Wednesday, 30 July 2014

My House, My Home


Time flies
Twenty-seven months ago today, I closed the door to the home I reluctantly left after ten and a half years. Beautiful, well situated and close to the town centre in Amsterdam, everyone who visited thought it was a fine place, I had wonderful times there.
Yet, that was part of the long tail of cancer I have sometimes written of, the post-recovery reality of getting your life back on track and I know it has been one of the toughest journeys of my own life.
Since then, I have been a nomad who has enjoyed the amazing generosity of people who never allowed my experience of adversity and misfortune to become an enduring tale.
Time flew
I was offered a house for two months, free of charge, then a family took me into their home for months until just after my medical check-ups, by which time, I had decided to return to the UK.
I stayed at my cousin’s for months and it was through them that I began to regain a footing in the UK before I found myself working in North Wales and living out of hotels in Ewloe, Manchester and London.
When that job ended, I stayed with a friend, then travelled, I returned to stay in a room after which I was on the verge of going homeless before I was offered a couch for a week and then offered a stay with another of my cousins.
Time flying
I kept doing what I knew how to do, until another opportunity came up that took me out of London, then it was hotels and travel until I settled into small flat share.
This afternoon, I obtained the keys to my own place and it dawned on me, what a journey I have had that in my mind I sang songs of praise, in gratitude for the wonderful experiences I have had that brings me to a point that I have a story to tell.
None of this would have been possible without the help of friends, family and strangers, prayers, encouragement and hope, life that keeps giving reason to live and live to write a different and better story and most of all to God who for all my waywardness has constantly and unstintingly been merciful and gracious or maybe I am just realising that that is the nature of God.
A house, A home by Anna Wilson
Brick by brick, stone by stone
We build a place to call our own
Gonna fill it up with laughter
Write my happy ever after
'Cause for the first time in my life
I'm holding the key
To a brand new life waiting on me
That's what makes a house a home
That's what makes a house a home

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Thought Picnic: Fan, shit and table

Like Line-Management 101
One of the functions of a line-manager is to know how to ensure that the skills pool does not suffer the inconvenience of indispensability.
It is important that a team has experts, knowledgeable people whom we can trust to get things done, yet, it is essential that the expert does not become someone we cannot do without.
That means, there should be someone else able to do whatever the expert does, maybe not as neatly or as quickly, maybe needing some help and guidance, though not necessarily poise to replace the expert, only being there to backfill if necessary.
Continuing Line-Management 101
Part of this line-manager activity is having the resource to get a job that usually gets done by their team available when that job needs to be done, with caveats obviously about the alacrity and finesse. One often needful element is to ensure that the experts document all their procedures and processes, should in case, someone needs to act in the expert’s stead.
A line-manager would have somewhat failed in their responsibility if at the point of need, they have failed to adequately provide resource to fulfil a requirement that all they have is excuses that would adversely affect an operational activity.
Fan, shit and no table – Line-Management failure
At this point, the shit might well hit the fan in an uncomfortable escalation, the line-manager having poorly provided for the consequence, in not having a table to hide under when the shit starts flying.
Sometime ago in an exchange with a colleague, I wrote a rather tersely worded email when it seemed to be looking for who to blame rather than take responsibility for what he was tasked to do. “I cover my arse by doing my job rather than by looking for someone to blame, you should try to do that too.”
The response was a protest, but he had not hiding place, he was exposed just as a line-manager can be exposed by avoidable personnel management flaws.
So there …


Thought Picnic: Simplicity is key

Simplicity is design
Working in Information Technology roles for over 25 years, you come away with a lot of insights and experiences that hopefully forms the body of knowledge that I carry with me anywhere my services are engaged.
What gets to me most about environments that have pre-existing implementations I either need to support or update is the simple things that administrators and architects fail to put in place to make support accessible and easy.
Fundamental design thinking that means you only have to go digging when necessary, I prefer to make process chains as visible as possible, this could be down to simple naming conventions that link different processes together that you easily know what connects to the other thing by simple viewing of an administrative console.
Simplicity in security
One other thing I have learnt working in multinational environments is never to create administrative or common use passwords comprised of keyboard characters that change locations on the keyboard depending on the language.
Then, security, I have tended to call them the security Taliban because they seem to forget that their function is to facilitate access rather than restrict access. Yet, what you encounter in many environments are walls and restrictions that excites the ingenuity of the humanity to find and dig tunnels are circumvent these restrictions.
Simplicity and simple
I always have the mind of always designing in such a way that users do not end up crafting breakouts or hacks to obliterate or replace my design. In essence, whilst this reads like a technical blog, the goal of what I do is to create simplicity from implementation through to ease of use.
I never try to reinvent the wheel, rather, I find ways to get a smooth ride, I’ll work on the road. This is the essence of keeping it simple, using the wealth of experience to take the complicated out of everyday things and finding the simplicity that allows others to carry on from where I left off.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Thought Picnic: A weighty bother

What great bother
As I close on half a century of life, I have begun to bother about things that did not concern me much until recently.
In general, I am not given to exertion if I can help it, I can tire easily, yet if I am engaged in some serious mental task, I can keep awake and alert for as long as it takes to satisfy myself that things are in hand.
The last time I sported a rectus abdominis muscle look, I was on chemotherapy having lost a quarter of my weight, that is what cancer and the treatment for cancer does to you.
The weight of gratitude
I have regained all that weight which if I was still seeing my consultant in the Netherlands would have made him happy and more, but it does not fill me with any comfort that I am close to the heaviest I have ever been.
On my consultant in the Netherlands, I was quite apprehensive after the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash because he could easily have been one of the experts to attend the International AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia.
I was glad to read that he was fine, yet saddened by the loss of one of his very close colleagues Joep Lange, whose expertise within the highly-skilled team and the body of knowledge that addressed my illness saved my life.
Between Jim and the gym
We have a matter to hand, it is concerns about my weight and obviously that relates directly and superficially to my body.
I would rather I was at least 10 kilograms lighter than I weigh now, and that is the difference between going to see Jim and going to the gym. I do wonder what motivation I need to regain control of my weight and to do that well before I begin to lose confidence in myself because of my looks.
This issue hits you daily, in advertisements that fill our television screens where just the blemish on the skin or the hair growing naturally, but in what we have been programmed to consider the wrong place becomes the whole difference between being ourselves or trying to be someone else.
It is a bother
Thankfully, I have not reached the point of wanting to be someone else, I just want to be a better version of me in thought, in outlook and hopefully, in looks too.
That an estate agent never expected me to be the age I am, but much younger, is a compliment, but compliments do not work off the flab, rather it serves to complement the comfort of doing nothing and thereby tipping the scales on the wrong side – usually, yours.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Thought Picnic: It's my turn

But now it's my turn,
If I don't have all the answers,
At least I know,
I'll take my share of chances,
Ain’t no use of holding on,
When nothing stays the same.
From It’s My Turn - written by Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics) and Michael Masser (music) for Diana Ross.
Stand bold
This part of that beautiful song simply exemplifies a view of life that I have, the fact that one should take control of one’s life for changes and chances that present themselves.
Speaking to a long term friend who intimated that he was putting his house in order for posterity, he left me with one of those pieces of advice that lasts a lifetime.
Some twenty years ago, he said to me, “Never be embarrassed to ask for what you as an adult should not be ashamed to demand.”
Stand sure
As I talked of uncertainties that moderate my adventurism, he said I had been through enough to know how to make wise choices and he believed I always made the right choices. However, he also said I needed to free myself from the encumbrances of societal mores that limits my expression, my expectations and my abilities.
Wiser as I have become and hopefully more wiser as I go, I constantly take my share of chances, learning better acceptance of myself getting to the point where the pursuit of happiness would care less for what anyone thinks about what one desires for love and for life.
As nothing stays the same, we must change, adapt, review, renew, relive and rejoice in the blessing of life we have, but this can only happen when we get to the point that we can boldly say, “It’s my turn”.
It’s my turn
I can't cover up my feelings
In the name of love
Or play it safe
For a while that was easy
And if living for myself
Is what I'm guilty of
Go on and sentence me
I'll still be free
It's my turn
To see what I can see
I hope you'll understand
This time's just for me
Because it's my turn
With no apologies
I've given up the truth
To those I've tried to please
But now it's my turn
If I don't have all the answers
At least I know
I'll take my share of chances
Ain't no use of holding on
When nothing stays the same
So I'll let it rain
'Cause the rain ain't gonna hurt me
And I'll let you go
'Though I know it won't be easy
It's my turn
With no more room for lies
For years I've seen my life
Through someone else's eyes
And now it's my turn
To try and find my way
And if I should get lost
At least I'll own today
It's my turn
Yes, it's my turn
And there ain't no use in holding on
When nothing stays the same
So I'll let it rain
'Cause the rain ain't gonna hurt me
And I'll let you go
'Though I know it won't be easy
It's my turn
To see what I can see
I hope you'll understand
This time's just for me
Because it's my turn
To turn and say goodbye
I sure would like to know
That you're still on my side
Because it's my turn
It's my turn
It's my turn
To start from number one
Trying to undo
Some damage that's been done
But now it's my turn
To reach and touch the sky
No one's gonna say
At least I didn't try
It's my turn
Yes, it's my turn
It's my turn
It's my turn
It's my turn


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Opinion: This is a time for outrage at the direct hits

A hypothetical
If the presumed BUK surface-to-air missile system shot from the territory of pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine had whizzed past Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, it might have been reported sighted and considered a near-miss with some expressing a bit of outrage at such a reckless activity.
Alas! It was a direct hit and with it 298 souls were lost, the consequence of which should have precipitated such outrage at the needless, careless and atrocious waste of human life wrought by bungling rebels with Russia's support.
Then again
Down in the Middle East, literally all the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, whilst terrifying and capable of causing carnage with the loss of life and damage to goods and property, they are in their thousands, near misses. We must for all intents and purposes express outrage at the crude militancy that is no match to Israel’s firepower and organisation.
Then, you watch the missiles fired from Israel into Gaza that has no defence weaponry, literally every missile has been a direct hit, whether intentional or not, people are losing their lives in the hundreds and this calls for widespread outrage, because of the carnage caused, that is presented as a defence.
Between terror and killings
Now, I can understand the terror of missiles coming into Israeli cities, terrifying all, young and old; the government needs to have some strategy and game plan to deal with this nuisance, though I have my doubt that even with the incursion into Gaza, the missiles can be stopped entirely, for there is a deep-seated issue of unrest that is not been addressed towards achieving peace for Israel and its neighbours.
Yet, the terrified can be becalmed, for near-misses belie a stark reality along with a sense of survival. Direct hits are a different story, the people are dead and that is the end of their story.
Blood for fear barbarity
The exchange system between Israel and Palestine of avenging fear within the borders of Israel with the blood of Palestinians in their cooped-up regions as they are ring-fenced from Israel with settlements, borders and walls cannot be the roadmap to peace for all concerned.
What has developed is escalating belligerence with no prospect of peace on the horizon. More pertinently, until we are ready to express unbiased outrage at the needless loss of life anywhere in the world and make perpetrators of the killings accountable for their actions, we acquiesce and grant immunity for more impunity to those have taken the level of their lawless activities to an unspeakable level of atrocious violence.
We must condemn the near-misses, but the direct hits must attract the sternest criticism from all fair-minded members of our humanity as well unmitigated outrage.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Opinion: Finding the right food for the conscience - truth

"We are lying and finding sexier ways to do it." Sarah Firth
Narratives are many
Many current events in the world has forced people to take sides, speak fully persuaded of the narrative that appeals to them and that has become their truth.
Whether there are facts or evidence to support the view they espouse is another thing.
However, there is a tendency to buy into a narrative, to be identified by a Shibboleth and that becomes a sworn mantra to be recited to any that might have ears.
Know who is at fault
From the fundamentals, one can examine the sometimes odiously accepted view that a lady's dress is ultimately responsible for her being raped and that the rapist is excused, exculpated and never needing to account for the crime, that is how the seed of impunity is sown through a contrived narrative that grants immunity.
Yet, all you have to hear in any statement is the qualification, "ultimately responsible" and with that the perpetrator walks, the victim twice victimised and bereft of justice.
How we champion impunity
For decades, we have excused Israeli belligerence against its cheek by jowl Palestinian neighbours and lands adjacent, impunity reigning with the narrative of security and defence without any accountability, except to a contrived sense existential threat.
We all know Israel is there to stay, it is not under threat of extermination, even if words have been spoken to that effect, but it is a political and propaganda tool deftly used by reprehensible politicians to distract us from a deeper truth of untrammelled aggression, unspeakable atrocities and bloody injustices that make the heart ache.
We must apportion blame where it is due, whoever dropped the bomb is responsible for the carnage just as the other side is responsible solely for their own acts.
How deny the truth
I return to the analogy that regardless of the manner of dress, whether provocative or not, the rapist is responsible for the rape and that is where the law stands and where justice is sought.
Likewise, the downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam was the sole criminal act of the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, no other contrived narrative is permissible and they should be brought to book.
Provocation is not responsibility
Provocation should never become responsibility, if the provoked should choose to retaliate, the provoked should be held responsible for the consequences of their actions without dissimulation.
Therein is the matter of conscience as expressed in Sarah Firth's quote. Would we accept the lie of a contrived narrative or the truth of clear responsibility for particular actions?
I have a conscience, it has a duty to stay true by supporting the truth. It has the task of expressing my humanity of empathy, feeling, understanding and appreciating the broad spectrum of what life is.
For to know pain, suffering, injustice, cruelty and hurt is to begin to see the truth of aspects of our human wretchedness.
Most importantly we must save our consciences from being seared with narratives untrue that serves to exacerbate unconscionable impunity.
Postscript:


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thought Picnic: We are story people

The fool I am
Life is an interesting journey of many experiences that are never fully told. I would be the first to acknowledge my frail humanity, my weaknesses, my stupidity and my foolishness.
Yet, where some might think I am being hard on myself, I realise that maybe I have not been hard on myself enough to make some changes necessary to change some of the situations I have been in.
Things procrastinated, things fancied, things desired, but they have been things, within grasp at times but left to be as if they did not matter, yet, they have mattered more than ever because they are not just the stuff of life, but what is necessary to make life better.
Celebrate blessings
It is part of that bigger deal of the pursuit of happiness that I have allowed to elude me not out of lack of speed or purpose but with a laid back presence of mind that sometimes one cannot be bothered.
Bother, one must, or bothered one would become, as these things become subjects of deep introspection and scolding lessons of life that one is almost ashamed to share because of one’s failings.
Then as if the end of life is close, one ruminates and reminisces, striving still to put regrets at bay and celebrate the blessings that have made this life wonderful. I find myself saying to myself quite regularly that despite some experiences I would never wish on anyone else, I really do love my life.
Story people, we are
Maybe some things can be better, maybe some things can be improved upon, maybe some changes can be implemented, maybe some new experiences can enrich my life more, I am open to all and more because that is the joy of living.
That is what make each and every one of us story people, let us write these stories and celebrate life, for in all the pain and suffering, there is wonder, beauty and fun to be had, the advice I would give to many regardless is, never lose your sense of fun.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Opinion: Thank you Ian Thorpe for coming out

He came out
Yesterday evening, I got to my hostess’ place and heard the news that Ian Thorpe, the amazing Australian, athlete and swimmer had come out as gay on a Michael Parkinson interview in Australia.
That we still have to greet this news as brave and courageous is indicative of the global community we live in, even so in Western liberal societies where being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual is generally accepted.
The struggle
Yet, the bigger struggle is with the individual, the idea of self, the acceptance of self, the conflicts and inner turmoil of the mind, the fear of rejection, ostracism, persecution, abuse and excoriation, the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing, the tendency to conform as if what you are can be done away with by the use of willpower, the list of emotions and battles is endless.
Then, many are blessed with the situation that they can care less of what others think because they have become whom they want to be and have begun to thrive and excel with the full expression of self, we are almost envious and jealous of them because they are in the process of completing their lives in the pursuit of happiness.
The society
Certain societies cannot countenance sexuality that deviates from heterosexuality predicated from religion and what they call their culture or traditions to the extent that they have not only criminalised homosexuality, but created criminal justice systems to punish severe what in more ‘civilised’ societies is regarded as normal as for any other person.
The individual then has to decide which battles to take on or live a kind of double life, satisfying the public needs of heterosexual expression whilst finding private fulfilment of their somewhat suppressed sexuality, living on the down-low.
Ian Thorpe ran the gauntlet of media interest in his sexual preferences all through his active swimming career as if it is anybody’s business what a person’s sexuality was or who they decide to have sex with.
Depression taking hold
Within the miasma of this personal struggle of conflict, concealment, fear and adjustment, Ian Thorpe fell into deep depression maintaining an identity that was not his that he drank heavily and contemplated suicide.
Thankfully, he went into rehab and has come to the point as he said in his interview, “I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.
This is the point where a person has in an adaptation of the K├╝bler-Ross model, for every encounter of adversity, be it grief, disease, struggles with sexuality, failure or any similar circumstance, we traverse with varying degrees of impact and periods of time of introspection and expression, the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Acceptance leads to freedom
Until we reach the point of acceptance, it is nigh impossible to get on with life and move on to the next stage beyond what ails us.
Yet, we have scored victories with the model in terms of grief, maybe disease in my case and also failure in many cases of my life story, but are stuck in the rut of sexuality, usually not on the acceptance of who we are, but on the bold acceptance of who we are to others.
That freedom eludes many and the freedom is a great release, for he is now looking towards finding a partner and starting his own family.
The reality
This is the world we inhabit, one that freely expresses homophobia that takes licence to abuse, malign, harangue and persecute for who we choose to love and how we express our love.
It is however heart-warming to read of the deluge of support from around the world to Ian Thorpe’s coming out, more so, the real human story of the pain he lived through before being confident enough to accept his own identity and the expression of it would be one to witness to many that we do not need to suffer for the fact that we are not heterosexual.
Focus on the person
If those who have known us for so long and have respected us for who we were then decide on learning of our sexuality that we are no more worthy of their love, fellowship, understand, acceptance and respect, it should be a reflection on them rather than ourselves.
Sexuality should never be a function of respect, rather it should be the personality, the character, the integrity and the virtues of the person, in goodness, compassion, thoughtfulness, empathy and developing relationships.
Maybe in our lifetime, all across the world, it would not matter to anyone who we love and when we touch, kiss, celebrate and talk of our lovers, it would just be as normal as it is to be human and part of humankind.
Thank you, Ian Thorpe for making it easier to be who we really are, thank you.

Nigeria Dialogue, London - The Next Generation of Nigeria Leadership


London, Nigeria
Yesterday the 12th of July, 2014, London was a busy city of events of which two were particular to Nigeria, down at Nigeria House was another #BringBackOurGirls protest on the 89th day of the #ChibokGirls going missing in the Cruciform Building at University College London was a Nigeria Dialogue shindig The Next Generation of Nigeria Leadership, and over at the British Library was a more generalist activity of the Royal African Society, Africa Writes.
I was in London to attend the Nigeria Dialogue (ND) for a particular reason, firstly, to meet Chude Jideonwo who had recently launched his book, Are We The Turning Point Generation?: How Africa's Youth Can Drive Its Urgently Needed Revolution (Available in paperback elsewhere and Amazon Kindle editions).
Ikhide Ikheloa, most affectionately known as Pa Ikhide on social media was visiting the UK from the US, he said he would attend, and we all started taking ‘selfies’.
According to the programme, this was going to be welcome address, a keynote speech and a book review session. The book reviewer was going to be Funmi Iyanda and other panellists included Ikenna Azuike and Humphrey Hawksley.
The time in Africa
The event was scheduled to run from 11:00AM to 4:00PM and one could easily notice that this was a slick operation of preppy interesting extrovert Nigerians with the clear optimism that they could do a lot for Nigeria, and I am met many Nigerian youths in other forums I respect for their ability, drive, activities, intellect and much more.
Considering my engagement in the Nigerian social media space, I was quite surprised that I have never encountered any of this team on Twitter, Facebook or through blogs before, it was almost as if, where have they been hiding? Unfortunately, despite the number of times came up during the event, I am either suffering mild amnesia or much else was quite forgettable.
The detail matters too
A few general observations, for an event starting at 11:00AM, much as the ushers and the team were quite welcoming, we arrived at 10:45AM and apart from signpost arrows to the Lecture theatre, the registration table was not ready, the event posters were not up and when I chatted to one usher putting up the signs, the location of the toilets was not known and nor the layout of theatre where there was both a front and back entrance – as signs only covered the front.
My view was once the session started, new arrivals were to be ushered in from the back, and it did not matter in the end. The UCL usually offers conferences in their buildings temporary access to their wireless network, but the information offered by the organisers was quite garbled that we all had many questions afterwards for a straightforward process.
When we took our seats, our desk tops were plain, over time as the ushers organised themselves, there was a pledge form (I turned it over as soon as I read it), then a sponsors pamphlet, a flyer of Nigeria Dialogue activities and then membership registration form in that order, but no programme schedule, that was on the main screen and unreadable from the third row where I say, besides, it was quite different from the schedule I applied to attend.
Not all are networking extroverts
In any case, when the event start and just a few minutes late, the opening remarks led to a 40-minute networking session, which for the extrovert is probably exhilarating though I do wonder why such people think extroversion should be the default temperament of Nigerian’s especially in settings like that, I am a naturally shy person and there were quite a few around like me, that I did extend myself beyond my comfort zone to chat to some of them.
Others were quite animated in their engagements and as that ended some of us were put on the spot to tell of whom we met and what we had learnt of them. I would rather not comment on my views of that kind of assertive domineering complex, but there were a number of times where from stranger host to stranger guest, the need to wrestle control of the attendees could have been done with finesse. Alas! Towards, the end, words failed me at the decorum from the speaker when he was seeking decorum of the audience. Anyway.
What they do
During the networking session, we were approached by one of the Nigeria Dialogue who in his introduction immediate assumed we might have been apprised of ND services. A list that included policy development, leadership and development, community development, data analysis, monthly newsletter and election monitoring tool.
For all the time I followed the recently concluded Ekiti State election, I saw no sign of this tool being referenced or talked about on social media and the process described was quite far from reality during polling.
I forget the detail and none of this stuff they seemed to be doing though laudable, I must say it is, had before the talk come up in my radar, but after an interesting torrent of policy wonk spiel, my friend and I glanced at each expressionless, nothing more to say about that.
Palm to face
The event started proper with panellists called on stage and another particular attention to detail missed, in ensuring all the panellist were really present and the proper pronunciation of names, these are little aspects of pedantry that I fear a person with very low-spectrum autism would notice and it grates.
The moderator said we were operating under the Chatham House Rule, which was to allow for freedom of expression without attribution, if information gathered from that event were to be used by any of the participants.
Then each of the panellists introduced themselves, and on prompting offered a view of their concept of Nigeria, what their hopes were, what their fears were and ideas as to how to tackle the issues facing the country.
Why I was there
Broadly, we engaged and interacted on issues of leadership, education, incentives, the common issues, the analysis paralysis that greets all things Nigerian, some ideas bordering on fantasy, others divorced from a historical context, yet in general interesting and useful if this all goes beyond people wanting to hear the sound of their voices.
The most interesting part for me was in the book reading and the book review, there was much more to take away from it than the rest as I saw it to the end.
Whether we had a proper dialogue is probably a matter of interpretation, but moderators need to be more attentive observing a broad eager audience to give more people the opportunity to speak rather than return to the same people in the audience to proffer on the different topics discussed, this happened quite a few times, very unfortunate.
We still believe
The event drew to a close and maybe what I took away from it was, regardless of how long we have been away from Nigeria, we are quite passionate about our country, if we had enthusiastic septuagenarians in the audience, there is much hope that we would not all be consumed with cynicism.
A poll suggested that our democratic experiment as it is presently composed and operating is not working for Nigeria. There is a need to focus on particular issues to tackle the Nigerian problem.
Nigerians no more take kindly to being fed solutions from global institutions, reasonable as the proposals were, I guess we have decided most of the solutions from before have never quite fitted to our problems and we believe we do have the wherewithal given the opportunity to create our home-grown solutions that would work and endure. We have a very strong sense of pride.
Much as I had opinions on many of the issues discussed I feared that a narrative had taken hold looking like group-think, the voiced opinions were rehashing the already made points, sometimes self-aggrandising and definitely, not fresh.
Maybe next time
On the pledge form landing first on my desk with me present, I guess that was a faux pas, all the documentation for the event should have been in a folder or already on the desks before the participants arrived.
There is much that would persuade me to support Nigeria Dialogue activities and I hope when I do attend another, these matters would have been addressed that I would have no hesitation in signing up to their cause. For this first impression, I have been informed, nothing more than that.


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Thought Picnic: Only statues stand immortal after men have long gone

I stand before great men
As I visit cities around the world I am attracted to statues, monuments of stone or marble built to the memory of men whose passage in time is recorded for a viewing.
Before you, on a plinth higher than man is the edifice to man and it is usually a man though rarely a woman, the name, the year of birth and the year of death, between the years is a hyphen and that represents the long story of a life so honoured.
Yet my sight plays with my mind for seeing statues at night almost excites my imagination into thinking they would come alive and converse with me.
Men long gone
Then one reflects that statues are very much the yearning for immortality, great men personified in stone as a symbol, a memorial and a story, having walked the earth, they are long gone, dead and buried.
In the square in front of the fantastic neo-gothic Manchester Town Hall are five statues, I know only two of the men, Prince Albert the consort of Queen Victoria had a grand statue set under a canopy held up by four columns, his honour came by reason of marriage and great it was. Albert Square it is.
A few plinths away stood a greater man, William Ewart Gladstone without much ceremony, four times called to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the reign of Queen Victoria, yet the greater honour of a grander memorial fell on him who married than on him who achieved.
But for the stones, there is no remembrance of the men except in history or in conversation where what they did or the lives they lived mattered.
We are transients
Man on whom power has fallen for stewardship yet fails to see this passage of time, a long period of passage that is an eternity and a future also which is an eternity, we men being markers on the chart that offers an opportunity to live, but never the gift of immortality.
In our folly, we grab money and grab power and act as if for us, time has stood still, as if the reckoning has stopped and history ended yesterday, but we are all transients, some for a moment, some for longer, like flowers we bloom, we wither, we die and blessed be the work of nature as we return to dust or ashes to be fondly remembered or completely forgotten.
If honour outlasts us, a statue rises in a likeness for a moment in time when we were most comely, and as I visit another city square, I sit again observing monuments to great men long dead. Lifeless statues with names, the year of birth and the year of death.
When I depart, my slow long walk or journey back home continues as I contemplate how well I shall be truly forgotten, not having made a dent in time.
The memorials in Albert Square, referenced from Wikipedia



Friday, 11 July 2014

The UK: Can we trust the establishment to establish the truth about child sex abuse?

Money and sex
Someone once said for most criminal activity in the world, you should either follow the money or follow the sex. I would say that it applies to everything that defines human weakness and the basest expressions of our humanity.
Following the money is quite easy once you have the knowhow and the tools.
Where the confluence of sex and money meets, the activity could range from prostitution to human trafficking.
Following the sex
Following the sex can however be an inscrutable conundrum, because it is usually secretive and for all our scruples, sanctimony and sententiousness it can be obtained by means too shameful and embarrassing for words.
The given is that we are all sexual beings and most of us have need of sexual expression which can easily be selfish, uncaring, dis-compassionate and primal.
The worst acquisition of sex is when it is exploitative, the rich prey on the poor, the powerful on the less so and heinously, the adult taking sexual pleasures off the child without restraint.
Too shocking for words
We have reached a nadir of the latter in the UK as what started over a decade ago as accusations of clerical child sex abuse has now roped in the establishment which appears to include household name celebrities, national treasures, politicians, businessmen, entertainers that you wonder who is left out of the number.
Hands and members violating the young, the powerless, the vulnerable, the star-struck and most especially those in the care of the state; used and abused at will and with pleasure by those whose status in society appeared to grant them immunity for impunity to commit vile and unmentionable acts.
The culpable establishment
The establishment – the aristocracy, the politicians, the police, the prosecutors, the judiciary, the famous and honoured, and their powerful friends – all closed ranks covering the sexual abuse; paedophile criminality being chief amongst the shameful and heinous deeds they stopped from seeing the light of day as the establishment sacrificed the abused to maintain its veneer of respectability and protect itself from deserved scrutiny and excoriation.
This has been going on for decades and many of the actors are long dead and buried, yet some grace exists for some granted the longevity of life to see out their days in shame for crimes too odious to mention in even louche conversation.
An inquiry is more than necessary as to who suffered and how this went on for so long. The establishment must now unravel itself and expunge itself of this odious history, but one wonder if the interest of the establishment is too vested for us to elicit the slightest truth of what really happened.
Some justice
It is all well and good that we have nabbed many of the dead establishment figures as Sir Jimmy Saville and Sir Cyril Smith, then Max Clifford and Rolf Harris have gone to jail, many others who were accused have been acquitted, with certain other names making the rounds online, this whole sordid saga might well be the tip of the iceberg.
The lesson to all must be, regardless of what status in society you might have as a child or young person, there is no given licence for you to be sexually abused just because you have no one to speak up for you, and now, those who did would have to face justice and if they don’t the mere taint of association with paedophilia and sexual abuse is enough the ruin of any reputation as any.
Worse still is we have not even lifted the lid on these sorts of abuses beyond the West, I hate to think of what people got away with in Africa, Asia and South America where some acts might even have been subsumed in cultural acceptance as not to at all of concern.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Nigeria: To a boy most things are forgiven, but to a man, more is expected

An education without history
As the Germans destroyed the assumed mythical status of Brazilian football with a 7 – 1 rout, we all took to Twitter, sharing wit, puns, jokes and memes, some funny, others not so, but the whole atmosphere was marred by a rather tasteless and ‘stupid’ tweet.
I do not intend to reproduce that tweet here because it reeks of odium unparalleled that words fail me.
Now, the perpetrator is a young and rising star in the Nigerian political system, many of us just between what might be the uncle to the parent age with reference to him have found reasons to commend and respect him for his achievements.
In many cases, we may not have been in agreement, but there has been no reason to be disagreeable, he has always held his official brief well and that is worthy of every recognition.
Looking for mitigating circumstances
Yet, having changed masters from a demur Sports and Youth Federal Minister to one who with the brief of Minister of State of Defence whose supposed education and political experience fails to reflect in his tactless and somewhat undiplomatic screeches on Twitter about terrorism in Nigeria, I fear that some of that doltishness has rubbed off on him.
In an unguarded moment, he tweeted what would not be heard in polite society in Europe for as far as the eye can see and this repugnant phrase has not been heralded in public settings since April 30th 1945.
Ears are for listening
Immediately, those who cared called it out, and this is where you know a man; one with character, one with principle and dare I say, one with integrity. When a fault or wrong is pointed out, not as a voice of common antagonism, but one of clear reason and reasonableness, you reflect, review and gracefully regret error.
Sadly, he dug in, with obduracy, obstinacy and bewildering stupidity, flailing with bluster and braggadocio as a typical Nigerian politician blown adrift like a rainless cloud because it is not anchored in the realism of truth and facts.
Boy came out of the man
Maybe I am being overly harsh on the boy, because I as a boy, he can be excused many things, a lack of knowledge of history which in a man we would call ignorance, a lack of the ability to reflect, which in a man we would call arrogance, and the inability to say sorry, which in a boy would be a clear sign of immaturity.
Worst still, I would hate to extrapolate this event and suggest that many of the youth that I follow and engage with on many forums are prone to this absentmindedness of the powerful to realise that one does stoop to conquer, that one is wise to know that when in a hole you stop digging and that being regretful and sorry is hardly as sign of weakness, but one of strength, even if it is not obvious to the person involved.
One still hopes
Yet, one of the greater qualities of youthfulness is not one of aging but in the ability to learn, the presence of a teachable spirit and to know that one can change if a path to being better is found.
Yesterday, I tweeted extensively about A Man for All Seasons, the character analysis of Sir Thomas More contrasted with Richard Rich with the somewhat reactionary William Roper in the middle of some very insightful exchanges, the subject like one handed a rope to save himself has pulled towards Rich than towards More.
I close with one of the tweets I posted on the issue. “It is amazing what seemingly inconsequential things show the true integrity and character of a man and it can be so damaging.” It needn’t have needed much commentary; to a boy all is forgiven for out of him might grow a man of all seasons, but to a man, much more is expected lest he be judged a man of no season.
I recommend anyone entering politics or anyone and battling with issues of conscience, duty and allegiance consider watching A Man for All Seasons (Film), on Amazon (DVD) and (Streaming).


Monday, 7 July 2014

Nigeria: My plea for Wasilu Umar, the 14-year old bride

On crime and punishment
Murder is never a good thing, the victim having lost their life and the perpetrator having committed a heinous crime which by all standards of justice should be punished.
Whilst homicide should be adequately punished to reflect the crime, I have never been an advocate of capital punishment. I do not subscribe to the old Mosaic Law concept of an eye for an eye.
If ever I were in a position to plead for mitigation, it would be to temper justice with mercy, asking for a level of compassion that appreciates the gravity of offence but a lenience that would be both instructive and reformative of the perpetrator.
Yet, I would make an exception, on the matter of mercy for child sex abusers, whilst I would never go as far as advocating state-sponsored mutilation, there is nothing that suggests such people should walk our streets freely. No length of incarceration can judiciously expiate for the damage wrought on the innocence of a child whose sexuality and sexual expression has been violated for the inordinate pleasure of an adult.
A child bride is wrong
This brings me to the case in Nigeria of a 14-year old bride, Wasilu Umar, who is to be charged with culpable homicide punishable by death for poisoning her 35-year old husband along with, unfortunately three other males aged 12, 13 and 25 respectively, besides the 10 others who survived, though after needing hospital treatment.
So many things do not sit right with this case which needs to be scrutinised without emotion. The first issue is, why is a 14-year old a bride? That ought not to be so, that she was pressed into this liaison by her father is both unfortunate and really, putting all religious sentiment aside, cruel and criminal.
Then, she was married off to a 35-year old; this sort of shameful and reprehensible conduct needs to be expunged from our society and anything that gives licence to this kind of culture needs to be excoriated in the sternest terms.
Betrothal maybe, but never marriage
There might be scope for betrothal, but marriage must come much later, at the minimum, it should be the age of maturity, at 18 years, for instance, and it should be only be sanctioned where all parties have the full rights to consent to such a union. The girl, there are no two ways about it - a female of 14 years of age is NOT a woman, she is a girl and should not be made into a woman regardless of societal privations for the sexual proclivities of a patriarchy that cares little about the welfare of the girl-child.
The unfortunate situation of marrying off a girl to someone who could easily be her father thereby putting the life of 14 souls at risk, 4 people dead already, bears the hallmarks of a serial killer, 14 people would have been carnage unspeakable, but we must never absent our minds from the cause and we must not be blinded from the truth.
Slavery is the name
The next question is why a 14-year old girl has to cater for 14 people, whilst extended families are attributes of the Nigerian culture and many including children have to play their part within the family, the idea that a girl has to cook for or serve 14 people smacks of that forgettable word called slavery.
That any society would accept and condone such because I do not think this girl is an exception is contemptible, it needs to be addressed with urgency, it is abuse, it is vile and there must be instruments to elevate the rights of a child beyond being sentenced with juvenile marriages contracted for the purpose of submitting the girl to an abysmally cruel life of servitude in the kitchen and in the bedroom.
Society must reflect on what to do
Then the next question is, should she be punished for the crime? There should be a punishment, but it should not be capital punishment. For the innocent lives lost, there is no clear indication as to whether the girl at 14 really knew what the consequences of her actions would be. There is a case also for pleading her innocence due to diminished responsibility.
We may not be able to apply the first world aspirations of a happy marriage to this situation, it was anything, but happy. Much was asked of this girl well beyond her abilities that those responsible must carry a share of the blame. Her father first, her husband, now deceased, and the society or community that celebrated this or turned a blind eye until bodies began to fall into graves.
Most of all, what the girl needs is rehabilitation, the decision to make an example of her is a sad reflection of a society unwilling to stand for right and stand for the emancipation of the girl-child. The greater absurdity to this matter is how this society automatically ascribes womanhood to a girl the moment some dirty old man takes her for a wife.
Protect the girl
In essence, the girl is being tried as an adult. I am saddened by this development, I hope that better judgement prevails to give the girl another chance to grow out of childhood into womanhood with all the opportunities girls of that age are supposed to have – some freedom to be a child, the latitude to be an adolescent and the right to a decent education.
I cannot suggest that they send the girl home because there is where her problems started, but she does have to be sent somewhere where her life, her rights and her freedoms are fought for vigorously and protected by every means possible.
This charge of culpable homicide punishable by death is by all standards a shameful societal regression that must never be countenanced.