring things into focus again.

This seems to be the story of African liberation fighters, men who have failed to convert their tenures in leadership into one of elder statesman worthy of respect and adulation. Apart from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Africa would be hard pressed to find one who commands both authority and respect in the global scene as a leader who can be called upon to address matters with objectivity.

The Global Elders group launched at Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday does not include one ex-African leader of the 53 countries apart from the man himself – that is as damning as it can get for the kind of leadership we have had in Africa.

Power drunk freedom fighter fossils

One fossil got unearthed during the multiple tremors that makes Zimbabwe an economic disaster and political quagmire a Kenneth Kaunda who was once the Dictator-President of Zambia.

Now, I remember his novel Zambia Shall Be Free being one of the literature texts when we in secondary school and a good deal of the content was hardly anything we kids in Nigeria of the 70s could identify with, however, Zambia had already been liberated and in the hands of Africans for the best part of 13 years.

Mr. Kaunda typifies the typical African big-man mentality that assumes political power through “democratic” means and then elevates that mandate into a monarchist tenure developing a personality cult around themselves and suppressing all opposition and dissent

Within 6 months of assuming power in 1964, he instituted a state of emergency which remained in force till 1991 when due to failed economic policies and international pressure he called multi-party elections and was voted out.

He never took the cue from the other great African leader – Julius Nyerere of Tanzania who ceded power in 1985 and though they belong to the same crop of national leaders who espoused ideologies of African Socialism along with Kwame Nkrumah, they never really understood how to manage their countries into thriving democracies or economic power houses.

Post-independence issues

There are however, things that Mr. Kaunda can be commended for because as Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, Nyasaland became Malawi, Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and South Africa came under black majority rule, all these leaders concentrated their efforts on the liberation struggles of their neighbouring countries.

When these countries became independent, there were imbalances in political and economic clout. A good deal of the economy and assets were in the hands of the colonialists who in fact were also citizens of these countries albeit Caucasian.

There were problems with the modalities for the redistribution of wealth and property; one can say the old colonial powers were not entirely the most prudent or cooperative in help even out the imbalances and impatience ensued as African leaders implemented rash policies that have now resulted in the mess we find many countries in.

There might have been some good in appropriating assets of the white members of society, however, these were not done at fair value and when these properties were seized there were no competent personnel to hand these business and properties over to and many economies ran into difficulties – Zimbabwe being the country breaking records in basket-case history.

There is history and there is the present, we are products of our history but we cannot continue to use history as an excuse for meeting the contemporary issues of the day. It shows that we have refused to learn from history, work on our present issues and prepare to enter the future with hope and courage.

Feed the hungry child

The best analogy I can give to this situation is the case of a child who is starving to death who having been abducted and cared for by strangers is forcibly released back to its parents but the parents have neglected to address the present perilous hunger problem because they have been wronged by the abduction. Yes, the abduction charge needs to be dealt with by adequate means, but the child needs nourishment now. The child here represents the country, the politics, the economy and the everyday life of people in these frontline countries.

No conviction no pressure

So imagine my disgust with the leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who meeting in Lusaka, Zambia were dishonest, spineless, insincere, lacking courage or conviction and worthy of derision as they could not bring any pressure to bear on President Robert Mugabe about the problems in Zimbabwe which are already flowing into their countries.

This is just unbelievable, and it makes observers of issues in Africa really despair of possibilities of development or progress if these leaders cannot tackle what is evidently an untenable political and economic situation on their borders because of that kinship of the liberation struggle that took place over generation ago.

There is a saying in my language that goes thus – If two brothers meet up in a room to discuss serious matters and come out smiling, they probably have been insincere with each other especially where evidently there is a problem to be addressed.

The new slavery – poor leadership

To top this, Mr. Kenneth Kaunda presents himself as an apologist for Mr. Robert Mugabe by invoking history and colonialism to explain away the problems in Zimbabwe, no matter what the freedom fighters went through, the situation they have brought their countries to is unforgivable.

Well, if anything is clear, the policies, decisions and politics that brought Zimbabwe to its knees were implemented by black African men and not the colonial powers of old, some might say, it was better when the colonialists were the rulers - the sooner we recognise that we are just as culpable with regards to the problems that Africa has, the earlier we can begin to solve them.

Meanwhile, the kind of message sent out from the SADC would make other countries outside Africa wonder if it is not time to just forget about doing anything in Africa if their leaders cannot honestly and truthfully encourage progress and condemn poor governance.

Human compassion compels us to try and see beyond these leaders and bypass them to help fellow human beings who are in a new kind of slavery, one that refuses to be bold with the truth. It is to their shame and history would surely cast them as villains if they won freedom to bring more destruction on their fatherland.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Lord Deedes Dies

Shurely Shome Mishtake

It is with sadness that I read the passing of William “Bill” Deedes at 94. Lord Deedes who had been a life long journalist (76 years) was still offering copy up till the end, I remember reading an article of his hardly 2 weeks ago in the Daily Telegraph and it was comparing Darfur to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Whilst he was somewhat an establishment figure as a Conservative, once a Cabinet Minister and for 11 years editor of the Daily Telegraph, his writing and opinions were for me very approachable and easy to read, a quintessential English gentleman he was.

He belonged to that generation of journalists whose appreciation of age made him a reliable fount of wisdom and no one would have imagined that he was nigh on to a century.

He chaperoned Diana, Princess of Wales as a fellow campaigner against mines in Angola and Bosnia.

At an earlier time he was golfing partner to Sir Denis Thatcher saving the man from the stress of being first man with nothing to do as his wife Margaret Thatcher changed the world.

For this he was satirised by the Private Eye as the Dear Bill to whom Denis Thatcher wrote letters about his life in the background being the husband of the Prime Minister, one might say it was service to the nation.

He covered wars and covered the Indian earthquake at 86 when he had a stroke, he was appointed ambassador for UNICEF at 85; for me, he represents the very few who grow old with infectious youthful zest, anyone would feel comfortable in his company and a towering example of life-long working like Peter Drucker and Alastair Cooke who both died in their nineties.

Of his kind, we might never see again, one is tempted to say this story of his death is “Shurely Shome Mishtake” a trademark saying as a result of his slurred speech. This however is a time to celebrate a full life and I would miss his quality of crisp English.

William Francis Deedes, Baron Deedes, KBE, MC, DL, PC – The Grand Old Man of Fleet Street – who preferred to be addressed as plain Bill is survived by a son who was once the Managing Director of the Daily Telegraph and three daughters, he was pre-deceased by a son and his wife.

References

Obituary: Lord Deedes – BBC News

Lord Deedes -Times Online

Bill Deedes - Wikipedia

Tributes pour in for Bill Deedes

Bill Deedes: Mentioned in dispatches

Friday, 17 August 2007

Dearly Bigoted: Anglican Church requires pre-marital HIV test

Presiding officer speaks:

Dearly Bigoted, we are gathered together here in the sign of prejudice – and in the face of this mob – to disjoin asunder this man and this woman from HIV matrimony, which is commended to be dishonourable among all Anglican clergy; and therefore – is not by any – to be entered into advisedly though lightly – but irreverently, indiscreetly, unadvisedly and without solemnity.

Into this HIV estate these two persons present now come to be set asunder. If any person can show just cause why they may be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace.

Bigot speaks with loud voice:

“They have HIV, it is an abomination”, quoting Chapter and verse and approaching the pulpit with the ferocity of a lioness, the whole mob joins in to lynch the hapless couple; cuts, blood and guts everywhere – we all now have HIV.

This is the bizarre development that has come out of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, couples would have to take an HIV test before their marriage is blessed in the church.

However, if the couple does know their status and still decide to continue with marriage “the church will not object but offer them care and support”. Care and support possibly by discreetly informing others to steer clear of the couple and their eventual offspring and technical ostracise them with the Body of Christ till they leave their parish.

This quest to stigmatise HIV/AIDS is becoming the vogue in Nigeria amongst religious organisations and it does not augur well for society. In afct, I am surprised they have not asked for a pregnancy test too just in case the bride is not a pure virgin. This is absurd in the extreme.

Busy-body church

I cannot see what the business of the church is in trying to determine if a couple loves each other and they have not shared all secrets that might have with each other.

Next it would be all sorts of genetic tests to determine compatibility in what is becoming a slippery slope into religious eugenics in the name of better informed new entrants to the institution of marriage.

The uproar from this must not abate or relent until the folly of this rotten bigoted and busy-body exercise is expunged from the canticles, the hymns and the minds of the people.

What next? You may now exchange HIV certificates and you may not kiss the bride?

This is really absurd; it is really, really absurd - time for God to summon the bishops to an eternal consultation.

This situation MUST NOT STAND!

Clapping for the Zimbabwe Mugabe destroyed

Clapping for the tyrant

This is really beyond me and my understanding of issues African. I am always amazed at how problems in Africa are allowed to fester and sometimes accorded the impression that things are alright when again like I said in my blog yesterday, they really are not.

One can say they reason why Darfur has continued to be the greatest humanitarian crisis in years is because African leaders have refused to stand up to other leaders in Sudan who have decimated their people with a brutality that is now only second to the Nazis.

The Nigerian elections which were clearly unfair, not credible and definitely not free as many objective observers could see were passed off as free and fair, everyone accepting the unacceptable and moving on.

The one that really beats me is at the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Lusaka yesterday, the gerontocrat Grand Despot of Africa – Robert Mugabe drew the greatest applause from the delegates at the summit.

Now, this might be a case of history not catching up with the present since Robert Mugabe at 83 is the oldest living African freedom fighter who is still in office, but this was at least a generation ago.

The demise of Zimbabwe

This man came into office in 1980, assumed all the levers of power soon afterwards and embarked on what is essentially the politics of anti-imperialism (PDF) – kicking the white man out and letting the indigenous black man take over the property and businesses of the white men who were forcibly dispossessed.

Now, there is more to the workings of this matter, but these few facts remain evident; Zimbabwe used to be a vibrant economy and the bread basket of Southern Africa, many of the white men who were driven out of their farms are just as Zimbabwean as any other black Zimbabwean – the white could possibly trace their ancestry back a lot further than any of their indigenous assailants.

The fundamental flaws in Mugabe’s mission was that a fair value was not placed on the property seized and after seizure, it was handed over to either his cronies or so-called freedom fighters who as mobs could raid the farms but had not inkling as to how to run the farms.

In the process, the mainstays of the Zimbabwean economy collapsed around a political situation that should be untenable if any African leader had risen up to really challenge the rape of Zimbabwe by selfsame Africans.

Now, about a quarter of Zimbabweans have fled the country to become refugees in neighbouring countries, the majority in South Africa as inflation in the country scales 4,500% and is expected to reach 100,000% by the end of 2007.

The Presidency introduced price controls which were of no effect because the shelves in the stores are empty as Mugabe still maintains a grip on power as a leviathan mite sucking dry the blood of everything that was once good about Zimbabwe.

Sorry Africans

Within this sorry tale of a catastrophic African failure, seemingly respectable people find the enthusiasm to applaud President Robert Mugabe for all he has undone for Africa.

I seriously do not get it, but this is enough to give Mr. Mugabe the impetus to carry on digging his country into the ground with South Africa being given the responsibility of resolving the democratic crisis that Mr. Mbeki has been too cack-handed to bring to any reasonable compromise.

I predict, if leaders of Southern Africa do not honestly speak up as men of principle about the unforgivable mess going on in Zimbabwe, France and Germany would be ready to host the 2010 World Cup because Zimbabwe for all intents and purposes is a man-made natural disaster that is claiming more victims and getting worse. I do not want to find myself in a security situation that could have been prevented if due attention, incentive or sanctions had been applied to get Zimbabwe out of the rut that it is in now.

Aussies put the boot in

Australia has never minced words about the situation in Zimbabwe to the extent that Prime Minister John Howard in preventing the national cricket team from visiting Zimbabwe for a test termed Mugabe a grubby dictator.

I am heartened by the fact that Australia would deport 8 students whose parents are senior members of the Mugabe government on one simple premise – “preventing those behind human rights abuses from giving their children the education their policies denied ordinary Zimbabweans”.

It is commendable and should be the kind of policy Western governments should mete out to leaders who plunder their homelands whilst seeking world-class opportunities for their kids in preparation for creating ascendant dynasties of leadership for generations to come.

As usual, Zimbabwe would react with some bombastic diatribe, to Australia this time, they are accused of “funding violence by aiding civic groups in the country”.

Silly Dingo hooked by Nubian money boobs

A tale so funny

This must be the subtext for a saga – Gullible from Oz – as we read earlier this week of an Internet bride scam.

A sheep farmer, Des Gregor, 56 from Australia had been involved in some Internet dating that blossomed into a virtual love affair with Natacha (picture downloaded from the millions on the Internet) – a twenty-something Liberian refugee who was in Mali. They somehow came to an arrangement where he was to visit Mali to get married to her, pocket a dowry of $86,000 and take her home.

Now this is as incredible as it gets as the press makes issue of the Internet fraud element of the story which lead to him being kidnapped by the fraudsters, maltreated and imprisoned for 12 days as the culprits reversed the dowry sum into a ransom for his freedom.

It took some smart thinking on the part of the Australians to convince the kidnappers that Mr. Gregor would pick up the ransom from the Canadian embassy in Bamako which lead to his freedom and living to tell the tale.

The gruesome picture of a hacked-to-bits sheep farmer who is already hacked-off by the scam does not bear scrutiny.

Ring the ding for dingo

However, let us examine the whole plot and see how many bells (Ding!) we can ring for each scam alert.

This was a twenty-something Liberian refugee living in Mali – Ding! – Considering the situation in Liberia, a refugee in Mali would probably not have ways and means or would be in a desperate situation to get out of Mali on any pretence.

He was going to get married to a lady whose name was only Natacha – Ding! – What is her family name? She might not have anyone giving her away, but she definitely would have an identity more than plain Natacha which does not look English or French, probably Russian – Ding! – The Australian authorities would have required a maiden name even though she would have been addressed as Mrs. Natacha Gregor.

Usually men pay the dowry – Ding! – If a woman or her family had such a lump sum to give away, it would not be for a lifetime of shearing sheep.

The dowry was in the sum of $86,000 – Ding! – How does a twenty-something refugee from Liberia get her hands on a sum like that to give to a man she has never met who is planning on being her husband?

You get to the airport at Bamako and your true love and beau is not there to meet you – Double Ding!! – And he probably does not have a return ticket.

Ruled by his ding

There were enough Dings in that analysis for anyone with more brains than a sheep farmer to realise that this was looking like a humongous scam of a silly wally that would get the full ridicule treatment from yours truly.

In the end, one cannot say if it was the excitement of getting under the sack with a Nubian beauty's svelte body as his manhood exhausted itself on half-price erectile dysfunction medication or the thought of getting a new sheep shearing machine with the largesse of the dowry that compelled him to fall for this scam – my countrymen would call that a Double Whammy.

I have always attributed greed to people who fall for scams like this, now; I have to add lust to the equation.

Oh! For a title to call this blog – something Australian with a twist of black beauty zest – I’ll try – Silly Dingo hooked by Nubian money boobs. I should be working for a tabloid, this is crass, but I like it. For once, Nigerians do not seem to be involved in this deception and that is good.

Obituary: Micheal Hill

Untenable criminality

No outrage can be better expressed than to condemn with the strongest words and the heaviest hand of the law the kidnapping/ransom vicious cycle that has become the norm in the Niger Delta Region in Nigeria.

News has been haemorrhaging out of the area and one cannot count the number of sons, daughters, mothers and relations of prominent people who have become pawns in the despicable activities of assumed activists for liberation who are just brigands, criminals, thieves and societal vermin.

Kidnaps are the norm

Just 5 weeks ago, these events reached a new low when the Anglo/Nigerian 3-year old daughter of long-term expatriate was captured at violent gunpoint from a seemingly benign school-run and held for 7 days.

My view was that the people involved should be hunted down and exterminated that rat poison on vermin would be considered more humane. I just could not see how any cause on earth regardless of the grievance could be justified by the kidnapping of a child – a madness had entered this scheme, no negotiation can be complete until these criminals see the searing edge of justice decapitate them with mob applause.

As they held the poor girl for 4 days, they were negotiating for the girl’s father to exchange places with his daughter, which he was quite willing to do, but better judgement prevailed against this, because it probably would have escalated into an untenable situation.

When the girl was released we all breathed a collective sigh of relief as the family refused to be intimidated by these activities or consider leaving Nigeria and kidnappings have continued without abatement.

The toll of the ordeal

Little could we know that these events had dealt an irreversible death knell on the family, the stress of knowing your daughter is in the hands of hoodlums who would do anything for money is hard enough and it appears that might have contributed to this sad event.

On August the 8th 2007, Michael Hill, 60, the father of the girl died of a heart attack which many would say was exacerbated by that rotten ordeal he had to go through a month before.

Michael Hill would be buried in Port Harcourt where he moved to 10 years ago for professional reasons as the Operations Director of Lone Star an US Oil company and ran a karaoke bar.

Saddened, really saddened

My heart goes out to Margaret Hill, his daughter and Oluchi his wife who must be inconsolable regarding this loss along with family over in County Durham that survives him.

Mr. Hill was one of the many expatriates who consciously took the decision to make Nigeria a liveable place by settling there and planting deep roots as locals are baling out for deteriorating circumstances – this episode becomes another blot on the security, safety and liveable index of adopting Nigeria as a home.

The government should do well to rid the Niger Delta Region and other cities of these untrammelled miscreants, it is a duty to all Nigerians and most especially those who have died just going about their lives but inadvertently ambassadors of what is good about Nigeria.

Rest in peace, Michael Hill and may Margaret and Oluchi receive strength and fortitude to bear the loss, more so, if there is anything that can be organised to help the family, I hope the company, the government and community are stepping forward.

References

Child in Niger Delta Kidnapping and Death Threat

Reasoning out the girl's kidnap

Margaret Hill - Home with parents

Apes Obey! Vague dread of the supernatural

Rotten reporting
When I read the 2 versions of the stories in first in the online versions the Nigerian Tribune and then This Day, I knew there was much more to the story that the journalists had not bothered to investigate further.
Usually, when such sensationalist tripe is published there is someone from some foreign media ascertaining what I would call the Veracity Index of the story such that the objective might replace the incredible.
It took a review by Ijebuman, a fellow blogger to see the real truth behind the whole story with a perspective from Reuters/Yahoo. But it highlights how even professional journalists in Nigeria can get carried away with outrageous rumours and print those as truth, but also a reflection on society that accepts such sloppiness without protest – really appalling.
The haunted house
This however is my first instalment in the Apes Obey! Series; dealing with the vague dread of the supernatural.
A man had apparently built himself a haunted house [Source: Nigerian Tribune], read into that what you may, for all sorts of reasons, after completion of the building he refused to move his family into the house because he believed it was haunted [Source: ThisDay Online].
A night vigil was organised, comprised of members of one of those ever pervasive gatherings of people calling themselves a church, with a Pentecostal persuasion to conduct an exorcism to make the house habitable.
Smoke, wind and dwarves
The story then grows legs, they prayed into the night and when it ended one witness went to the toilet and lost consciousness after first seeing a lot of smoke and mysterious dwarf figure in human form.
Another source said after the prayers, a mighty wind blew through the house and sent people crashing on the floor with many losing their lives.
Somehow, some of the bodies ended up badly burnt and in the space of 2 days the bodies were already infested with maggots – there was a time lapse between the event and the discovery.
Perceptions of great evil
However, this is where the story would have taken off – the vague dread of the supernatural had compelled people to gather to deal with a situation through fervent prayer. It would appear they were up against something they had no clue of and it overpowered them.
Meanwhile, observers would consider the house was evil, the builder was probably a crook and that the church might have been involved in other activities rather than pure Christianly service.
17 lives were lost in this incident and though there might be clear indications as to why this happened, any natural or logical explanation would be ditched for some sign, miracle, paranormal or supernatural context making the whole event more mysterious than it should ever be.
Unfounded attributions
It is interesting that the phrase “mighty wind” was used in the context of this story because it could well refer to an event in the Bible where the Apostles were gathered on the day of Pentecost – a number of versions of the Bible use rushing mighty wind [Source: Biblos.com Parallel Bible] in the Book of Act Chapter 2 verse 2 – allowing for another vague dread of the supernatural.
People might question how within two days bodies were infested with maggots but further on in the Book of Acts someone died and was immediately infested with maggots [Source: Biblos.com Parallel Bible] – supernatural or natural?
A more plausible explanation
The Reuters news agency picks up the story [Source: Generator fumes kill 17 at Nigeria prayer meeting - Yahoo! News] and highlights the fact that we have a power crisis in Nigeria that forces people to install portable generators.
The security situation in Nigeria also means that people would sometimes fail to follow a basic safety rule; such generators should not be used indoors.
As it happens, this group of people ran the generator indoors where the likelihood is that they were overcome by exhaust fumes and consequently died.
Considering they closed themselves up in the house, the meeting place was probably not properly ventilated and having been through an exhausting session of fervent prayer they would have been very vulnerable.
Fervently religious but stupid people
An apparently stupid human act that cost lives has however been attributed to forces of darkness.
As for the man who went to the toilet – some of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning [Source: Canada Safety Council] would be vision impairment, mental confusion and collapse on exertion – the kind of exertion which might have allowed for the seeming high concentrations of carbon monoxide to overwhelm a group of people almost at the same time as to have looked like a being hit by a mighty wind to a confused mind.
Probably, someone fell on the generator and got burnt as the generator ran till it was out of fuel.
When people die, they begin to rot and attract flies, those flies lay eggs which hatch in maggots [Source: WikiAnswers - How do maggots get into a dead body] between 2-5 days of being laid – there might be extenuating circumstances for humid and tropical regions.
I can only thank Ijebuman again for this information about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Haunted Houses - Case Closed! [Source - Wikipedia]
Despite all this
Despite this clear explanation of events, it is amazing how the vague dread of the supernatural holds sway over people that they fail to realise the obvious.
Could the haunting have been a badly placed roof tile allowing for wind instrument dynamics; a creaking door or something really benign?
This is not to discount the possibility of haunted house, but in a new house? Except if it was built over an old disused cemetery, but then?
I would wager that a good number of Nigerians would take convincing of the fact that the large loss of life was due more to crass stupidity than some vague supernatural activity – Lord Lugard must have been a rather keen observer and somehow you have to agree he was right there.
And back to that quote corroborated from another source too “through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural” [Source: Google Book Search - Nigerian History, Politics and Affairs: The Collected Essays of Adiele Afigbo (Classic Authors and Texts on Africa) (Paperback) Page 456 – ISBN-13 978-1592213245 (Amazon.com)].

Apes Obey! Lacks the power of organisation

A stampede amongst humans
A stampede is an unfortunate situation which might be natural in the animal kingdom but is completely inexcusable within the human race.
It can only arise where organisation and order has broken down and those in charge have failed to govern their responsibilities with any anticipation.
Lacking the power of organisation
My second instalment of the Apes Obey! Series touches more on lacking the power of organisation than on loving the display of power but failing to realise its responsibility, however, they are closely related.
In a situation where experienced people are losing their jobs and very qualified people are entering the marketplace but not getting job offers, one can imagine that any news of recruitment opportunities would bring in hordes.
Taking advantage of the vulnerable
With that knowledge alone, any organisation offering employment must first plan and then execute a process that allows them to cherry-pick the best people on the market without creating a chaotic situation that could endanger the lives of the prospects.
Besides, one knows that recruiters in a saturated jobless market can afford to exploit the situation and take advantage of the seemingly desperate-for-a-job crowd and in the process forget their duty to be responsible.
In other words, we have people who have jobs to fill but lack every organisational skill to fill those jobs efficiently.
The hundred-for-one-job market
In this case [Source: BBC NEWS | Africa | Nigerian stampede survivor's ordeal], there were 100 openings in the Nigerian Immigration Service which attracted 11,000 applicants; this could become logistical nightmare, but can be a simple manageable scenario.
Unfortunately, it appears the recruiters were completely oblivious of their market and ignored the fact that the desperate situation people face would not make them the most decorous crowd to manage.
Having not anticipated the over-subscription the applicants were instructed to run from the government secretariat to a college where they were to sit an examination in 20 minutes – such power but no inkling of responsibility for its use.
You can imagine the mayhem when the first batch arrived and a second batch were barred from entering the compound only to be trumped by those who arrived by bus a lot later.
Twice treacherous
It is one thing to treat the people like animals, but then to heap an injustice upon them is twice treacherous and most unfair.
People got knocked unconscious and some ended up in hospital, all because some civil service apparatchik could not organise a recruitment process and control the crowds that have dignified their advertisements with their presence.
Unfortunately, this lack of organisation is endemic, because at the weekend about a dozen people lost their lives vying for 1,260 placements from a pool of 130,000 applicants.
How it could be that fitness tests were conducted during the hottest part of the day that people expired with exhaustion beggars belief.
Some jobs might require the survival of the fittest but surely not to the death.
Culpable homicide at least
In all, the mishaps are not solely the fault of the vulnerable desperate applicants who are clawing at any slight opportunity but that of outrageous buffoons who do not seem to know their hands from their elbows.
The lack organisational skills even though there are tripped by the power to control but fail to realise the responsibility of bringing together crowds of people and conducting risky recruitment and fitness tests.
At the least, the heads of the departments that displayed such rank incompetence should face charges of culpable homicide because there is no way others would realise their duty to care leading to better organisation and understanding the responsibility of holding power if an example is not made of these organisations.
This is a sorry case of people being abused in an Apes Obey! Dynamic just as Lord Lugard’s words ring in our ears again – “He lacks the power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business; he loves the display of power, but fails to realise its responsibility”. Oh! So true