Tuesday 30 October 2007

The philistines pillaging discretion

The denuding of Shimon

I was saddened as I queued up to board my flight to Stockholm this morning when CNN flashed the news of Shimon Peres the President of Israel dozing off during an interview.

It showed the depths to which we have sunk to in the quest for sensation rather than decent news that people felt showing the Grand Old Man of Israel in such a state of human frailty was worthy of publicity.

Pandering to indignity has become the ratings, interviewing the President and hearing what he had to say before he nodded off or what he would have said when he came to was not more significant, they had a better news story, an opportunity to laugh at an old man – the man is 84 for crying out loud.

Boring people and meetings

I have attended meetings where I have dozed off and sometimes maybe snored and I cannot count how many times those meetings have bored me stiffer than an Egyptian mummy – surely, a man of Shimon Peres’ stature should have been treated with a greater modicum of respect, honour and discretion.

That interviewer should have a career that has reached a dead-end from today, she can interview frogs for all I care, and maybe a croak or two might convey something worthy of contemplation.

They know no discretion

Discretion is a rare virtue nowadays and that was depicted in the CBS’ 60-minutes interview of President Sarkozy of France – he is the president and when a president attends an interview, I doubt if what he wants to talk about is his pending divorce.

The interviewer could not resist the urge to be pointedly indiscreet after he said; he would not use that forum to talk about his wife. When she went on to say that people want to know what was going on, I could only commend the President for terminating the interview, there and then – if the people who want to see the interview are the “Hello”, National Enquirer or trashy tabloid crowd looking for salacious gossip, he had better things to do – and rightly so – Nicolas.

Nosing around my piss

So the star of Formula 1 who was so mismanaged by his team that they lost both the constructor and driver championships wants to leave the UK for Switzerland where he can go for a pee and not have people waiting at the door for urinary autographs – the insatiable appetite of the press for stories that make elevate gossip to sewer news can really drive people to distraction and drive them away from home.

The Diana inquest shows that lessons have not been learnt that feeding idle minds with celebrity tripe does nothing to improve society rather, the self-same golden goose might be killed – unfortunately, the chase is for the moment - forget posterity.

The royal prerogative

One could commiserate with John Simpson when he could not get King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to talk about Iraq or Iran; well people have every right to feel so strongly about a situation that they would keep their counsel, just in case their utterances complicate situations – but the revelation that Saudis provided no matter how trivial the information about the London bombing and felt it was dismissed by the British is a grievance enough to air.

The candour of the king was evident when he said to John Simpson that he did not want to be evasive or dishonest.

My final bouquet goes to the unnamed (now named in Australia) “minor” royal who the Queen is quite fond of who has refused to be blackmailed but called on resources that allowed the dirty blackmailers to be nabbed and charged.

Submitting to the first blackmail attempt is a slippery slope that has you beholding to circumstances that would always be out of your control; come clean quick and you will never be cleaned out.

Etteh resigns!

All for themselves alone

After 5 months of being inaugurated, the House of Representatives have finally reached a major breakthrough about deliberations concerning the people of Nigeria – just themselves.

They have wasted valuable parliamentary time which should have been addressing the serious challenges of Nigeria probing the order for a NGN 98 million or $824,000 body massager that was refused along with the $5 million renovation of the Speaker’s and her deputy’s residences with 12 cars to boot.

It is a shame that a woman attained such a high office in Nigeria and squandered it on greedy megalomania and self-aggrandisement forgetting that she could have been a beacon of hope to all womenfolk not only in Nigeria but Africa at large.

Raised to disgrace

But this is what happens when an “uneducated” beautician is politically imposed on a process by godfathers who have no scruples, whose corrupt claws can be found in everything that makes the democracy in Nigeria a shambles.

The height of the probe into these rotten activities of the Speaker came when a squabble ensued during deliberations and one of her supporters got roughed-up, he suffered a heart attack and died.

To crown the disgraceful situation, a plenary session was held in memory of the hapless politician, I could not find the words to express my disdain – I kept my peace.

As the House tried to debate the findings of the report that probed these activities, the Speaker wanted to sit as chairman of that session rather than recuse herself – well, as if a stark illiterate or a politician given to the culture of impunity that grinds Nigeria to halt would appreciate the need to do the right thing.

The opposing representatives who call themselves the Integrity Group, makes me wonder if there can ever be a politician of integrity rather that self-interest in Nigeria; apart from the “servant-leader” who cannot find a hospital in - the whole length and breath of mighty - Nigeria for a check-up that he has to go to Germany – Again!

Splitting hairs pro-tempore

It got to the point where they were splitting hairs – well, a beautician would know about that – as to whether to have a Chairman pro-tempore or a Speaker pro-tempore to preside over the meetings. These people can leave you completely breathless, they know all about politicking but nothing about the responsibility that comes with having a mandate.

It appears after all the disgrace that has been heaped on Nigeria by these shameless, congenitally corrupt grubs who call themselves representatives through conduct that would unbecoming of the most disreputable criminal organisation that could ever exist, the Speaker has decided to step aside.


Well, the BBC says she has resigned and a temporary speaker, a man has been selected to preside over these meetings – it is unlikely that another lady would be given a new opportunity to take that chair, but hopefully, ex-President Obasanjo would keep his hands out of the cauldron this time – so much for having a protégé that can been hounded out with disgrace.

For now, I have no word for all those who thought the survival for Patricia Olubunmi Etteh meant upholding the dignity of the Yorubas; or that it was just politicking even though that played a major part; you should hold your heads low in utter shame even though none of you would find redemption in sackcloth and ashes.

How long shall we have to glaringly see wrong hit us in the face and do us grievous damage and still insist everything is alright?

Starting with the cabal that makes up the leadership of the ruling party and their cohorts, you are the shame Nigeria needs to be rid of, like cancer, you must be excised and burnt as blubber – you make me utterly, utterly sick – Urgggghhh!


PDP liable for worsening House of Reps crisis

Etteh: Follow Due Process, Yar’Adua Tells House Members

Monday 29 October 2007

Get up for 100,000 Naira blessing

A window on Nigeria

A few friends have just returned from Nigeria and you can imagine I am all ears to lap up every detail of their experiences in God’s Own Country.

This is quite important because in preparing to visit the country in the not too distant future – readers better not get too excited at the use of a relative measurement of time.

They all had stories of places they had been to and what they had seen, however, this one episode stuck with me.

My friends had gone to worship in a church where the harvest was taking place – you tell me how many people are really farmers able to bring in a genuine harvest to the church – anyway, it is a calendar event in the church and time for show (Display of wealth, might and influence.).

It transpired that after the offerings and gifts were made, the priest asked for those who had made a NGN 100,000 contribution to get up for a blessing of the equivalent sum.

I did not ask if this segmented blessing exercise went down to the widow’s mite, but much as it would have filled the moneyed with pride, it would have also filled the less so affluent with shame leading to vacuous prayers like asking to be able to do better than the other.

This unfortunately represents another area where the quest for filthy lucre and the love of money has brought evil into the church, blessings cannot flow from such exercises and like Jesus said – They already have their reward.

I remember this tummy ache

I hate this feeling

I hate feeling ill, I can’t stand the pain of the symptoms and I can’t stand the itch after medication, but they are things I have experienced time and again.

Now, I must say, despite a condition that some might term terminal I have been in really good health for years, and long may that continue – I have only had to visit hospital once some 3 years ago and that was the emergency room when acute tonsillitis was about to seal off my airways – the doctor was of the mind of keeping in hospital.

I was however prescribed some strong antibiotics, a rarity in the Netherlands and the thing cleared up in days, but I found that I lost 5 kilograms in 4 days – I wish I had kept that weight off.

One other visit involved venosection (blood-letting), well that is what I would call it; by the time the fifth vial was being filled I was about to pass out; they had to run a battery of tests and thankfully I left feeling not too bad after the results were revealed.

It’s that tummy again

So, this morning, this pain that I have known since I was kid came back, a severe kind of tummy ache that no one has properly diagnosed or treated, I groan, I grab, I have the runs and I sometimes get sick from an empty stomach – it is such a rotten feeling.

I first had this when I was about 7 years old, my mother was beside herself in not knowing what to do after the doctors just said it would subside; it did subside, but not till after 12 hours of what was essentially a labour to which I could not receive the respite of an epidural.

I have had probably 6 different attacks like this and so this morning, I remembered as I felt it all before and had to call in sick. All I could do was lie on my belly with a soft pillow underneath, and then visit the toilet or sick bowl as required whilst fielding calls from work because I am off to Stockholm tomorrow.

Shielding the child from the truth

One thing I have realised from these strange ailments is as a young child I was always shielded from the detail or diagnosis that the doctor had made, for instance, I have not been able to determine from my parents why two biopsies were taken from my sides when I was 6 - the Internet helps now.

For instance, I was more or less eavesdropping when I learnt that my short-sightedness/astigmatism was a probable situation picked up at birth when a lot of light was shone in my eyes; kids sometimes have questions but we are never present to participate in situations and circumstances that concern us, I probably would have asked if it could be corrected because I was rotten at tennis; I could not track the ball for distance and speed - I found out it could have been corrected when I was a kid when I had the opportunity to ask the question myself some 20 years on - imagine my pique.

There is this prevalent thinking especially within our Yoruba culture where children are shielded from events in the home when in fact we can sense when things are not right, but have no one to ask about it. Unresolved issues damage people.

The memory of kids

We are kids, we cannot make these decisions, they think, well, we may not have that opportunity to make decisions, ask questions or get answers, but I know we have memories to remember when we were treated as insignificant when we should have been the most significant.

I would not even go into the area where the questions are loaded in such a way to get the desired answers.

However, the greatest damage is done when in some cases, a child has lost a parent and they are not allowed to grieve and if they do, they are usually not there to do that customary ashes-to-ashes thing.

The pain is the same for adults and kids

Even as I child, I have thought that it was cruel to the extreme to exclude a child from such a solemn but very sad ceremony, especially when I witnessed how distraught an adult was when she was not able to make it to the burial of a mentor in time before he was buried.

Like I said to my uncle years ago – We, the kids saw everything, heard everything, and knew everything even if you, the parents, thought we didn’t.

Never has it been more important to talk to the kids and listen to what they have to say, in many cases they have difficult questions, and though parents might be afraid of odd questions, I know I have never wanted to ask if I would die from whatever I was suffering from at that time.

I feel a lot better now, but what an ordeal the day was, I never want to feel this way again, I know that much.

Saturday 27 October 2007

Arthur Kornberg - DNA Pioneer, dies

Another DNA genius in the news

Arthur Kornberg and Severo Ochoa shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 1959 “for their discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.”

I looked for other explanations of this citation beyond the fact that they had done some pioneering work with DNA, and DNA has been in the news and my blogs quite prominently lately.

In Wikipedia, it says he was experimenting with the enzymes which created DNA and in 1956 he isolated the first DNA polymerising enzyme, now known as DNA polymerase I, for which he won the Nobel Prize.

That still looked like a big chunk till I found bite-sized bits I could digest with this – “Kornberg discovered the chemical mechanism that demonstrated how DNA - the blueprint of heredity - gets constructed in the cell.”

These studies laid the foundation for genetic engineering and the techniques used in creating certain drugs for cancer and viral infections. This area of discovery differs from Dr. Watson’s area of research that won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 1962, although James Watson and Francis Crick had put forward a formal model of how DNA is replicated in the early ’50s, Kornberg discovered the actual chemical mechanism by which the huge amount of DNA that comprises a chromosome gets constructed in the cell.

An exemplary legacy

Dr. Arthur Kornberg died yesterday at the age of 89 after respiratory failure at Stanford Hospital and he was said to be working literally up to the time of his death.

In 1959, he took his 12-year old son to Stockholm to collect his prize and what great father’s pride he would have had when his son Roger won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2006 outright “for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription.” To which he said, “I have felt for some time that he richly deserved it, his work has been awesome.” That work was more or less the continuation of the work and the interest of his father in enzymes.

They both returned to Stockholm 47 years after his award to attend that of his son, however, I note in all the tributes paid to this great scientist, there is no mention of any controversy or the legendary Nobel Syndrome that ravages the persona of Dr. Watson to an advanced stage of debilitation.


Spyros Andreopoulos who in 1963 became the director of the Office of News and Public Affairs at the Stanford University Medical Center said this of him, when he was to meet the Nobel laureate the first time, “I was scared. Someone had warned me that Nobel laureates behaved like God-like princes, to my surprise, he was entirely unpretentious. Our first meeting was the beginning of an enduring friendship in which he let me share his challenges and triumphs.”

If he had survived, he would have been promoting his latest book which is scheduled for release on November 15 called Germ Stories, a book for children telling of the essence and wonder of bacteria in stories.

I must not fail to add that Sylvy Ruth Levy Kornberg his wife of 43 years who died in 1986 worked full-time in Dr. Kornberg’s laboratory contributing to his DNA research days and was heard to say. “I was robbed!” the day after the Nobel Prize for her husband was announced.

Dr. Kornberg leaves a great legacy to science not only with his work but also his children who are in fields of biochemistry and biophysics as well as the architecture of laboratory design.

Rest in peace.


Arthur Kornberg, MD, 1918-2007 - Office of Communications & Public Affairs - Stanford University School of Medicine

Photos - Arthur Kornberg, MD, 1918-2007

Other DNA Blogs

America: Maniac with razor blades

From Russia with pique

When going to negotiate, it is best to be able to do that form a position of strength. However, the moment your sanity is questioned you will have an uphill task to be taken seriously and that can become insurmountable.

Very recently, President Putin of Russia has been sabre-rattling and implacable on the matter of missile defence system America has been trying to plant in Eastern Europe to protect its allies from a threat that only now exists in the wild imagination of some.

Iran as far as we know is developing nuclear technologies, however, it is not at least clear to what end – the Iranians say their activities are to peaceful ends of energy sufficiency, America has however cajoled quite a few countries into thinking these activities are geared towards weaponisation threatening the military balance in the Middle-East.

Iran for the elephants’ duel?

There is that fear, but it is yet unfounded, Russia at least does not believe that these activities for a nuclear weapons ability, we also know that Russia is currently building Iran’s first nuclear plant.

It might be that Iran is becoming a theatre of war where it is the grass on which two elephants would fight to the death, but America, for now has its hands full with the debacle in Iraq as Russia has its coffers full with the proceeds of oil money.

One has to commiserate with Iran’s position being flanked on two sides by alien armies, I still believe that it would be remiss and irresponsible of any government of the country, theocratic, democratic or tyrannical not to be engaged in some possible invasion deterrent strategy which might include developing nuclear weapons if necessary.

There would have been no impetus for Iran’s dabbling if Iraq had not been so ignominiously stripped of its leadership and dignity, being left a military mess without foreseeable end.

Respect and equality critical for negotiations

Global politics does not always have to favour the World-Order according to the narrowly-focused view of the West being always in ascendancy, in fact, the only way to win in negotiations is to treat other parties with respect, equality, patience and temperance.

Mr. Putin was able to point to the issue of North Korea where this kind of negotiating spirit has yielded dividends in view of the fact that they already have nuclear weapons, even if the project is stopped, the brains cannot lay fallow, they have to engaged purposefully or they would be bought up by stateless organisations with nefarious objectives.

So the announcement this week of sanctions freezing Iran out of the American monetary system has been greeted with defiance from Iran, another record-high for oil prices where Iran and Russia are the sellers and a qualified put-down by President Putin.

Why worsen the situation and bring it to a dead end by threatening sanctions or military action?” Putin asked. “Running around like a madman with a razor blade, waving it around, is not the best way to resolve the situation.”

Razor blades hurting us

It would appear, America really is clueless about how to resolve issues with nations that are diametrically opposed to their world view – in the same week, President Bush was blowing hot and cold over Cuba that they have not been able to change for almost 5 decades re-affirming the measures imposed before I was born and reaching no intended solution. Is Cuba not just 90 miles south of the United States of America? And they want to set the world to rights elsewhere.

As President Putin continues with, “Why keep rocking the foundations of the international law, encourage and develop separatism in Europe and the ex-Soviet space?

More so, we now have a situation in the world where the war on terrorism is the hammer and anyone who has a contrarian view is a nail, no other view exists in the face of a pummelling hammer, it does not augur well for anyone and very few countries can pay for oil running to $100 per barrel.

The world is a lot more than stopping a country from playing with uranium.

Friday 26 October 2007

Why Mo Ibrahim Prize can never consider Obasanjo

Commending African leadership

When Dr. Mo Ibrahim announced the Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, there were many including myself who scoffed at what looked like a man desperately trying to court publicity through seeming altruistic goals.

The question arose about why heads of government would strive to win a prize for governance and leadership when they have at their gluttonous command the treasury of state which many have looted to the extent that all that was left was the stench of thievery.

Putting aside unwarranted scepticism, the prize which is almost four times the Nobel prize seeks to honour aberrations to the African norm when it comes to governance; we are still at the fundamentals where people in power are yet to realise that they are supposed to exercise all means to deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents, and eventually democratically transfer power to their successor.

Ibrahim Index of African Governance

In any event the one-time President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano has taken the first award of the prize as he has also transitioned into a respected elder-statesman called upon as envoy or negotiator.

Beyond this, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation published last month, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance; an African-sponsored initiative of rating 48 Sub-Saharan African Countries on 58 data points in 5 broad categories of Safety and Security; Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption; Participation and Human Rights; Sustainable Economic Development and Human Development.

In the broad scheme of things with data profiles accumulated in 2000, 2002 and 2005, Mauritius comes first, South Africa comes fifth, Ghana comes eighth and Nigeria thirty-seventh which is below Zimbabwe at 31.

Mo Ibrahim Index of Governance Summary

A comparison between this 5 countries shows an interesting picture of poor governance.

Once again, we need to disabuse perception and deal with the facts as they are apart from the fact that this now a study sponsored by an African with the interest of Africa at heart – it should not be so easily dismissed as governments are wont to with Human Rights Watch reports, Failed States Index Surveys or any other purely Western sponsored analysis.

Obasanjo’s Legacy as Adedibu’s lackey

It is poignant to know that the data profile taken in 2005 was also the sixth year in office of President Olusegun Obasanjo and it is a great indictment that he has failed to deliver progress in any of the broad categories beyond which he is also failing to move into the position of a respectable elder statesman.

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo recently took out a full-page advertisement in a national newspaper on the occasion of Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu’s 80th Birthday and in it he praised the venerated but shameless political thug with words that read thus “Why for God’s sake must we seek to change a good product? Chief Adedibu has evolved overtime into a good political product. Humanity now has an opportunity to catch a veritable glimpse of the strongman and the generalissimo whose exploits had engendered a new passion for politics and nation building.”

This flies in the face of responsible conduct and honest commentary, now, there is every need to respect and honour our elders, but this should be borne out by conduct that becomes the maturity in age of the person, not just because the person is advanced in years.

In respect to dignity, honour and gentlemanliness, Alhaji Adedibu comes considerably shy of the mark, but an intractable carry-over of our tradition allows for a man of his ilk to be feted by all the great and the “good” even as the traditional ruler of Ibadan, the Olubadan openly blames both Obasanjo and Adedibu for formenting violence with impunity in his realm.

More interesting to note is that Obasanjo has exploited Adedibu’s kind of banditry to political ends on the former and pecuniary advantage on the latter and Obasanjo even went on to say that Adedibu cannot be reformed and should be accepted for the kind of man that he is.

Chief Adedibu has not paid customary homage to the Olubadan, - this is contrary to Yoruba customs and amounts to an abominable act of insubordination which has penalties yet to be invoked - rather he instigated attacks on representatives of the king and defied his authority along with frustrating the work of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and impunity allows for him to take tribute and homage when he should be shunned, disgraced and humiliated.

We can safely say that Obasanjo would never be in the running for the leadership prize, the carcases of his mismanagement of Nigeria still reek of rotten flesh to the high heavens, in retrospect, it is a shame that we ever had him as president because the promise of 1999 is no less a catastrophic disaster in 2007.


The Oscar for Best Leader in an Actor's Role?

OBJ Leads Praise Singers For Adedibu, Calls Him A Good Product

Nigeria: Afenifere Berates Obasanjo Over Comments On Adedibu

Obasanjo, Beasts, Jungles, and You

Olubadan blames Obasanjo, Adedibu for Ibadan violence

Tables from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance – The links below are PDF files

Safety and Security

Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption

Participation and Human Rights

Sustainable Economic Development

Human Development

Happy Retirement, Dr. Watson

Gone with the wind of controversy
The humanity in me entreats me to commiserate on the resignation-retirement of Dr. James Watson, the DNA pioneer from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory which he has headed for about 4 decades.
Last week, the board of the laboratory suspended the esteemed Nobel laureate from his administrative duties after the furore that erupted from his assertion that blacks were genetically inferior to whites.
I feel sorry for the fact that even if he had scientific proof of this assertion, he chose the wrong forum to publicise such a volatile and seemingly racist view – definitely not a newspaper interview whilst promoting a book – tact properly a recessive gene in this man.
Now, Dr. Watson is given to stirring up controversy, it is however debatable if he is genetically predisposed to rubbing people up the wrong way when he should have advanced his scientific prowess at discovering something else worthy of another Nobel accolade.
For instance, Dr. Watson was 34 when he was cited for the discovery of DNA amongst other esteemed colleagues and a pioneering lady would died, years earlier, 45 years on, one would wonder if he is resting on his laurels, because 4 people have achieved that accolade with Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Linus Pauling winning in two different fields of endeavour.
But, one should not do Dr. Watson down; as an academic, he has lead a very distinguished career, it is a shame that all that might end up being reviewed through the keyhole of an unguarded moment of a candid expression of views.
I wish Dr. Watson a great retirement, his singular work of achievement is helping people seek and attain a greater equality to opportunity and the great things to be enjoyed in this world and for that, we would be ever so grateful enough to forgive the hereditary strains of incipient racism.
Happy Retirement, Dr. Watson.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Anonymously queuing for a flight in Nigeria

Invisible inkspots

Sometimes, I wonder about the anonymous unidentified commenting audience (UCA) that leave comments on my blog.

If anyone would take time to leave a comment, it surprises me that they cannot be bothered to leave a name, probably a link to their blog and maybe an email address.

Obviously, it is an easy thing to trace the IP address, but that is just a lot of hassle, in the end, you have so many “anonymice”, gnawing at your cheese and leaving foul droppings, but worse still, you cannot address a faceless voice or a bodiless spirit the appropriate way.

However, sometimes a UCA comes along and writes something useful, and I have sung many a church hymn attributed to Anon – it would be a whole lot more meaningful if one were also to know who received inspiration to pen such a song of praise and worship.

It is, no doubt, the prerogative of the UCA to have no identity but really, if you must write, underwrite your opinion with an identity.

A comment to publish

A comment was left by a UCA and I could not leave it hidden in the comment areas because after reading the comments I really could not imagine going through such an ordeal – it is probably as true as any experience, I dread the thought entirely.

My commentary would appear in braces {}

Here goes …

Ah, life in the civilised world … Bless!. {I suppose this means service is a product of civilisation.}

I hope you have not been away from Nigeria too long to have lost the irony of today's ranting post! {I’ll be telling, won’t I?}

"On any given day, I’ll rather have the service I paid for than the compensation and if you must compensate it should be for the inconvenience I have suffered with my qualified input into the negotiations and an act of genuine contrition, feel some pain and make me happy" {I feel no different about this anywhere I may be, whether I would get redress is a different matter.}

1. Duh!

2. Get the service you pay for? (My generator just went on, NEPA just took light {Nigerian euphemism for a power cut}, we paid our bill on Tuesday)

3. Compensation, adequate or not? HA! HA! HA!

In our part of the world, honey … shit happens. We ask why, but we don't get answers, let alone informative ones ("Your train is delayed because …"), and while you're here complaining, have a coffee on us. {That is one way to look at it – have a coffee on us, I think I have lived a too sheltered life.}

Trying to board a plane in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the scenario would have played like this: First, it'd be the airport. No railway system. {The Chinese are working in rebuilding our railway infrastructure; I once travelled from Jos to Ibadan on the trains in 1973.} Second, your flight would have been delayed indefinitely. {When I last left Nigeria, my flight was delayed for 5 hours.}

Tickets for the said flight would still continue to be sold by the airline. Hours would roll by. You’d eventually get hungry and buy a meat-pie or a similarly yuckety yuck coffee.

Eventually, although there would have been no prior announcement, you'd notice a desperate line forming. You'd remain seated, confident that you had your boarding pass and seat # in your pocket, although this being Nigeria, you'd double check. {Announcements I have heard in Lagos airports are too RP to be English, I find them comical.}

You'd look at your watch, stretch out your legs, decide there was no point taking your newspaper with you as you'd read it 3 times over already, pick up your jacket and laptop, and walk unhurriedly to the line, really, just to get a feel of what was going on. {I feel pain already.}

Your irritation to find your plane was indeed being boarded (even though there'd been no announcement) would pass in a flash … you'd be relieved that at least the plane was leaving for its destination.

By the way, you'd have missed the meeting by now, but you had other things to do in the town, catch up with an old colleague, visit a bookstore for a particular book …

Anyway, being 6 ft tall, easily 3 inches above everybody else, you would see that there were - Oh! about 30 people ahead of you, but no problem, right? {This is beginning to scare me.}

You'd pat your shirt pocket to feel your ticket and boarding pass, just to reassure yourself -- a bit like when you were little and carried the dog eared pocket sized stuffed monkey Curious George everywhere you went.

You'd notice a curious thing, the airline attendant, seeming to count heads. 'Ey, 'ey, what's this?' could she be counting heads to fill the seats, regardless of whether one has a boarding pass or not? She couldn't, could she?

Suddenly, you are no longer so confident. You wish, grown-up man that you are, Curious George was there to make you feel better. But he's not, and you are grown-up, so instead, you loosen your tie a bit and keep moving in the line.

Ah, the attendant is walking towards you. Phew, you are one of the lucky ones; you will get on the flight. But, 'ey 'ey, what’s this? She’s stopped counting 2 people ahead of you …"The plane is full", she announces. {Surely, not if you were travelling Business Class.}

"The rest of you will take the next flight". Incredulous, and in an adrenaline rush, you rudely push past her, rush through the metal detector, run out on to the tarmac - this is Nigeria, after all, although it could be Gatwick), ignoring shouts of "Sah, Sah!". {This is beyond me, I hope not.}

You rush to the plane steps and find yourself pleading with the airline official to let you get on the flight. He looks at your face. You are tired and hungry and goddamit, desperate.

'Alright sir, welcome aboard'. You say thanks, and are annoyed with yourself for seeming so grateful. You do, after all, have a boarding pass in your pocket. {This must be fictional, it really must be, I do not think I can countenance this kind of situation, probably best to stay away from Nigeria for a while longer.}

Thanks to Anonymous. - With a capital A, I stand corrected Anonywho.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Refusing the most expensive coffee

Train in traffic jam

It was just a few minutes past eight this morning as I sent a text message to my colleagues that I was already in Germany but our train had been caught in a traffic jam. Imagine!

Well, it so happened that the border station of Emmerich in Germany had all platforms occupied that our train could not traverse that area towards the first stop – Oberhausen.

It was not till late on Tuesday that I decided I would rather travel by train to Krefeld than car-pool with my young colleagues who had the tendency to floor the accelerator.

Besides, I do not travel well in cars for long distances, dizzy spells and nausea buffet me as the strongest mints are sucked to save me from car-sickness, trains are better for all sorts of reasons.

By the time we got to Oberhausen the train was running 35 minutes late, now, earlier in the journey as a 1st class passenger, I had been served coffee at my seat, so after so many trilingual excuses for the train delays we were offered a free drink to cool our rising tempers and impatience.

However, we all had to suffer the indignity of going up to queue for the drinks at the bistro showing our tickets as we got “compensated”.

I am growing increasingly annoyed with these seeming favour-driven no-fault gifts masquerading as benign compensation for services we have paid for.

If I had gone for that coffee, I would have acquiesced to having probably the most expensive coffee I have ever had from a paper cup on a train and this cannot be compared to the rates that the international corporate lawyer who shared my cabin would charge for 35 minutes of legal waffle.

Whilst the drink would have been free, it was no deal, rather, it was the situation where you are glibly offered a palliative thing on terms you have had no choice in negotiating.

On any given day, I’ll rather have the service I paid for than the compensation and if you must compensate it should be for the inconvenience I have suffered with my qualified input into the negotiations and an act of genuine contrition, feel some pain and make me happy – just do not patronise me – the coffee can make you sick – Yuk! Yuck!

My Kunta Kinte to my roots

30 years after Roots

Yesterday evening I caught the tail end of a programme that at least had enough subject matter covered for me to get a good idea of what was going on.

Chicken George was being interviewed about the epic television series that first showed 30 years ago – Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

I remember when I watched the episodes in Nigeria in the late 70’s, it is doubtful any of us watching understood to any extent the story unfolding before our eyes about an untouched Africa, a discovered Africa, a pillaged Africa, the snatched Africans and the Africa adrift of its roots.

Now, there are all sorts of controversy about Alex Haley’s Roots, but I would not rake over those matters, rather I would say that somewhere between fiction and faction, it was a true story but not necessarily one particular experience.

Whilst those who were snatched or traded as slaves with the culpability of their people may not be able to trace their exact roots back to Africa because they were forced to adopt the names of their slave masters, the story of Kunta Kinte in retaining his name at all costs provided the tenuous and probably contrived link through which Alex Haley was able to trace his lineage back to his supposed ancestors in Gambia.

Traditional names matter

This is one area where Africans need to be very conscious, names do matter and the quality of names given almost always helps in tracing lineage especially in Africa where very little is written down, but the repositories of memory in our elders tell us where our journeys began and these hopefully help us chart our courses forward.

For instance, my parents have formal English (Christian) names as their first names and then Yoruba names, however, I know that my mother has another name that does not appear on any papers – All I had to do was mention that name and automatically the elders in my village knew who I was, when I was born, the affirmative words recited as an indication of who I am (Oríkì) and many more things not too obvious to the unskilled.

Oríkì is definitely more than just praise-singing, of what I can remember of mine or one of my siblings, it talks of character, ability, power & wealth, it puts you on a high pedestal to survey your entire, if we lived by the contents of the Oríkì, we cannot but be overcomers.

[My grandmother also had a Judeo-Christian name and it is my view that the preachers of those times termed our names heretical so offered new names that they could pronounce – I was however, baptised in 1975 with my Yoruba name which was given me by my paternal grandfather who happened to be a Muslim.]

For as long as there are elders in my village and hopefully traditions, folklore, history and events are passed down, my mother’s special name is my Kunta Kinte - the road back to my roots.

The way back home

In the case of Alex Haley’s Roots, what he did was not so much to expose the abominable man’s inhumanity to man done with hypocritical Christian piety, but to show his fellow Africa-Americans and the Diaspora borne of slavery that there is a way home, a way to their roots, roots that we in Africa are jettisoning for a modernity that has no bearing on who we really are than consumers of alien customs and trend victims.

It leaves one utterly speechless that Dr. Watson of the “white genetically smarter than black” fame was instrumental in discovering DNA, and this is now part of an activity called The African-American DNA Roots Project where DNA is the Kunta Kinte calling card that links African Americans to particular West African tribes.

Quincy Jones, Chris Tucker, Oprah Winfrey and T.D. Jakes amongst others have had their roots traced back to Africa; the videos below show those episodes of African-American Lives. I remember the BBC showcased a number of genealogical shows called Who Do You Think You Are?, everyone who went through that experience came out with a greater sense of self, belonging, confidence and esteem.

A person with a history, a heritage and understanding of their ancestry and where they have come from will never be patronised, belittled or left despised in depression – this is the lesson of Roots, to those in centuries old Diaspora and contemporary Africa – our Roots are what will make us people of achievement ready to take on the world and its challenges.

Dr. Watson’s discovery might yet be the saving grace of Africa as we offer incontrovertible proof that as men we are equal to anyone anywhere and any challenge wherever. It starts with a name for identity and then blood for where you are from.

Links to Youtube videos of African-American Lives courtesy of Youtube user Peppa800 appear below, I have been unable to ensure the properly embedded videos appear on this page.

African-American Lives 1 of 6

African-American Lives 2 of 6

African-American Lives 3 of 6

African-American Lives 4 of 6

African-American Lives 5 of 6

African-American Lives 6 of 6

Fair-trade oil quest for Nigeria

Yar’adua, a different kind of dinosaur

The Nigerian Jurassic Park seems to be entertaining an audience as one observes the probability that it is about fossils turning to oil or dinosaurs awakening to new life.

The Economist this week has a piece on the venerable, God-fearing but sedentary “servant-leader” and whilst I would not contribute to the disparaging “go-slow” epithets that President Umaru Yar’adua is living up to, the jury is still out as to if this man is really up to the job.

Before we jump to any judgement, the four issues the President has offered to address are the economy, corruption, power and violence – there is enough information about these matters and the dinosaur metaphor to these would be to grow the economy into an African behemoth, to stamp out corruption with unmistakable footprints, to harness the raw energy resources of the nation to meet our power needs and swat untrammelled violence with the swish of the dinosaur’s tail.

Basically, Nigeria has big problems that requires big minds, big hands, big decisions, big strides and a man ready to step into the big shoes of government to steer this big vehicle called Nigeria in the right direction – Umaru Yar’adua has a nation in waiting to see if he is big enough for the task ahead – the virtue of patience is on a rather short fuse lately.

Lukman seeks a better price for Nigerian oil resources

The fossils of dinosaurs not brought back to life through maniacal DNA gene science lie in the Niger Delta area as oil that is selling for more than ever, it hit $90.07 a barrel in trading last Thursday and no doubt the times are looking good for those whose lands were dinosaur graveyards.

The generous terms that Western oil majors got in exploiting the oil resources of Nigeria are about to suffer deserved scrutiny and review with the aim of extracting more for what is ours; about time, as one reads from the Financial Times today.

The terms were negotiated decades ago when prices were a paltry $20 or less which has the oil companies sharing revenues only after they have recouped the cost of their investment – one wonders who accounts for real cost of investment - this is a loophole for corruption.

There is no doubt that the oil industry in Nigeria is in need of radical reform, and President Yar’adua has revoked a number of dodgy arrangements in the industry that the erstwhile President Obasanjo let through which have been termed irregular and worse with one of the businessmen honourably pulling out of the deal.

The issue of reviewing the oil company deals was raised by Dr. Rilwanu Lukman – now that is definitely an oil man who has been in the forefront of the Nigerian oil industry since the time of the dinosaurs - chairman of Nigeria's oil and gas reform committee who was once the Secretary-General of OPEC for 6 years – this is an interesting development, maybe the president is really creating a groundswell of activity that might suddenly hit us like a tsunami.

Meanwhile when we start selling fair-trade oil - like coffee, cocoa, tea and bananas; it is time oil extraction and the price it is sold at brought back a greater difference to the livelihood of Nigerians at large - I do hope that the poverty statistics that have become the epilogue to any Western commentary about Nigeria and the violence that plagues the Niger Delta would subside as fairness allows for these revenues to prosper the people of Nigeria.

African American Lives

African-American Lives 1 of 6


African-American Lives 2 of 6


African-American Lives 3 of 6


African-American Lives 4 of 6


African-American Lives 5 of 6


African-American Lives 6 of 6


Tuesday 23 October 2007

The Nigerian restaurant kaleidoscope - Part 2

Inviting others to ours

Many a time in conversation we mention the fact that we are off to an African restaurant and the curiosity of our Caucasian friends is kindled, they also want to visit. Continued from Part 1 .

We know the differences between local eateries and the ones that offer our African fare, many need to be polish up their act quite seriously, the vision of many of these proprietors is too narrowly focused when there is a greater clientele that wants an authentic taste of Africa.

Weeks ago, I went to Ghanaian restaurant in The Hague and there were quite a few locals lapping up the spicy meals, we once took one of our lady colleagues to the African Kitchen and she seemed better adapted to the spices than we were.

Besides, there are many Nigerian “restaurants” in Amsterdam South-East, a majority however are unlicensed illegal premises, so are in fact homes making a bit on the side.

Whilst the food is good, they constitute a public health risk if things go wrong, there is a regimen of training and application necessary to open a premises for the purposes of selling food, however, there is almost no difference with illegal hackney trade; they are convenient but not without unquantifiable risk.

Restaurants that do go above the bar to become licensed should do that little bit extra to become respectable and open to a wider demographic than the African Diaspora.

Preparing for them

These were issues that became part of a discussion when an “Alhaja” joined us after our meal; restaurants should have menus with standard prices, none of the Nigerian ones I have been to in the Netherlands or Belgium have ever produced one.

When drinks are served, one should not have to ask for glasses; the waiting staff should be professional and responsive to the clientele; the use of microwave ovens should better managed for heating and service – the number of times I have literally been scalded touching food, countless.

After the meal, provide a professional looking bill and make provision for other means of payment beyond money.

A worrisome mindset

Alhaja would have none of this kind of gearing up for greater things as she said we Africans hate to expose our intentions in business, rather we indicate we are an off-license and then indulge in activities beyond the remit of that license.

Bayo felt that was improper, we should clearly state what we are up to and legalise all those activities to become legitimate law-abiding business concerns.

The conversation drifted as we got to talk about bringing up kids and the way that parents in Nigeria are happier that they kids cannot speak Yoruba and are word-perfect in English, however, the idea that Yoruba was becoming just a functional category of differentiation rather than an embodiment of culture that stretches back for centuries could not be enhanced in the company of others.

The matter of the inordinate pursuit of wealth at the expense of honesty, trust, moral values, integrity and principle was a no-brainer, we were informed people, most especially relations would sneer if we offered advice without backing that up with money; in other words, you talk with money or shut up.

Bayo is dogged and determined, I had settled into the role of listener/observer and benign chronicler when he suggested ideas of tenant initiatives – like if an apartment block where the landlord was not resident needed emergency repairs, the tenants should band together and sort it out.

Altruistically, the landlord might be enamoured by those acts and be generous in tenement rates, but the mindset we were challenging indicated tenants might be cursed for repairing their rented homes when they should be building theirs, the landlord might also see it as an opportunity to raise rates and so on.

Prayers heard or prayers lost

Later in the conversation, I opined that with all the prayers, fasting, candles lit, prophecies cited and pilgrimages made, Nigeria should really be better than the state it is in, I was slammed down with the thought that the prayers have probably prevented a worse situation.

Many of the points we raised were interjected with that is the way we were brought up; it is something about us blacks and the way God made us; that was topped with it is in our blood. There is an aversion to change, we repeat the things our parents did wrong, badly or ill-advisedly; rather than change to what is the right thing to do, it is a vicious circle glibly called tradition when it is not anything like our core traditions.

At which point I felt I was not going to win any objective analysis of the facts and situation, when people begin to think that their situation is hereditary, genetic or destined without recourse, they are unpersuadable.

It would not have been long before we were accused of thinking like white men, as if it is the exclusive preserve of the white man to be objective and by the time she had said we are not familiar with these black areas, I was too shocked the only reflex available was to laugh.

Supporting the doctor

Here I was only a few days ago challenging the premise that intellectually blacks are inferior to whites genetically only to be met with people who have never thought different, a ready demographic for Dr. Watson’s gene science .

This is the problem, people, sometimes quite well educated, who arrive in the West but congregate in insular ethnic minority communities creating poor imitations of their indigenous cities – these become ghettos harbouring inner-city problems where children are brought up without cultural identity or an appreciation of the customs of their forebears or their host societies.

Alhaja for instance has probably never travelled up into Amsterdam to see anything, she is happy with her hustling in the "ghetto" of Amsterdam South-East where she believes qualifies her as a business-woman.

Black inferiority complex

When she capped it with the statement that in Africa we grew up in dirty and unsanitary conditions that what we have now is a greater advancement that does not need to be improved upon or tweaked for the better, I realised that 6 years on, these people have found a way to survive but are in a new kind of slavery – black inferiority complex.

This enslavement prevents many from seeking opportunities in formal or business settings; the self-defeatist complex makes every disappointment a racism issue when it is not. It also means that they are not exposed to everyday middle class indigenes, if at all they only know the customs and police for the wrong reasons.

As we finished our meal, I asked for the bill and once again, I offered a tip and the cashier thought I had paid too much - they probably never get appreciation in tips, maybe a mindset that fails to develop the concept of service and a clientele unable to commend quality, ambience and the self-same service.

I am really sorry that nothing has changed, all that seemed so different was really the same, but the question lingers, is this the Nigerian mindset and if it is not, where did they get this from?

It is in our blood is not the answer I am looking for.

Bayo and I are still working on the cadaver and the post-mortem examination would take a while.

The Nigerian restaurant kaleidoscope - Part 1

Dining in Beirut

It probably should be a narrative but it was an experience and one would be untrue to oneself if this were not shared in the same vein as what was written before.

Just over 6 years ago, with 2 other Nigerian colleagues, one of whom knew the lay of the land went for a meal, we got off the train at Bijlmer in South-East Amsterdam and for once the buildings looked so good, my friend George say he would not mind living in the area - Amsterdamsepoort.

Chris who knew where we were going said nothing as we walked through what eventually were fancy props concealing a decrepit, desolate and downcast estate that would not have looked too distinguished if the town sign said – “Welcome to Beirut” in 1982; basically, Bijlmer never became the idealistic middle-class paradise they planned it to be.

I looked and felt out of place, I was in a bowler hat, a winter coat, a black umbrella and the Daily Telegraph under my arm as we arrived at a Nigerian restaurant ringing the bell to get in.

Show me the money for food

We settled in, and I found we had to pay before we were served, I had to ask for a glass for my drink and though the food was very good – we looked respectable enough not to be suffered indignities and when I paid with a generous tip the cashier was about to swoon.

It was in the times that I have seen Africans congregate in Europe probably the most depressing atmosphere to realise that there were people who visited to rough up the place, dine without paying up or idle without any purpose, stuck in Europe an unable to return home - I was marked by that experience. It reinforced my inclination to attempt to mentor people who decide make a radical change in their lives.

A palate for Nigerian food

I must say, the quest for good Nigerian food in restaurants is unrelenting, especially, I remember a few years ago when I tried my hands at moimoi; I was in the kitchen for the best part of 4 hours, 2 of which was getting the beans ready, best let someone else do the hard work.

I can also be a constructive critic because I am a really good cook in my own right and know exactly how our food should look and taste. I have been in certain restaurants where gentlemanly restraint was the only thing that stood between me asking for an apron to conduct some stern cooking lessons – it gets reflected in the tips and hardly touched food.

Back to the future

On Sunday evening, a colleague/friend at work who had just returned from Nigeria invited me to another restaurant other than the African Kitchen we regularly frequented, I was game.

As we got off at Vensepolder in the upper South-East of Amsterdam, we descended the stairs and I wondered aloud, these neighbourhoods – very different and full of colour – it was a comment as loaded as a double-barrelled gun, just a 10-minute walk it was.

It all came back to me, this was the place I visited those many years ago, the old restaurant was now a church for Sisters in Christ and then there was a Cherubim & Seraphim Church - I saw no Caspers (worshippers wear long white garments the only thing left is for them to float like Casper the ghost) with the new restaurant only 4 months old sandwiched in the middle of "restaurants" offering “food for the spirit and soul”.

The unscripted menu

We stepped in and settled down, my friend, Bayo, for this narrative asked for the menu, they had none, we were to make requests and the waitress inquired if those demands could be met.

No pepper soup, but there was suya and the suya was good, I even had a take-away portion, we settled for amala with gbegiri stew and beef for Bayo and I, lafun with ewedu (corchorus) stew and beef and got down to savouring a wonderfully prepared meal.

There was no sign of the depressing atmosphere of years ago, but I still find that in literally all African restaurants I have been to, I still have to ask for a glass for my drinks, it is just not so to swill from a bottle or sip from a can if you are in restaurant, I suppose people are not as particular.

As we finished our meal, I washed my hands and suddenly realised that in the middle of the tables were soap and hand lotion as part of the set table, it made one wonder if we were going to have a manicure soon afterwards.

The only complaint I had about the meals was that there was too much tripe given as beef, I had enough for the ceremonial shawl that high chiefs wore at festivals called shaki.

A guest arrived and the evening had just begun with talk. Continued … in Part 2

Saturday 20 October 2007

Gallantly relinquished the Rugby World Cup

Defending the crown

I tried very hard not to be carried away with the euphoria of England’s recent successes in the Rugby World Cup when Australia and France were taken out to arrive at the point where they were really defending the world cup they won in 2003.

When I wrote about the Rugby World Cup which was looking like it could not muster any support, last month, I did say England did not have a knack for defending titles like this.

Meeting South Africa at the finals presented an interesting scenario because earlier in the tournament England was beaten 36-0 by South Africa, would their game have so been diminished to have England radically overturn that contemporary meeting with a victory at championship match?

People dared to hope against hope and the long week between the semi-final and the final drove us to distraction as an epic moment of successfully defending the Rugby World Cup in 2007 might have relegated to insignificance the fondly remembered 1966 FIFA World Cup we won when I was hardly a year old.

A competition lacking competitors

Again, I must say the Rugby World Cup is a competition that hardly has a world or global following as football, only 6 countries represent the real elite of this game, namely, Australia, England, France, New Zealand and South Africa, the next tier includes Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy. The surprise of this tournament was Argentina, but then most of their players ply their trade in Europe and they beat France twice in the group stages and the bronze medal match.

Somehow, no one considered the same could really happen to England; that once a team had established superiority in the group stages that standard can be maintained throughout the tournament if they meet again.

They still did us proud

Now, I must commend England for coming this far as 2003 represented a different expectation, England were the favourites; for 2007, very little was expected, but they rose to the occasion and getting to the final was as much the pinnacle of their achievement.

So, the championship match ended with a score line of 6-15 with the spoils going to South Africa, the try that required a 2-minute review of the video judge which was disallowed would suffer scrutiny, analysis and developing controversy, forgetting that Johnny Wilkinson missed two drop goals.

The push that had the South African player running in a camera setup behind the cordon was judged quite leniently by the referee – a heat of the moment thing.

In all, England have done us proud even if they were second-best this time, we would not get the therapeutic fillip that comes your country winning, but we are not going to have to drown in our tears for losing.

This might help the SA FIFA World Cup

Congratulations to South Africa where sport plays a large role in uniting a divided people, visits to Madiba who urged them on from South Africa and all sorts of national healing would be topical as they prepare for the FIFA World Cup. If only England had a Madiba figure to do the same rather than just the coach and probably two princes one might be writing a different story.

Now that the cup is over and it was a dreadfully long six weeks, we are, on Sunday, awaiting the splendour and the crowning of the genius of Lewis Hamilton in Brazil.

For one last time – Come On! England.

Friday 19 October 2007

Doctor Neutralises Africans

The mystique of Nobel accolades

Nobel Prize laureates are considered prime brain-boxes of intelligence and are in the unique situation of having brought great good to humanity. This is sometimes less expressed in the peace and literature prizes but more evident in the sciences.

At 34 in 1962, James Watson jointly shared the prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins who were both 12 years older and both died in 2004, quite uncanny.

Their prize, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962 was “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.” In common parlance, he was involved in discovering the structure of DNA a field of endeavour that has brought significant progress and understanding about the make up of living organisms and their hereditary factors.

Avoid Boring People

45 years on, Dr. Watson was out promoting his new book - Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science and part of that promotional tour included an interview with an English newspaper which is par for the course, and as a Nobel laureate, there are many who would have flocked to hear him wherever he was speaking along with those would want to read about him.

Before I get into the substance of this matter, I remember chatting online years ago and the moment my correspondent learnt I was African I was hit with a diatribe that started with him saying he does not have time for monkeys. Much as I was quite slighted by this turn of conversation, I responded saying that either this monkey was so smart it could interact with humans or he had lost his humanity and was now cavorting with simians.

It makes you wonder where people get all these crazy ideas from, and this not helped when a respected and celebrated Nobel laureate gives oxygen to such views by implying that black people are less intelligent compared to white people.

Of evidence or generalisation

Obviously, there are some events and situations in Africa that would almost allow this esteemed scientist to draw more than inference and be able to give contrived and believable examples to support this claim, to that extent I can share the position that many are “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa”, but I cannot assimilate the extension that portends that in the West “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really.”

He goes on to say that whilst he hopes everyone is equal – “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true - there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level.”

Now, I would not know what testing has taken place to arrive at these conclusions and it is no surprise that the aversion to gene research is sometimes the fear that certain elements of the research can lead to eugenics, xenophobia or unacceptable pronouncements, albeit from learned persons.

DNA debunking

Dr. Craig Venter, who is a contemporary authority in gene science and a man I dislike for probably the media portrayal of his seeming arrogance but respect for his grasp of his science and the relevance of his endeavour, debunks this claim with this statement – “Skin colour as a surrogate for race is a social concept not a scientific one, there is no basis in scientific fact or in the human genetic code for the notion that skin colour will be predictive of intelligence.

Many would breath a sigh of relief to that, though an unhealthy debate has started with the accompanying backlash which the malevolent would dismiss as the onslaught of the political correct rather that the offensiveness of opinions that should never be expressed.

The greater concern here is DNA is so fundamental to understanding the physiology of the human-being, adding social dimensions to purely physiological issues complicates the matters, relating that to race allows for elements of race supremacy to develop and the vicious cycle of man’s inhumanity to man is given impetus by those who should know a lot better.

Backslash backlash

In any case, doors began to close in the face of Dr. Watson, the Science Museum cancelled a talk, the Bristol Festival of Ideas cancelled an appearance stating Dr. Watson’s opinions were unacceptably provocative and now the Board of Trustees of the New York’s Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory where Watson was chief for four decades has suspended him from his administrative responsibilities pending a review of his comments.

It would appear Dr. Watson has now gone to ground, cancelled all engagements in England and returned home, but not before he tried to extricate himself from the quagmire he sank into with all his Nobel-lauded faculties about him.

Mortified and almost remorseful, he contends that the reportage of his words do not reflect his position properly and appreciates why people would have reacted in the ways that they have about his comments.

However, a new area of study is emerging as genetic intelligence which is not in and of itself racism as Dr. Watson does agree that there is no scientific basis for considering Africans inferior and the apology reads further as thus – “To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly.

Well Dr. Watson, before I step up to hug you, I might as well just do some research to see if this is a simple error of judgement or getting away with form has inadvertently deserted you at this hour.

Nobel Syndrome

Roger Highfield in The Telegaph comment section contends that Dr. Watson is suffering from a mental condition called Nobel Syndrome, a tendency for laureates to stray from their knitting to create controversy and worse.

There is however a great risk in suppressing scientific ideas if we attack contrary commentary, but a man of Dr. Watson's stature should understand his position of responsibility and the import of his opinions which may not be subjected to the quality of peer review as “lesser mortals” would suffer, in fact, many might read his words as incontrovertible truth.

Worse still, his actions bring into disrepute and dishonour the good name of one lady whose work was the precursor to his work on discovering DNA, as the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously Rosalind Franklin’s good name and work depends on how the other recipients conduct themselves, she died in 1958 and these activities 49 years on are definitely not what all who were involved in the discovery of DNA would want to be associated with.


James Watson: To question genetic intelligence is not racism – The Independent

The elementary DNA of Dr. Watson – Times Online

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA