Sunday 29 June 2008

Statues come alive in my mind

Young and impressionable

That young minds can be impressionable is not something I would debate about, it is as self-evident as I can recall from my own experiences.

Only a few days ago, I caught the tail-end of a story by someone who was returning to a suburb in East-Africa and recalling that his father was one of the writers if not founder of the Drum Magazine [Source - Drum (magazine) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia].

Now, I remember, Dear Dolly, the agony aunt who handled letters of inquiry from people caught up in romantic dilemmas, however, there is one story that leaves the most indelible mark on my memory.

I read a story about a boy of about 10 years of age who had been murdered, that was bad enough, I was only 8 then – but the pictures of the scene of the murder and the body were so graphic beyond distress - the thoracic cavity was ripped open exposing the innards through the ribs, he might have been shot, but it looked like the boy was hacked to the death - and still, I returned to read the story and view the pictures to exacerbate my added discomfort.

Fiendishly Fried Friends

The one that brings on this blog is about another story that I read out of a comic-book, probably a Beano [Source - The Beano - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]. One of the characters was longing to see a friend, so he took a picture of the friend, put it in a frying pan and gave it a deep-fry – in the next strip the friend appeared.

I cannot say how I arrived at the concept of fried appearances, but there have been times when that idea and thought has gained more than the occasional meditation about the madness that my imagination can evoke.

The statue awakens in my mind

So, now in Berlin, I am staying on Budapester Strasse and this is just past a technical institute where a towering statue of Alexander von Humboldt [Source - Alexander von Humboldt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia] stands touching a globe.

In the day time, I would walk by the front of the statue without a thought, at night, I would cross the street to avoid walking by the statue.

In fact, I am no enthusiast of statues that have the human form in any place other than museums where they are locked up and have no hope of escaping.

Yes, escape – I did say that – a whole mix of experiences have ingrained in me the idea that statues of bronze, marble, carbon fibre or any kind of molding material can animate and take a swing at me.

Between reason and fear

I find it interesting that when I have no other alternative than to walk amongst statues at night, the debate and conflict goes on in my mind as sound reason battles to the death with irrational fear about what is likely to happen.

The statues keeping still or become a rampaging mob, running after me just to have the fun of scaring me stiff.

Now, I do wonder what you would make of the statue in Oosterpark in Amsterdam of a boy sitting on a horned goat – even the without the drums beats in the middle of night, I break down in cold sweat and I am close to the paralysis caused by irrational fear.

Enjoy the slide-show of some of the statues that give me the creeps and I would update the collection which includes comments and descriptions with others as I approach them in the day time. (+_+)

Friday 27 June 2008

Indonesia: Two heroin smuggling Nigerians killed

For the want of wholesome ambassadors

The plight of Nigerians abroad is brought into stark relief when those of us who flout the laws of foreign countries are caught to face the full weight of the law.

In the light of my last blog about the introductory remarks made by the new ambassador to the Netherlands, one can almost sympathise with her perspective of Nigerians having a tendency to be less than scrupulous with our business dealings.

However, to subscribe to that view would be defeatist whilst robbing us all of the ability to seek redress for miscarriages of justice or clemency for conviction.

Shot at dawn for drugs

This morning, two Nigerians were shot by firing squad in Indonesian for trying to smuggle heroin into the country [Source- BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Nigerians executed in Indonesia].

They had been on death row since 2004 and somehow, one cannot say that if every avenue for clemency and mitigation was exhausted before they met their end.

There are many that might be persuaded to be ultra-conservative about drug-smugglers and assent to such a draconian punishment for those who bring the name of Nigeria into disrepute.

That does not however mean that our diplomatic representation in those countries should consider should these criminals beyond rehabilitation, redemption or without any prospect.

Obviously, being able to carry out the death penalty on people whose government cares little of their citizens abroad is a picture postcard deterrent to others, probably foreigners than indigenes.

Countries that fight for life

When I then juxtapose this against that of the three Australians who have been through the exhaustive process of appealing every conviction till their sentences were commuted to life in prison [Source - BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Bali three win execution appeal] – I am touched by the thought of a country that fights for the life and if possible, the liberty of their citizens anywhere in the world.

The Nigerians who were much older than the Australians only had 7kg of heroin; the lucky Australians had 8.3kg – it makes you wonder if regardless of the laws of the host nations our ambassadors have the wherewithal to exercise a sense of compassion and appeal to the humanity of the law to obtain clemency or commutations on behalf of the citizens they represent.

For now, I am not inspired by what I have seen done to Nigerians in Britain, Spain or Saudi Arabia and I am quite sorry about this state of affairs.

One aspect that can strengthen our resolve against the death penalty anywhere else in the world is to repeal that punishment from our statute books entirely. [Source - Capital punishment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Monday 23 June 2008

Frankly, Madam Ambassador, I am not impressed

Belittled and patronised

You probably would not be able to get the thickness of a hair strand into ascertaining the difference between being belittled and being patronised.

I cannot say that the Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands has allowed herself the best start in representing us in the Netherlands, but I would not dwell on those matters that have come to my hearing.

The doctor’s dodgy medicine

Dr Nimota Nihinola Akanbi recognises her brief by committing to strengthen the relationship between the Netherlands and Nigeria and that is all well and good, whilst trying to divert the gaze from Shell’s activities she touted the statistic that 27 Dutch companies are fully operating in Nigeria.

Even I did not know that.

Then she called on Nigerians [Source - Nigeria: Envoy Pledges Cordial Relations With Netherlands] in the Netherlands to be law-abiding in their legitimate business and avoid acts capable of bringing disrepute to their home country as she presented her credentials [Source - The Embassy of Nigeria : News – The website needs a seriously radical professional and artistic overhaul].

Well, Madam, I take serious exception to the impression that Nigerians might fail to be law-abiding, be involved in illegitimate businesses and be involved in acts capable of bringing disrepute to Nigeria.

We do a lot more good than bad

Indeed, there might be a few black sheep that have been involved in illegal and criminal acts; they surely cannot be in the majority – I would contend that most Nigerians or those with Nigerian lineage are engaged in perfectly lawful business, we are productive and valuable members within the Dutch society - we should clearly be recognised as such.

We have been here for quite a while in many cases doing a lot to repair the damage done to the reputation of Nigerians, building positive alliances and displaying exemplary conduct that it is the just utterly condescending to read such statements from our honourable ambassador.

We are ambassadors too

I would have her know that Nigerians all, abroad, are already reluctant but able ambassadors of Nigeria without having the need for some figurehead apparatchik denigrate our existence with insensitive commentary.

The lady would do well to explore the possibility of meeting Nigerians from all areas of the country that are well into the work of ambassadorship that she has just assumed rather than pandering to clichés and unfounded generalisations.

Frankly, Madam Ambassador, I am not impressed, not one bit.

Hurdles always topple over

Running for fun

I have never been that athletic but I do remember that in my early teens I used to do long distance running just for the fun of it but never in competition.

I did try out hurdles and much as the hurdles look daunting from the starting line, they are set up to topple down forwards when hit by a hurdling error of the runner.

Hobbling over hurdles

Basically, a hurdle is not fixed to the ground as some insurmountable obstacle, whilst the best technique would glide over the hurdle without touching it, the runner would surely find out that they are only slightly slowed down if the hurdle is hit but the hurdle usually would not stop the runner in their tracks.

Even so, life is full of hurdles, but there are many who see those hurdles as big high impregnable walls of Jericho that they are overwhelmed and already defeated before they find out that it is hurdle and not a solid wall.

The big money wall

I was chatting to a young ambitious man this evening that was trying to enter business school but had been slapped with a EUR 12,000 fee as a guarantee that he would pursue the study rather than embark on other activities.

It is unfortunate, that some of those before had abused the foreign student programme by obtaining visas for study and then going into full employment – new laws have been promulgated to avoid such abuse.

Looking at the situation, I averred that it was a hurdle rather than an insurmountable obstacle, I opined that it was quite unlikely that a foreign student had deposited EUR 12,000 in the college’s bank account because that would be a greater incentive to work and probably engage in nefarious money making schemes.

A surety of confidence

My view was that the EUR 12,000 was the monetary value of a surety that guarantees that the person would make study their primary purpose whilst availing themselves of the maximum 20 hour a week working time.

This meant, if the person were able to produce a surety; a respectable member of society who knew the student, exercised a modicum of control over the student’s activities with some sort of monitoring agreement and had confidence in the student’s abilities, the fee can be waived on that recognisance.

Surety of conviction

A foreigner might not be able to produce such a surety on short notice without developing a trusting and working relationship, however, if the student in persistence and determination is able to convince a lecturer or some academic of their potential, commitment and ambition a surety might arise to allow a waiver.

The student creates a conviction that persuades the academic to provide the support to obtain access and gain a waiver of sorts.

In other words, the fee would always be an obstacle to those who do not exert themselves beyond that first refusal; it is however, just a hurdle to those who realise that the purpose of the fee and think round the issue.

I cannot say I convinced the young man of my views, but at least I gave him a perspective that made little of what once looked impossible and unattainable.

I have seen many examples of people who refused to be deterred by the big money requirement and ended up realising their dream without suffering that financial outlay – what looks like a wall, might well be a curtain, hurdles are not fixed to the ground, and they topple over when knocked, hit or just tripped over by a runner, but if you were just walking by, you'll never really find out that truth.

Adedibu: Benevolence, Wills and Legacy

The man of the people
It is hardly 12 days since the strongman of Ibadan, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu kicked the bucket and entered into history as a man who once lived and held sway in his community.
For all the opprobrium that could be mustered in the name of Alhaji Adedibu with his notoriety and menace, there was another element of his political base that did not find much commentary from persons like me.
Alhaji Adedibu was a community leader with his finger on the pulse in the heart of what affected people and a willingness to allocate resources to helping his community and constituency.
A benevolent benefactor
He was known as the father of Amala Politics; amala being a staple food of the Yorubas in Western Nigeria.
He made provision for the hungry, needy and destitute; be it the immediacy of food or money to meet other needs for life, health or education, his compound at Molete, in Ibadan, was always thronged with crowds who expected and received much of their benevolent benefactor.
Consequently, the man had the crowd at his beck and call, they responded to his desires in appreciation and gratitude such that they were willing volunteers to any cause he espoused – unfortunately, those causes when he called on his followers were not for the good of the community.
The scramble for the inheritance
With his death, it appears this benevolence has dried up; apparently, none of the children of the great man have decided to carry on his legacy and maintain this open house.
We can all assume they are in a squabble as to how to claim and share the inheritance and as one of the children said – the people should go and “find their level”, in other words, the gates are closed and the hungry might well go and die, they are no more our problem.
Is there another leader in town?
The people have now moved en-masse [Source –] to the residence of another supposed, leader in the community, the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland – Alhaji Azeez Arisekola-Alao, a wealthy businessman whose title suggests he is the leader of all Muslims in Yorubaland.
Leader, he sure is, but benefactor, he is not – his gates have been firmly shut against the yearning of the destitute and needy that found succour in the compound of Alhaji Adedibu in the same city of Ibadan.
I do not blame the man, not everyone has the generosity of spirit, means and ways to be benevolent to strangers or to their community even if the people do earnestly consider the person their leader - at least someone conferred this title on the man with some expectation.
Preparing for the hereafter
However, the saddest part of this story is the clearly a fault of Alhaji Adedibu and many of us who refuse to prepare for our passing by not making a will and creating a legally binding testament of what should continue after we are gone.
I doubt if Alhaji Adedibu intended for his compound to be emptied of the people who thronged him for help, it is unlikely that he would have wanted for the people he fed everyday to suddenly lose that benefit so soon after his death.
If only
If he had made a will that clearly stated his intentions to continue to be a pillar of the community through his benevolence after his death, we would not be hearing such indifferent talk from any of his children.
If he had bequeathed a sum to ensure that his people were catered for after his death, or arranged with his well-heeled supporters to continue his good work in this area, his mob of admirers who are unflatteringly called “hangers-on” would still be around to keep his memory alive and compound lively.
The absence of a clear indication of intentions after death means that there are few ready to take on the mantle of leadership that Alhaji Adedibu had in terms of ministering to the needy.
That is the sad lesson that reads as part of the life that Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu lived – it is interesting to see that the hired and crocodile-tear mourners who sang his praises at death have not backed up their deluge of encomiums with banding together to continue the work of the great man.
Such is the lip-service of those who gather to mourn but disperse when the responsibilities fall to their shoulders – for that simple reason Alhaji Lamidi Akanbi Ariyibi Adedibu would be sorely missed.

Sunday 22 June 2008

Expecting high drama on the Mount of Olives

Gay in Jerusalem

The pre-occupation of the Anglican Church with all things homosexual be it clergy or marriage is beginning to entertain rather than infuriate. It is gay (in the non-perjorative sense in Jerusalem.)

Lately, a swarm of holier-than-thou bishops going with the acronym of GAFCON [Source - Wikipedia] (Global Anglican Future Conference) met in Jerusalem as part of their plan to break up the Anglican Communion in the quest to keep the church too holy to minister to people who probably need the church the most.

The animosity to gay representation in the church is such that many might just be more repulsed by the inability of the church to minister to the laity than the laity’s possible innate prejudice against homosexuality.

Farce in Jordan

Lead by the Archbishop Peter Akinola [Source - Wikipedia] of Nigeria, it is almost laughable [Source –] that the bishops had planned to meet in Jordan until the bishop was refused entry for visa problems that they had to decamp to Jerusalem.

Apparently, the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem is an unwillingly and reluctant host of this cabal of Christian gentlemen, much as the bishops believe that the crisis in the church really does require that they be in Jerusalem [Source - Global Anglican Future - Holy Land 2008] – the Holy Land. It is quite instructive that a minister of God in a land of great turmoil does not believe the church should split over these matters - reconciliation is a life he strives to live as the holy bishops seek cause for schism.

Gates of gays prevailing

In any case, the fully robed bishops shall troop up the Mount of Olives [Source - Wikipedia] today and command views of the old city of Jerusalem as they might well be tempted of the opportunity to hijack the leadership of the church surreptitiously through their doctrinally dogmatic stance.

The gates of homosexuality might proverbially be prevailing on the persons of the church that they are excited about splitting it up so as to highlight the differences of opinion and doctinal interpretation.

Meanwhile, the flock suffers as they are pulled asunder but good and bad shepherds leaving all vulnerable to wolves – it makes you wonder who really needs the Anglican Church anymore – as the world and society changes the church and its message are left behind and the people lost in space.

The only thing that would assuage my thirst for more high drama from the bishops would be a mass defrocking on the mount, then we would all really understand what the fuss is all about.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Zimbabwe: Ready for Re-Colonisation

State-sponsored anarchy

The world watches almost helplessly as Zimbabwe descends into state-sponsored anarchy into order to entrench a desperate incumbency that spews out outrageous lies and falsehoods.

Robert Mugabe contends that he is fight for the land and sovereignty of Zimbabwe and would fight to the last man almost just short of declaring war to prevent Zimbabwe from being re-colonised.

He avers that the opposition that took the majority vote in the first round of presidential elections wants to sell Zimbabwe back to its old colonial masters such that whilst he lives it would never happen.

27 years of ruin

What I am about to say is controversially uncomfortable and is bereft of the encumbrance of sentiment; we must not forget that Robert Mugabe has been in charge of his country for 27 years.

27 years to turn it around, 27 years to make it a prosperous country, 27 years to give the people the right to decide who rules them and 27 years not to have to live in fear of extreme violence because one is exercising their right to vote.

Maybe there is some truth in the idea of re-colonising Zimbabwe, but I would be hard-pressed to find any reasons why Zimbabwe of today offers any desirable prospect for that kind of venture.

Nothing worthwhile there

Considering how destitute and impoverished many seem that almost 25% are refugees in neighbouring countries, one cannot make any decent slavery venture of men already herded about like starved cattle – brought about by this great liberation leader.

Zimbabwe has land, good agricultural land – in fact only 8.24% is arable [CIA World Fact Book], but there is a lot more land in Africa, the farmers chased out of Zimbabwe are beginning to thrive in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Zimbabwe however has no oil, its minerals which include platinum, gold and ferroalloys are not of the quantity that would have a radical economic impact on its people.

The life expectancy at birth is now 39.73 years with an unemployment rate of 80%, one wonders if there is any prospect for that country with that old man in charge at 84.

Skills for murder and destruction

What we have are an unemployable set of dead-enders who are called war veterans, an unfortunate mob of brigands who have been manipulated for 27 years by an unconscionable despot for political ends without delivering any appreciable benefits to their lives.

Their skills are better wielded with cudgels, sticks, guns and instruments of menace, rather than pens, hoes and brains such that the many that were offered the usurped farms had no aptitude to make anything work – they even failed at make weeds grow.

Their future has been yoked to great misfortune no matter what opportunity they have been offered such that they are zombies in the beck and call of the great liberation leader.

Deceived, cajoled and deployed

These people have been short-changed and laid destitute by their liberation leader who seeks to lay blame elsewhere as his wife enjoys the moniker of First Shopper.

The truth is there is nothing to colonise about Zimbabwe, but having make the country completely destitute any attempt to lift the country out of its morass would have it beholden to helpers – it is already in a colonisation-prone state as a result of the policies of the government that would not leave or allow the people to decide on who should lead them.

The war veterans have been cajoled with handouts and sops that do not last or provide a future, they are so desperate for anything that they are so easily persuaded of a false cause to harm their fellow Zimbabweans; having forgotten that it is this same demonic despot who killed fellow Zimbabweans in Matabeleland.

A crisis of leadership in Africa

This is where Africa suffers a great crisis of leadership, this outrage happens on our doorstep and the ones who should speak up appease and tolerate the intolerable.

When would the wool be pulled off our eyes to realise that the Zimbabweans deserve better and that great future does not emanate from any vision that Robert Mugabe projects?

There is nothing to colonise about Zimbabwe, it is time for all of us to see that truth and really for the last time consign the Grand Despot of Africa to the history of ignominy once and for all.

The Zimbabweans do deserve not be colonised by a cabal of corrupt leaders living in opulence whilst the people die of hunger in destitution and die horribly of violence meted out on them by their leaders for deciding to vote as they desire.

Monday 16 June 2008

Nigeria: Dragging Iwu to the court of the Twelfth of June

June the Twelfth lives

It would appear June the Twelfth still has a few more lives in it before it gets consigned to history. In fact, it can never be completely consigned to history because it comes every year and someone somewhere would find reason to commemorate the day.

For Nigeria, it remains that one seminal moment when the freest and fairest elections were conducted in the country, the only sad thing being the will of the people was aborted before full recognition was made of the winner.

This being the 15th anniversary of the event, the chairman of the then electoral commission which was known as the National Electoral Commission, Professor Humphrey Nwosu launched his tome about that election.

Titled Laying the Foundation for Nigeria’s Democracy: My Account of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election and its Annulment – a mouthful of a book title not yet available on Amazon, the reviews beyond the pre-launch hype show us nothing particularly new or worthy of news – one reviewer calls it beautiful nonsense.

Boos and all

In any case, at the launch, the guests of honour that included General Ibrahim Babangida, the President who annulled the election, though absolved by the professor and his successor Chief Ernest Shonekan were not present to grace the occasion.

When the name of the current chairman of Inept National Electoral Commission, Professor Maurice Iwu’s name was mentioned at the event, it was booed – perhaps the chairman thought it prudent to attend the occasion lest he be derided.

Anyway, rather than concentrate on trying to avoid more controversy, INEC through its spokesperson has decided to take up the defence of its head by making the following assertions.

The two electoral commissions were different.

One operated under a military junta in 1993 and the other under a civilian administration in 2007.

The annulment of the results of the first almost plunged the country into chaos, the more recent one was a successful transition from one civilian regime to another.

The comparisons are baseless and we should concentrate on the successes of the 2007 elections and work on strengthening the democratic process.

Since Professor Iwu was not at the event he could not have been booed.

Debunking the assertions

The assertions are interesting and quite informative because, whilst the elections happened under different circumstances, it did not mean that the clearly expressed will of the people should be subsumed in annulment or incompetence such that the fairness of the 2007 elections remains questionable.

The elections of 2007 could well have plunged the country into chaos, but the death of 300-plus citizens during those elections was 300-plus lives too many.

The comparison should and must be made to determine if Nigeria has really progressed or not and the verdict in terms of the electoral process seems to tick the negative boxes.

It can only be a delusion for INEC to continue to contend that they conducted very successful elections in April 2007, but maybe we are missing a point that I would elaborate on later on.

Then a man does not have to be present at an event to acknowledge anytime he is booed, a name mentioned carries just as much weight as the presence of the person, if that person is well known and has a reputation the booing audience fully acknowledge – there is no journalistic slight in reporting that a person has been booed or praised, regardless of if that person is present or not.

Transition was the only goal

It would appear that the goals of success INEC defined for itself were not for the conduct of free and fair elections; that was not their purpose at all – from the statements, they were doing the impossible – that impossible act was the transition from one civilian regime to another.

Nobody mentions that it was the same ruling party that had literally politicised the commission such that it took the courts to restrain the commission from blatant unconstitutional infringements.

It would have been a greater achievement if the transition was from a ruling party to the opposition but the numbers did not look that way in the end.

However, if the standard of success was only predicated on a successful transition to a hand-picked invalid who seems to be grappling with the levers of power without successfully moving the vehicle more than an inch – well, it would have been utterly naïve of us to expect the elections to be free, fair and absent of irregularities.

The judgement of June the Twelfth

Professor Iwu should by now have developed thick enough skin not to be ruffled by any comments about him, but June the Twelfth brings his stewardship into stark relief as a sycophantic neophyte, oblivious of ethical demands of his brief and in denial about his rank incompetence.

This was exemplified in still having electioneering documents in South Africa 24 hours before a major election – that he still holds office beggars belief, but the woes of the challenge of the President’s election have to pass, then the buffoon can be kicked out and pensioned off in ignominy.

Professor Iwu, when dragged into the court of June the Twelfth is found wanting and judged a failure but it is a more foolish man who kicks against the goads.

As for INEC, maybe sometime in the future, free and fair can enter their vocabulary, but now, transition trumps a decent electoral process – the result of which can be seen the turmoil of Kenya and now Zimbabwe – it is a real shame, indeed, it is.