Friday, 28 April 2017

Thought Picnic: Knowingly breaking the rules

An Englishman in Scotland
With respect to my new odyssey up in the beautiful climes of Scotland, I must confess, every day has been brilliant, bright and beautiful in Edinburgh, I am beginning to disbelieve my new colleagues who have constantly suggested the weather would change in 15 minutes. Maybe there is a different clock mechanism working in the country of our cousins up north, because going by English time, that 15 minutes of changeable weather has been running for almost 5 days.
Considering what they say about the weather in Manchester, Edinburgh could as well be in summer already, however, I guess by the time I return next week, I might arrive at a rude awakening.
I updated my LinkedIn profile with sketchy details of my new role and soon after congratulations and best wishes came flooding in. Contacts from way back asking after my health and welfare amongst other things. Good thoughts and prayers, news and anecdotes coming in that you can only feel liked and loved.
The workplace relationships we rarely cultivate
We forget we have an amazing community in the workplace, people we interact with, day-in-day-out, we probably spend more productive time with people at the workplace than anywhere else, it makes me wonder why some people end up being nasty to other colleagues. You step away and conclude a dark soul would never be a spring of laughter or humour, they are harbingers of ill will, stress, and discontent, wielding power without either a sense of responsibility or humanity. In the end, they will not be remembered fondly or happily, they are the scions of perdition.
Yet, in the little notes we exchange of reconnection, friendship and reminiscences, you are heartened that your friends are doing well, living well and happily well.
Breaking rules properly
One such remembering a working relationship over 14 years ago commented on some influence I had on him to the effect that I apparently said, “Learn the rules well so you can break them properly.”
Now, I cannot remember saying that, but on reading it bad to myself, they do sound like something I would have said, both seriously and in jest. I would not consider myself a rule breaker per se, I could be quite conformist, yet, in knowing the rules well, you have every opportunity to test its breaking points and dare to experience the daring-do of living free of constraints.
In another way, a lack of understanding of the rules of doing things, of engagement, of conduct and many other things not only symbolises incompetence, that incompetence is compounded by ineptitude presaging absolute chaos and worse.
As I have been reminded, I should keep this in mind. As an Englishman, I was looking forward to the Early May Bank Holiday on the 1st of May. Alas, it is not that strictly observed where I work in Scotland, so no long weekend for me, I’m back in Edinburgh on Sunday. Finally, I did not know TransPennine Express trains offered wireless connectivity in motion, I noticed someone else connecting and so I got to post this blog.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Edinburgh: Returning after two decades

Of memories, past
As new adventures go, my arrival in Scotland was not necessarily auspicious, but interesting all the same. The last time I was in Edinburgh was 20 years ago when I met up with a Brummie just like myself who lived in Scotland and was literally the antithesis of the company that people who saw us together ever thought I would keep.
He was in full skinhead attire at a time when many antisocial activities attributed to skinheads involved street violence and racial abuse. He was a SHARP skinhead, friendly, lovely and amazingly good company.
We kept in touch for a few years after my visit, at which time, he left Scotland for the West Midlands and with the passage of time, we have both completely lost contact with each other.
A yearning for the new
I stayed at the Ibis Hotel which had only opened a few weeks earlier and going online required a modem connection over a phone line, I was able to cross-charge the rate through my BT phonecard, now a collectible, how times have changed.
I was in Leeds on a Microsoft training course when I received a phone call from an agency about a role in Edinburgh, for some reason, the moment I heard of the role, my heart seemed to be set on the possibility that I would get the job.
It was another 8 days before I heard of their interest in interviewing me, it was to be a telephone interview in the morning, the Thursday before Easter. I attended with my mobile phone hooked up to a headphone because I was not sure taking the interview over a speakerphone would work so well.
Whilst I cannot say I was the most articulate in my answers to the many questions posed about my skills and what I would be expected to do, the interview appeared to go well. I had not interviewed for a role for over 3 years, so there was no practice in the kitty to ensure I would exude any confidence that a person of my experience would be expected to have.
Plans, proposals, and prospects
I was not to hear anything until after the Easter holidays when on Wednesday I was contacted that they would want a face-to-face interview in Edinburgh on Friday. In the meanwhile, some terms of the contract changed unfavorably, but I was still willing to put my lot with this prospect.
I considered spending the weekend in Edinburgh but some deeper premonition suggested I go up for the day and return home for the weekend. In the process, that meant I found time to attend my goddaughter’s birthday in Dorset.
At the interview, we started off on a very friendly note, some comment made about my dressing and the reference to my father whose thoughts to me at one time were, ‘Appearances matter always.’ That I have found in some places of work that I have the best dressed is not one of extraneous effort, just that inclination to be well presented.
And so, we agreed
In that sitting, after I was asked if I was up for the challenge and a challenge it would be, I dedicated myself to the cause and I was offered the role without recourse to the agency first. We agreed I would start on Tuesday and Monday was spent sorting out the contractual details and other finery.
Sunday had me out to Dorset and then Monday, a 5:40-hour journey up to Edinburgh where the first 4 nights are being spent at a University of Edinburgh apartment accommodation. I did more on Friday discovering Edinburgh than I have had the time to do since I arrived on Monday. The statue of Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy amongst others.
My office faces onto the craggy steep rocks that form the foundations of the Edinburgh Castle, I will probably spend a weekend here soon to explore the city. However, without any doubt, I am enjoying this new adventure north of Hadrian’s Wall. On reflection, I have now worked in the three nations of Great Britain and just one left of the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

I Am Not Your Negro

Finding meaning in the dark
At the Easter weekend, my friend of 33 years visited and for the three nights that he stayed over we had a social event of sorts which included watching films and having dinner.
Of the films that we watched, I was seeing Moonlight for the second time and I Am Not Your Negro for the first time. On Moonlight, which was a coming of age story dealing with drugs, addiction, relationships and sexuality, there was another element of bullying that I thought I should write about, but that piece has not been conceived yet.
When I did first watch Moonlight, I wrote a blog which not so much a review of the film itself but a reflection of how addiction regardless of the substance or activity does have the same destructive effects on all directly and remotely attached to the said addict. The blog is referenced below:
A fake quote with sentiments
Now, almost four years ago, I wrote another blog that has garnered over 20,000 page views, I was surprised when just a few days ago, there was a sudden surge in readership that added another 2.700 page views to the blog in a week.
Apparently, the subject of the blog is making the rounds again, a case of Internet Apocrypha, a quote contrived by someone and attributed to a historical figure which then cast as genuine.
With this new activity came a new comment, there have been many comments, many objective, some subjective and others just downright nasty.
I bit my tongue
This new comment that came from Fausto who is probably French going from his other comments on other forums failed to address the topic I blogged about. He started by damning with praise by calling me a ‘Smart Man’, before belittling the context of the blog and then suggesting that I should embark on another scholarly activity which I excerpt and quote below. All grammatical errors left in the text.
I suggest you spend even more time and your wisdom sir to find out what atrocities were caused to the African continent by the British You owe that to your own kind sir. as black man regardless of your motive you cannot be the devil advocate of the devil.” [Link]
Now, I do have stringent commenting rules on my blog, that might be the reason why I rarely receive that many comments on the blog itself, but I do find engagement on Twitter and Facebook though links to my blogs posted therein.
The audacity of a cretin
Much as I can be quite tolerant of people, there are times when odium and the purveyors of it need to be put in their place. For a stranger to come to my blog, my own personal space to dictate what I opine about is disrespectful, abusive and smacks of the audacity of a cretin.
Then to use the phrase, “You owe that to your own kind, sir, as black man.” Should have me spitting tacks before I descend into acrimonious verbiage eviscerating every notion of his being until it shrinks into completely forgettable ignominy, but I was kind.
In context of sorts
To digress, the second film, I Am Not Your Negro was a construct of the unfinished work of James Baldwin who died 30 years ago and it was a documentation of the history of the African-American Civil Rights Movement through the lives and assassinations of three friends,  Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.
All of them died in their late 30s leaving young families, James Baldwin compared and contrasted the men, talking about his relationship with each of them and articulating the causes of the Negro as African Americans were called in then in his [published writings and debates around Europe.
I left the showing of the film with a sense that James Baldwin had a compelling mastery of words and communication that people wanted to hear what he had to say whilst the FBI sought to denigrate him for his homosexuality.
Why it matters
Yet, I cannot properly review the film here, only suggest that any opportunity to view the film would provide a teachable moment on the civil rights movement.
As we left the cinema, we discussed the issues of identity, of privilege, of demonstrations and causes and how that affects who we are today.
As the thoughts about the film percolated in my mind for days, the comment left by Fausto seemed to crystallise into what I wrote below, to inform my interlocutor that my wiliness to engage does not confer the right to dictate how I should think, what I should write about, where I should express opinions, what my identity is and how I should express my own thoughts.
To encroach is to invade my territory, disrespect my person and arrogate upon himself an entitlement he could never earn which much be contemned completely, and so my response.
I Am Not Your Negro
The purpose of this blog was to debunk false material being circulated as fact which came within my social media space almost 4 years ago.
Now, I have no idea what the purpose of your comment is apart from attempting to serve as a distraction from that primary aim.
If you had bothered to check other details about me, you would realise that I am both an Englishman by birth and a Nigerian by heritage. If anyone had posted an inversion of the truth about slavery into my social media space, I would have performed the same activity of taking the time to address it as I addressed this matter.
Now, if you have an opinion about what I have written, I would expect you to state those views rather than attempt to project some inferiority complex upon my person.
I am aware of the many atrocities of the British in their colonial fiefdoms and I also have to bear the burden of the fact that I cannot divorce myself from the shared identity of being both British and African.
What I would not do is repudiate one for another to satisfy a victim complex, I am a black man of great privilege and I would not deny who I am.
In the spirit of the recent documentary about civil rights in America, may I clearly state to you without equivocation - "I am not your negro."

Monday, 17 April 2017

Thought Picnic: A note of self-encouragement

In a moment of reviewing personal veracity,
When one encounters the doubts of innate capacity,
Within the resources of varied capability,
Always lies amazing ability.
That even in the throes of vulnerability,
Having weathered the onslaught of imbecility,
There is every probability,
Assurance remains of adequate facility,
In that I find agreeability.
When you stand with integrity,
And consider things in tranquillity,
Whatever the fragility,
It cannot temper your agility.
Introspection hones your acuity,
Reveals many a possibility,
Nothing will end in futility,
For we are born for irrepressibility,
In utility is great formidability.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Opinion: Where addiction and tragedy can confuse issues

It is a sad story
I just read an article posted on LinkedIn titled, Opioids, My Mom's Death, and Why People Trust Science Less and the human side of the story is very sad, however, the additional narrative is opinion, conjecture, suspect and unfortunate.
There is a conflation of issues along with unresolved conflicts that need to be separated before this article tagged as an Editor’s Pick, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical are taken in without questioning or review.
Separate the issues
Walking back the issues, there is grief at a mother’s death, addiction to pain-killers that came as a result of prophylaxis for osteoporosis, estrangement, and then the machinations of the pharmaceutical industrial complex, known as Big-Pharma.
There is no doubt that Big-Pharma, Big-Tobacco, Big-Oil, Big-Manufacturing, Big-Agriculture and Big-Anything have a lot to answer for about their products and the effects of the production and use of those products on people, on the environment, and everything that makes for the wellbeing of our common humanity, but that is addressing the symptom.
The fundamentals would always be down to the individual, their personality and their experiences in how persuadable they are and this is not to castigate the strength of character of anyone, but missing that point would allow for drawing the wrong conclusions.
Scientific advancement has done wonders
For instance, it is thanks to the contributions of scientific research and medicine that I am alive today, having at one time been at death’s door with a prognosis of 5 weeks to live if my physiology could not tolerate and respond to the regimen of therapy I was being prescribed.
At the lowest point, I was in such unbearable pain that if not for the need to monitor my vitals, I would have been anaesthetised to manage the stress of it. Before I was admitted to the hospital, I was on Tramadol, then on the day I was admitted, I was given a morphine skin patch that had to be taken off after two days because I could not keep my food down and from then on, I was put on Oxycontin and Paracetamol with Codeine.
Whilst it appeared to manage the pain, when a deep biopsy was done on the fungating tumours under the sole of my left foot, 7 shots of local anaesthetic did very little to deaden to the pain. I simply bit on a think piece of a folded napkin as they prodded the anger in my foot.
Managing pain alone
On leaving the hospital, I was prescribed a list of pain and nausea management drugs that I was concerned about the cumulative soporific effects of the drugs. In addition to the earlier prescribed drugs, I was given a Fentanyl patch and that dosage was doubled when I reported that I was still in very much pain. That was when the equilibrium for my pain management was reached, I was not as pre-occupied with the pain as I took in 7 sessions of chemotherapy and the cancer lesions healed.
Whilst the lesions had gone and all the necrotised skin had been removed to reveal fresh skin, I was still in pain into the 4th month of my diagnosis, then the pain began to subside. One Sunday, the patch fell off my skin, I did not know until then that a patch retainer film could be worn to keep the patch in place. Until the effects of the new patch kicked in, I was in such pain I began to laugh almost into delirium, but that produced endorphins to ease the pain. My friend thought I was going crazy, but I knew what I was doing.
Coming off pain killers
The pain of cancer is in another realm, it cannot be explained, the therapy for chronic pain has addictive qualities too. When the pain had gone, I could not just take off the patch, I had to wean myself off it, this is where the mind and the will come to play. Addiction has much of its roots in the psyche first than in its palliative effects. The palliative which is in itself a kind of comfort has to be consciously managed.
In my case, it took another 2 months to come completely off the patch and other pain medication. With the patch, I cut it in half and left it on for longer, each patch dosage halved and left on for much longer until my body could do without the drug.
Then, we all have innate tendencies to addiction and some people might be able to avoid addiction. There was another instance where a change in drug regimen meant I could not sleep, the first suggestion was to put me on sleeping medication, however, I thought of working a plan to take my pills at a certain time and avoid completely drug-induced sleep. I could see the dangers of becoming dependent on sleeping pills.
Addiction is first personal
Going back to the purpose of writing this blog, addiction has social, emotional, economic, relationship and physical consequences. In my view, addiction is not just to drugs or the abuse of drugs, alcohol, it could be sex, it could be religion or any other activity. The person and people around that person suffer, and that is very sad.
Regardless of what brought on the addiction, it is always first a personal struggle, what other factors contribute to it does not take away from how the person might have succumbed to addiction. Whether we fail to be better informed of the debilitating side-effects of a drug does not take away from the balance between efficacy and damage.
Apportion rightly
The science would suggest a drug can do something, most drugs have to recoup research and development costs and it unfortunate that some people put the profit motive well and above the welfare of patients and customers – that is commerce, we cannot avoid it.
It is, however, a long stretch to conflate personal tragedy, addiction, the science and the commerce into one clickable title of Opioids, My Mom's Death, and Why People Trust Science Less and draw the conclusions in the piece without properly assuming personal responsibility on the one hand and understanding that every individual has a unique physiology that adapts to medication in different ways which could influence the mind too.
I recall my doctor saying they could treat my condition but it depended on my physiology to tolerate the medical regimen. I lost a friend to a similar condition because his physiology did not have the capacity to tolerate the regimen of chemotherapy.
The responsibility of addiction remains a personal thing, the responsibility for being properly informed lies within the person, their medical support, the pharmaceutical companies and the science that balances efficacy with possible side-effects, with the hope that efficacy outweighs side-effects.
I am sorry, the writer lost his mother to addiction, but if we are to trust science less because of the conflicts of interest between treatment and commerce, we would all die sooner in more misery and pain with respite or comfort. That is why these issues need to be treated completely separately even if they are linked in a personal tragedy.

Thought Picnic: Never let little minds define your big life

We have those ills
We all as primal and uncultured human beings have the capacity for rage and pettiness, but what separates one from another is the ability to appreciate that the fundamentals of good breeding become the world of difference regardless of what status a person attains in this world.
In the scheme of things, there are too many instances where if I were to paraphrase William Shakespeare, the highly fed and lowly taught have risen to manage the highly taught and somewhat lowly fed.
Those with a good sense of self-esteem and self-assurance would always find themselves at the envious end and sadly, the mercy of the unsure and reaching; who by accident of good fortune we must not begrudge, get promoted beyond their capabilities and we are invariably engaged in a proxy class war.
Old-fashioned still matters
I always reference the necessity and importance of old-fashioned values, much of which is disappearing from the workplace, ones of courteous, of respect, of proper address, of refined conversation and of choice of apparel.
We cannot make the choices of co-workers, but we can create the best impressions of who we are by conduct, decorum and comportment, that some of those attributes cannot be ascribed to some is unfortunate, especially if they represent your line management – that is life in the workplace.
Know yourself and live
However, it is important that you understand your own journey and count your own blessings, know your own story and never compromise on your principles. With that in mind, you realise that you might be in a situation which is hardly the top of your past achievements, but the spirit of perspective and contentment has given you a better way of thinking.
It allows you to let go of trying to tackle those who never in their whole lifetime would experience a fraction of your own amazing story of life, livelihood, earnings and blessings.
Do not let those who have the little power they have today become the ones who define your future. They cannot amount to much and your life goes on, as you part ways.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

I dream a little dream of me

I have great capacity to dream,
Engage in the power of life-giving hope,
With all that burning desire,
I must curb my enthusiasm.
Where I’ve had no light to my beam,
Giving me every reason to mope,
I find no urge to retire,
It is not a function of my phantasm.
It is all part of the scheme,
The ways we are deeply taught to cope,
That fuels the things to which we aspire,
We are born to bridge the chasm.
That we never run out of steam,
Or rarely in the dark only to grope,
For we live to learn and acquire,
A lasting happiness full of enthusiasm.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Clinical Notes

History in bodily detail
A 4-page printout from my local clinic this morning details a two-year medical history drawing in information from London, Wrexham and Amsterdam about observations, diagnoses, prophylaxes and treatments for a condition that is in its 15th year.
Reading through, I am somewhat amazed at the ability of the human body to face the onslaught of infirmity and find recovery in help from medication, the state of mind and just sheer good fortune, to which I can only say, I have been blessed.
Under pressure to be at ease
Whilst away on a course yesterday, I received a call from my clinic to visit for a bicep cuff encounter with a sphygmomanometer. Yes, when I was last at the consultant’s just over two weeks ago, my blood pressure readings were a matter of great concern.
We agreed for an appointment for this morning and I walked up to the clinic just a little over 250 metres away. Observing the lady who went in, in front of me, she did not stop at the reception but touched a device where she entered her gender and date of birth to be informed about who she would be seeing and where to wait.
It is all now electronic, so I touched the device, entered my details and when the name of the nurse came up, I cross-referenced with a chart to the left of the device on a noticeboard that told me I should wait on the 1st floor.
Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing
Just under 10 minutes later, I was called into a waiting room where my blood pressure was taken twice, with the second reading much lower than the first and both readings considered normal. However, I was told if there was any indication of abnormal blood pressure, I could be put on a 24-hour monitor to gauge what my blood pressure is on a typical day.
We discussed my meeting with the consultant two weeks ago, the suggestion of prophylaxis for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) which was decided against without a consecutive blood test with similar indicators, I was told I needn’t worry about it. My drug regime might be changed in 6 months because the drug is now out of patent and there are more affordable variations of it, though I am not under any obligation to change them if I don’t want to.
In all, it was pleasant and I was back home within 30 minutes of leaving, looking forward to a more eventful day. Despite the many problems the NHS has, I owe a lot to the NHS for my health and wellbeing; long may that continue.

Thought Picnic: Victuals that feed the few

Inspired by this opinion piece by in Kay Musonda in ModernGhana titled, African Pentecostalism Has Given Birth To A New Breed Of Mentally Lazy Christians Who See God As A Rewarder Of Mediocrity, I contrived this ditty, emphasis on contrived.
Victuals that feed no one.
In the pursuit of the spiritual,
We have lost the individual,
As priests have taken the scriptural,
Made it into a begging ritual,
There is, therefore, no rigour of the intellectual,
For temples now inhabit the spectacle of the visual,
Therein we hone the instinctual,
From what was of the perpetual,
The clergy gains from the conceptual,
The laity left lazily ineffectual.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Thought Picnic: Between flawed diamonds and flawless pebbles

The battle for the perfect
“Leave your mind alone; your intuition knows what it wants to write, so get out of the way.” Ray Bradbury.
Intuition as Google defines it “is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.”
It goes without saying that in the realm of blogging, conscious reasoning is the enemy of the instinct to just write and allow the flow of whatever urge to write there is. There are times when I just begin to type at my keyboard or write in my notepad things that are just there to write.
Before I get enough of that spring of words into unstoppable traction, my mind interjects and interrupts, fearful of what arrangement or words might emanate and stemming the flow by channelling what was in freeform into the processing of thoughts and views, becoming the gamekeeper of expression.
The fearful interloper
Yes, my mind almost always gets in the way and at that time, it is almost impossible to politely ask it to move out of the way and allow free rein to what is innately there to express.
Intuition in writing can be your internal madness, a madness with a veneer of genius or even stupidity, you can never really know. If you can find a place to just scream, it is surprising what release it can be, jettisoning all inhibitions and letting ripping without abandon.
It is not thoughtlessness, per se, practice over time does create an inclination to do things literally subconsciously or even unconsciously. Taking away the impediments of the conscious might well be the panacea to the dreaded plague of Writer’s Block where we burden ourselves beyond our expression with what reception and assessment would be.
When Voltaire in his moral poem La Bégueule (French) wrote,
Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien,
Dit que le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
(In his writings, a wise Italian
says that the best is the enemy of good.)
I do not believe what he intended was to make do with the imperfect, but that we should allow what naturally comes to be itself without adjustment or embellishment. Sometimes, the inspired or the natural is ruined by intervention.
"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." Confucius

Monday, 3 April 2017

Thinking of Feyike - My sister, my daughter

My sister, my daughter
When I bought my apartment in November 2001, my youngest sister was the sole beneficiary, her name appeared on all the forms even though she was never aware of that fact.
She was for me not only my youngest sister but as there was a 17-year gap between us, there are ways in which I considered her my daughter too. Yet, I was like an absent father to a daughter I knew I had but never bonded with.
When she was born, she arrived home on the day I was leaving for school, I did not attend her naming ceremony and for that my father and I got into a physical where he head-butted me out of rage because I did not rise to expected familial responsibilities.
Away and unaware
I had left home at 10 for boarding school and the time I spent at home after that was for holidays apart from the 16th year when I was a student at the Lagos State Polytechnic before I moved to Yaba College of Technology in late 1982.
In many ways, I was unaware of what was going on at home, siblings fell seriously ill, some were admitted to hospital, another had an operation, I was oblivious of everything and only heard after the event whenever either of my parents deployed an accusatory put down to gain some leverage, I was a problem teenager who got them annoyed about most of what I did.
In hurt and blame
After I left Nigeria, in snippets of conversation I would hear of my sister’s condition, her undulating health status and the complaint that she was not giving enough consideration to her health. That was confirmed when I was able to obtain a full diagnosis from the doctors after her health deteriorated rapidly in mid-2015.
I had begun to mourn my sister and my daughter from that point, not out of resignation but in understanding the gravity of the diagnosis and the prognosis. I still hold the view that in a way my mother bears some responsibility for the way things turned out. We have not spoken and we probably would never speak because of this.
Respecting her choices
From the moment I was acquainted with the situation, I did communicate with my sister through other means apart from speech. It appeared some decisions were being made on her behalf that she was not happy to follow, she did not want a kidney transplant even though that would have given her respite and there was a time she suggested moving abroad to continue her education, giving her the opportunity to have better medical treatment.
At a time when she appeared despondent, I shared my own story about how I lost everything after cancer and invariably that included what she would have been a beneficiary of. I respected her being adamant about the choices she wanted for herself. Then when I was told that she was beginning to think of dying, I resigned myself to honouring that decision and so a few weeks after that she died.
For a memorial beyond the memories
My brother and third sister made the burial arrangements and she was committed to earth that same day somewhere far from home and unmarked. Tradition dictates difficult accommodations for grief, for she was survived by her parents and many older siblings.
A few days ago, I asked if a tombstone was being put over her grave, the response I received broke my heart, and at the point, I knew I had not even begun to grieve the passing of my sister. I do not think I understand or appreciate the gravity of the loss and this is from a distance in all ramifications compared to people saw her everyday, as her health declined and life slowly ebbed out of her tormented body.
I took the day off work and returned the next day pre-occupying myself back into work to weather the loss without pausing to emote and reflect. I busied myself to take my thoughts off it and have not given myself the time to consider until I started writing this blog.
I think of my mortality too, times when I wonder if I would be discovered before the maggots have had their wicked feast on my remains. Yet, even if there is nothing after death that I could either do or feel, I would like something to exist as a token of remembrance that I passed through this world noticed for more than a day. I would like that for my sister too because we never said goodbye and after she had gone, I did die a little.
My first sister and her church members made the burial arrangements, I did read that my third sister bathed her body and they all were pall-bearers at the end. As the blog read, I only so much about what is going on in my family.

Why Do I Blog Again?

The ‘Why do I blog?’ Question
Every once in a while, I find myself writing one of those “Why do I blog?” pieces. Sometimes, there is no particular answer to that question, when I consider the times I have written the silliest stuff and found that someone else can relate to the silliness.
It simply means no life or life story is insignificant, we all have stories to tell and we restrain ourselves from telling those stories because we over-analyse the interest, the import, the humour, the readability or our ability. The simplest stories are sometimes the most impactful to the reader.
Then again, in my 14th year of blogging, I can assure you that blogging is not easy, it is difficult, it can be inconsistent especially if you set goals for blogging and most of the time, there is no inspiration or drive to write anything, for days, for weeks, though rarely ever months.
The way you feel
I have written many times before that blogs are the way you see things, how you are affected and possibly what your opinions are. By the time you’ve written a sentence for each of those points, you already have a blog. The framework or skeleton of a blog is a blog, you don’t have to stress yourself about it.
I did not start blogging to gain popularity, notoriety or recognition, I just blogged because I have an active mind, lots of thoughts, many thoughts crazier than you can ever imagine and out of my love for expression. That I have garnered any readership of my blog is just fortunate and I am grateful for that.
It’s about moments
I am not a professional blogger and my activity on other social media platforms as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram do not substitute for the rich expression in blogging. Blogs are more manageable. I would go as far as to say that you may rarely get the inspiration to blog, do not depend on it as the impetus to write. Blogging grows out of moments and if you live the moment and cherish the moments, you will always have something to write about, your perspective of things.
Life is full of moments and that is what is unique to every individual, each moment is a story mostly untold. In some cases, all I have done is to begin to write or type, the thoughts become the words that become the blog. I wrote this in the waiting room of a clinic this morning.
The masterpiece of self-expression
The length of a blog is immaterial, some blogs are long and others short, there is an art to expression and the canvas we are offered to express ourselves is broad and free, if we dare to wield the brushstrokes daubing the canvas with colour, we might end up with a masterpiece – live dangerously.
Why do I blog? I blog because my life is full of moments, some forgettable, many memorable and in all, the moments are journaled into what has become a 14-year catalogue of what is essentially an ordinary life.
Everyone is a blogger, you have moments, those moments are stories, stories that need telling. Start telling your own story in your own words. Start blogging.
Why do I blog? Over the years.
Blog - Tardy as it goes (January 2004) Written after a month of blogging.
Blog - Blogging for my own pleasure (July 2006)
Blog - Still learning to write blogs (January 2010)
Blog - My Own Blog Writing Rules (May 2011)
Blog - Blogging: Why You Should Blog (October 2013)
Blog - The Gift (January 2014)
Blog - Why do they read this blog? (November 2015)

The waiting room

What is there to hate?
For all the time we had to wait,
It’s not like we were late,
For what wasn’t really a date,
A walk-in centre at any rate,
Yet over four hours at the gate,
Flustered and ready to berate,
One man’s anger I had to deflate,
For he was beginning to grate,
Without a cue or a queue to abate,
And though I was not feeling great,
We all chose to relate,
Then I was three down from eight,
Before I knew my fate.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thought Picnic: Taking the animal out of the workplace

The jungle at work
In a working career that is in its 30th year, I have only twice encountered a situation where the one bestowed the privilege of leadership has been no less a member of the fraternity of the silverback gorilla in the jungle.
It is as if every concept of leading men was taken out of the management guide of Tarzan in his element. They having mastered the jargon and act of obfuscation where the multitude of words suggests the vacuity of purpose, everyone enduring the onslaught of bullshit laid out by the trowel.
Courtesy always matters
In some instances, I have considered myself probably too old-fashioned for certain environments from the surfeit of expletives in the speech to the lack of basic manners in address and conversation, the act of communication might well be served with grunts, growls, barks and quacks.
I have seen better in the animal kingdom in terms of social development and grooming, like who sits beside you on the train or on an aeroplane, you can’t choose the class, breeding or comportment of most of the colleagues you would end up working with.
In the main, even the difficult ones for whatever reason I always found accommodation for and cultivated the means of creating mutual respect which has developed into a friendship. I like to think I am quite easy to get along with. Courtesy matters to me and it is completely in my manner, nature and rearing to be courteous.
Of rotten disrespect
What I cannot stand and abide is indifference and disrespect, especially from those I need to work with daily. Situations where requirements, goals and deliverables that are primarily my function to provide filtering down to me via the grapevine rather than communication and where such attitudes when challenged do not elicit a positive response. A case of persons impervious adaptation within a diverse environment or maybe they cannot handle diversity at all.
Such was the situation that one has had to face in those two situations, animus and uncouth behaviour caught within the metaphor of a rocking horse, much activity, many meetings, idiotic jargon and unnecessary stress borne of being belittled and patronised as if your sojourn in that setting is the pinnacle of your career achievements.
We are first human
The workplace is where people come to work, but primarily the people are human beings, from all backgrounds too diverse to list but amenable to the vagaries of good business conduct. The have feelings, families, lives and much more. When you take away the fundamentals of humanity in your dealings with your colleagues at work, you create tension leading to the untenable.
The absence of the human touch regardless of your inadequacies, prejudices and even ineptitude, leaves one with no other option than to walk and there comes a time when a man has too much self-respect to be treated with disrespect.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Seeing the unnecessary and Nigerian dysfunction through a Kaduna Polytechnic vacancy

Long ago in memory
This morning, a tweet flashed through my timeline that attracted my interest, nostalgic interest at that. The Kaduna Polytechnic had published a vacancy for the post of rector. The polytechnic currently has an acting rector and in the recent times, there has been some industrial action by the faculty which apparently led to ousting of a previous rector. [The Nigerian Voice]
The nostalgic part of my interest stems from the fact that we first settled in Kaduna after my parents returned from their studies in the UK. Both were lecturers at the polytechnic in 1971, before my father moved to Jos in early 1972.
In the mid-1970s, we returned in Kaduna and lived in Tudun Wada, an uncle of mine towards the end of that decade graduated the best student of his class in Quantity Surveying, I used to walk by the front of the polytechnic to the Panteka ironmongery, scrap and arts market and further on to the main Kaduna market where my mother ran a side business market stall.
A vision without sight and a mission without path
However, going back to the vacancy notice, reading through it, I began to see issues with the way it was crafted, the kinds of information required and I will provide an analysis of the vacancy as a prism into how unnecessary processes make Nigeria a difficult working environment, why easy of doing business is fraught with red tape, bureaucracy, rent-seekers and ineptitude.
The Vision and Mission Statement aspires to a practice that does not exist, nor does it show any indication that anyone desires it. Reading the text of the vacancy, it states: “To be recognized (US English spelling) as a unique Polytechnic of international repute, setting (a) high standard in education, training and innovation.”
The mission in the vacancy goes on to state: “To be an innovative institution of repute, empowering people to compete successfully in the global arena of work by providing relevant research centered, technology driven and skill-oriented education with (an) entrepreneurial outlook.”
The needed and the unnecessary
The responsibilities related to the post of the rector suggest the person will be the chief academic, administrative and accounting officer of the polytechnic. The requirements for the post look nice enough requiring a minimum academic qualification, experience, leadership, published papers, information technology proficiency and the capacity to attract funding and grants.
The evidence of medical fitness is probably a requirement, though you wonder if it is necessary, the judgement elements of morally sound, of impeccable probity and integrity are in general subjective, though useful for anyone who would aspire to such a role. Being free from financial embarrassment is loaded and probably intrusive.
That the candidate should not be more than 60 years old at the point where they assume the role is in my view unnecessary. Our political leadership tends towards the septuagenarian. Someone in their 60s probably brings at least 30 years of experience to a role that would be more than useful to advance that institution. The age-limited qualification for academic roles is at best an anachronism if the said person meets all the essential requirements that pertain to performing the role.
This is reflecting the stone age
The methods of application, however, must come in for sanction and excoriation. Why an institution that vaunts its claims to innovation, technology driven and skill-oriented education requires an application to be submitted in 15 copies in 2017, beggars belief. It makes you wonder if they are promoting an ascetic existence harking back to prehistoric times. Whatever happened to electronic communication?
The post of rector should be one filled by qualification and merit, such that several elements of information asked for in the application are both unnecessary and superfluous. State of origin and local government area, makes no sense, either in Nigeria or if a foreigner decides to apply for the job. One would think the institution would be going for the best person for the job.
Patently unnecessary
Whilst knowing the marital status of the applicant can be useful, would there be an issue if the person never married? It is very likely if the person were married the age requirement might put the person in a grandparent bracket that the need for the number of children and their dates of birth makes no sense.
Obviously, if the institution does have to make provision for relocation of families of the successful applicant, that can come up at interview stage and should primarily be with the human resources department.
There is no reason apart from the subjective to require that information for an academic role. If they are asking for an email address, then this whole application should be accessible online and posted online, that is innovation.
Surely, you can do better than this
The other parts requiring supporting documents for academic achievement and publications could be done at this stage or they should better apply for transcripts from the academic institutions, it is 2017. Publications can be referenced online, especially if they are in reputable journals. There is probably not one need for a piece of paper submitted for this vacancy beyond showing an identity document.
Applications submitted in sealed envelopes, come on, Kaduna Polytechnic, you can move swiftly into the 21st Century. In fact, I believe there are probably people who because of the lack of technical nous in the publication of this vacancy that would give it a miss except if they want to take on the challenge the status quo, dragging the polytechnic out of archaic times into the modern age.
For one of the premier institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, the mode and method of the publication of this vacancy is a great let-down to its history, to Nigeria and many of us who have nostalgic affinities to Kaduna Polytechnic. This is a shame and shambles, fix this travesty.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Opinion: We are not Khalid Masood

The surfeit of names
His name was Khalid Masood at the time of his death, aged 52 and meeting his end having mowed down innocent people on Westminster Bridge and then running into the grounds of the Palace of Westminster where he stabbed an unarmed police officer to death before he was shot by an armed policeman and there he died, whilst receiving first aid from someone more human than he had ever been.
Khalid was born someone else, he was born Adrian Elms to a mother who was 17 at the time, when he was 4 years old she married Philip Ajao who became Khalid’s stepfather and the Adrian Elms became Adrian Russell Ajao. [Telegraph]
None of this would have been significant apart from the fact that a religious extremist had taken on a form of religion that in his mind gave him licence to commit senseless murder on the streets of London towards a goal that leaves one begging about the suicidal exploits of these mentally deranged people who think they get nearer to some deity by unmitigated evil, nothing could be further from the truth, if they and their handlers are visited by the truth.
The complex of identity
Janet Ajao, Khalid Masood’s mother lives a quiet and idyllic life in a Welsh-speaking village of Trelech, making bespoke cushions and until this terrorist attack perpetrated by her son upset the balance of her life with Philip Ajao, her husband being ill in hospital. They have been married since 1966 and have two boys who seem to be doing well. [Telegraph]
It was the Ajao surname that immersed me into this narrative because it is of Yoruba origin from South-West Nigeria and I am of Nigerian heritage.
Within the complex of identity and community, it is very easy as a minority to find issues to relate to and identify with. As a black man, I would celebrate the successes of other black people just because they are like me, and there is no link between us apart from that. It is a subconscious response schooled into our sense of identity and being that we should be ambassadorial and representative, we carry a mantle for the identity that we have.
Of subliminal identification
Breaking it down, you begin to find affinities with race, with nationality, with tribe, with clan and any element of diversity that differentiates you from the majority in the quest to retain some form of identity even when you find that you need to integrate with other cultures, communities and societies to be of relevance.
Therein lies the conundrum, we live in societies predicated on individuality and separateness, responsibility is rarely imputed on broader communities of the majority, but once the majority finds a collective by which you can be identified, it is easier for the majority to address the collective and individual and vice versa.
Stereotypes are the Shibboleths that we inadvertently lend ourselves to, that in celebrating the good amongst us, they are seen is individual but the criminals amongst us give licence to label all of us the same.
Of individual responsibility
Khalid Masood, Adrian Elms and Adrian Russell Ajao were one and the same person, in various stages of his life that was completely and essentially British. That he had a Nigeria stepfather did not make him Nigerian by any stretch of the imagination, he was not radicalised by a Nigerian construct, he charted his own path and must be held responsible for his own crimes.
Khalid Masood was a home-grown British-born terrorist, radicalised by anything from disaffection to persuasion within a frame of reference that is entirely British. His stint as an English teacher in Saudi Arabia was a projection of his Britishness, maybe not of British values, but that is debatable.
The association of his terrorist criminality with Philip Ajao is at best tenuous and even though there is some affinity with Philip as possibly of Nigerian heritage, he has spent a good deal of his lifetime in the United Kingdom, so it begs the question why we allow the mischief of depicting Khalid Masood as having anything to do with Nigeria.
On the crisis of identity
It is very likely that Khalid Masood’s conversion to Islam was related to a crisis of identity in a society that can be institutionally racist. Some disaffection about who and what he represents in the British society might have given impetus to his decision to murder people in broad daylight, that it was done in the name of religion is completely beside the point, a criminal is a criminal and a terrorist is just that, a terrorist.
However, within the forming of our core identity which is heightened in a different cultural setting and host society, as we celebrate successes we find ourselves conflicted and afflicted by the failings of some amongst us, we coalesce in trying to understand what has gone wrong in our communities rather than with the individual, because in our home cultures, we are brought up within a village construct of family, extended relations and society at large. To be individual is to go rogue.
We are not Khalid Masood
Yet, we need that essential individuality linked with purpose to thrive in societies outside our native ones, in that, we must conserve identity more to the individual and resist the temptation to identify easily with groups such that when the majority is looking for someone to blame, we get lumped together, blameless as we are.
Our identity is significant and must be constantly refreshed with wholesome community activity, but we must cultivate how we identify before we are consumed in a guilt complex brought on by no other association that the remotest tenuous links.
No, we are not Khalid Masood, he alone must answer for his crimes, not the black community, not the Muslim community, not Nigerians, not the Yoruba, not his stepfather, not his mother, not his half-brothers, not his wife, nor his children, except where they as named individuals have been co-conspirators or accomplices to his crimes.