Friday 30 April 2010

The case for State law over religious guidance

Civic responsibility above religious beliefs

In the light of the tussles between religious beliefs and civil obligations, I could not have wished for a better reference for legal opinion than one that was part of the rejection of an appeal based on a sacking the appellant believed was religious discrimination.

A marriage guidance counsellor with Relate [1] – a secular relationships guidance organisation – refused to offer counselling to same-sex couples due to his religious beliefs which were Christian in inclination leading to his being relieved of his duties.

The UK has seen a number of cases of civil servants refusing to perform their objective work functions on the grounds of it prejudicing their beliefs and hence withholding public services from people who do not seem to conform to their standards or moral values.

The gravitas of religious leaders contemned

In this case the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lard Carey even made representations to the Lord Justice on this matter and there has been a certain Christian persecution complex that has been gaining activist fervour with the subtext that Christians are no more allowed to express themselves with conviction – the converse of which is the appearance of prejudice and bigotry in Christian attitudes that are less than communal and inclusive.

Lord Justice Laws made some very far-reaching statements that could prove useful in dealing with religious laws in Nigeria whilst give all citizens equal access to a uniformly accepted set of laws dispensing justice and protecting rights without depending on any belief system apart from plainly being a member of that society.

The legal case is made for completely keeping religion out of State, civil matters and the law, the full text of this judgement should for all purposes be required reading for any student of law and I liberally quote from the statements made in the article as written in the Guardian [2].

Justice cannot be given a religious tint

He said, “Legislation to protect views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified, it is an irrational idea and it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.

The Archbishop called for a special panel of judges with a "proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues" to hear the case. He went on to say, recent court decisions involving Christians had used "dangerous" reasoning and this could lead to civil unrest.

This is not to suggest that the archbishop was intent on invoking a mob to run riot against judges that weigh the facts of cases before them objectively without the influence and prejudice of religious faith, but that could deny non-adherent justice if civil issues are adjudicated by a panel of clergy-like lords.

Uniform laws for all

The Lord Justice then went on to say, “We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

I do not think any stronger statement can be made for eliminating Sharia Law from being a part of the legal system in Nigeria on the basis that even in Northern Nigerian were the majority might be Muslim, all people do not share uniform religious beliefs.

"The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.

Taking religion out of civil society

This is where it gets untenable, if the people are to be free, the state has to think for itself and not be bound by religious laws over which there can be no reasoning or it can be subject to malevolent interpretation in the hands of those whose religious influence might not necessarily be commensurate with the required legal training to administer justice fairly and honestly.

Whilst Lord Carey was at liberty to say, “The description of religious faith in relation to sexual ethics as 'discriminatory' is crude and illuminates a lack of sensitivity to religious belief.” It can also be said that religious faith that cannot comprehend or tolerate difference in humanity is insensitive and inimical to societal cohesion.

In essence, religion must well be kept in the religious houses where the people congregate for worship and where the 'religious' people mix with other facets of society the character, personality and quality of the person by reason of their beliefs should not be obvious; adequate discretion must be exercised as to what you have faith in.


[1] Relate | About Us

[2] Christian counsellor loses court fight over sacking | UK news |

Thursday 29 April 2010

Nigeria: Senator's defiance makes Sharia Law untenable

Ambiguity of the situation

The debate and recriminations about the marriage of a Nigerian Senator to a presumed 13-year old Egyptian girl as a fourth wife has been going apace with great difficulty in bringing the discussion to some objective and clear-headed assessments of the facts, the laws, the sentiments and the consequences.

Reviewing the matter, I had decided that under civil law, the Nigerian Constitution in its explicit guidelines appeared strict but ambiguous, to a legal miscreant it had enough loopholes and to a wily defendant it was provable that no laws had been broken.

Notwithstanding the moral outrage, there was enough mileage of interpretation between the provisions of the Age of Consent (13 in Nigeria), the Marriage Act, the Child’s Rights Act and the Criminal Code – if anything, this issue would hopefully lead to the harmonisation of laws to grant adequate protections to children being co-opted under duress into adulthood without acknowledgement of their individual rights, once we have moved on from the witch-hunt and persecution.

The refuge of Islam

Now, Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima who is 49 has spoken up [1] on this matter and this calls for some serious contemplation before our society falls into a chaotic morass of lawlessness predicated on each man’s conscience and personal justification for acts that derive validation from beliefs we might find ourselves unable to question let alone defy.

Speaking from Egypt by phone to the BBC Hausa Service – They seem to have the scoop on anything that pertain to Nigerian leaders of Northern origin, the same service broadcast the allegedly hoax interview with President Umaru Yar’Adua in January when it was believe he had no capacity to do so.

The Senator believes he broke no laws but rather than seek refuge in civil laws he has said he would not respect any law that contradicted his religious beliefs – I suppose that is fair enough on face value but one should examine in detail what he had to say which I take liberty to post verbatim from the BBC News site.

Copying Prophet Mohammad

I don't care about the issue of age since I have not violated any rule as far as Islam is concerned, history tells us that Prophet Muhammad did marry a young girl as well. Therefore I have not contravened any law. Even if she is 13, as it is being falsely peddled around. If I state the age, they will still use it to smear Islam.

As a Muslim, as I always say, I consider God's law and that of his prophet above any other law, I will not respect any law that contradicts that and whoever wants to sanction me for that is free to do that.

This raises a number of questions and issues that lie at the matter of separation of State and Religion – in this case, the religious force is being dictated by the weight of Sharia Law.

An absence of accountability

At first, the Senator asserts that the age of the girl he married is not 13 but does not offer to tell the real age by citing privacy even though there is now a public interest and moral standing to be satisfied to clear up this issue if the girl is indeed above 13 and of sensibly marriageable age.

The preponderance of Islam is brought to bear on a civil issue for which we cannot find a recognised authority to adjudicate which by default almost makes this man unaccountable to anyone but God’s law and the prophet. One then wonders if Nigeria is a democracy, a theocracy or a non-descript quagmire of conflicts between laws derived from a seeming Judeo-Christian perspectives with its origins in British Law and indigenised Sharia Law.

With defiance he goes on to contend that even if the child is 13, he is answerable to no one and plugs equality with Prophet Mohammad by taking the example of the Prophet having married a young girl too.

Bringing Islam into disrepute

But the truth can be found in this statement, “If I state the age, they will still use it to smear Islam.” In other words, despite the precedents and force of Islamic law he can proffer, this singular act of marrying the young girl is at risk of bringing Islam into disrepute and dragging the holy names of the prophets and deities down with it.

For that alone, if there be any authorities within Islam with the power to pronounce judgement or the dreaded Fatwa on this matter, this is the time to save the face of Islam, Sharia and all that makes it a belief system from the embarrassment of a man whose main objective is to satisfy his propensity for young girls rather than be an example of pious Islamic living.

Should Islam suffer a battering because one man had to satisfy his lust for young flesh or shall other Islamic leaders turn a blind eye to this just as they are resisting the adoption of the Child’s Rights Act in Northern Nigeria because they also have a secret craving for the same?

Presaging the repeal of Sharia

It would be a shame if the Senator having extricated himself from the grasp of civil law there is no sanction based on commonsense and principle within the religion he strongly adheres to apart from one outside the realms of human capability and pronouncement.

If that be the case, then Islamic Law cannot and should be allowed to have precedence over civil laws if practitioners are not answerable to some humanly constituted legal authority and sanction for acts that would be termed morally reprehensible when examined under the plain like of sound reasoning without the taint of belief, creed, dogma or tenet.

For this alone, the repeal of Sharia law should gather pace immediately.


[1] BBC News - Nigerian senator Sani denies marrying girl of 13

Relevant material Nigeria: Senator's teenage marriage is lawful though reprehensible

Nigerian Criminal Code Act Part III-IV The Relevant part is Chapter 19

Age of consent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Age_of_Consent.png (PNG Image, 1393x628 pixels)

Age of consent

Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 - Marriage Act

Child's Rights Act of 2003

Wednesday 28 April 2010

A long and windy road to the bloods

A course of detours

Another free day but not from things that need getting done; I had scheduled going to hospital today to give some blood in advance of my third quarterly check-up with my medical consultant, I also took the opportunity to book a meeting with the Catholic pastor who has so ministered greatly to my psychological and spiritual needs.

A quick chat to the neighbours meant I missed the tram going towards the hospital which includes a 5-minute walk so I thought I’ll take the next bus and sort of jump onto another tram that would put me in from of the hospital.

I was not too sure of the route the bus would take but after a few stops, it appeared to veer off course, I disembarked and walked the road I expected the bus to ply, it had been dug up and the bus had only taken a diversion – as I got to where I expected to get the tram, the bus came hurtling by but not in the direction I wanted – what a diversion that was.

I got to the hospital only to find that the main entrance had been blocked off for some repairs, we all had to go in by the side entrance and I was just in time to meet the pastor first before going for the bloods.

Where my heart is

Over a cup of tea we chatted about the progress I had made since I last saw him, the job, the conditions, the support and other conversations I had had with my relations. As usual, he asks the most searching questions like where my heart was when I think of Nigeria, England and the Netherlands.

I know my heart is not in Nigeria but my mind really is, my blog in a way lives in Nigeria when I review how much I write about her, I feel strongly English but I do not have any inclination of returning to live there, whilst I am in the Netherlands where my home is, I love this country but I have not convinced myself that I would settle here though in May I would have been here 10 years. Something to think about I thought to myself – where is my heart?

The pastor opined my inability to answer directly might well be that I have in a way become a world citizen; I suppose I need to travel a bit more to aspire to that kind of description.

Two pricks for seven vials

The queue for the bloods was short and soon I had registered and noticed they were taking 7 huge vials of my blood, I had to keep myself together thinking of the blood-letting I was about to suffer without swooning.

My body had survived 11 weeks without a pin prick, I was not sure if I was going to be a sissy at the sight of a needle piercing my skin, I was surprised when I watched but it got stuck, there was no blood entering the vials after the second, a few more vials were tried before the nurse decided to give up on tapping that vein.

She dressed that up and rather than trying it again, she got another nurse to try, so I switched arms and had blood drawn into the other 5 vials, watching the action, I realised the vials when attached to the receptacle attached to the inserted needle seem to fill up – what I thought was capillary action was in fact a vacuum-suction process.

Once that was done, I was ready to leave; in three weeks, we should find out about the tale in the bloods again – what a long and windy road it was to get anything done today.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Nigeria: The youth must face the challenge of IBB

Where’s the future?

A nation’s future can be measured in the dreams and aspirations of its young generation, once again a cabal of malevolent power brokers are ready to take away the new, fresh, invigorating and change that Nigeria needs to race into the 21st Century and claim a piece of national significance and pride in global history.

A great challenge has been thrown down to our future that faces a bleak, regressive and dark course of events if we allow ourselves to be subsumed into the fiefdoms of megalomaniacs who have no interest in the progress of Nigeria than to plunder its abundant mineral resources and frustrate its greatest asset, it people and most especially its youth which constitute the majority of her population.

Has-beens in wannabe clothes

These “has-beens” are the crux of our political class who have been ex-this or ex-that from the military hierarchy, old representative roles, crooked business people all of whose names we have heard before, time and time again; many have been around since before we were born and are still around hugging power, position, influence and process.

They were there in power before and their activities have done Nigeria no good, they are here now, and Nigeria is faring no better, if they were to be here in the future, they have no track record to give us any hope for improvement, progress or change – they are the forces of derogation, denigration, destabilisation, destruction and desperation that have plagued Nigeria since its independence.

A existential plague

It is time to eradicate this plague forthwith, this is time for something revolutionary, like excising a cancer with surgery rather than the palliation of pain with the administration of analgesics. There is nothing better of the devil we know, if we know that the devil brings evil beyond comprehension – a new force must rise and that force is amongst the youth – they cannot afford to be beaten down by the system and its protagonists as inexperienced and ill-equipped for leadership.

A sign that those leaders of the past have failed in leadership is that they have not been able to groom leaders from amongst their followers either for the better or the worse – their selfish, self-serving and conceited ways meant they have left legacies of the negative that have become the bad stereotypes of everything Nigerian that foreigners seem to see.

The past haunting the future

Chief amongst these is General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida [1] (retired, also known as IBB), once the president of the country between 1985 and 1993, a time that saw such radical change in Nigeria for the worse from the economy through the ascendancy of corruption as the life-blood of every faction of society, the mass exodus of its precious youthful talent to a botched electoral process that presaged the advent of the despotic Abacha era.

This man is planning a come-back to leadership on the ticket of the most inimical political organisation to Nigerian’s future, the ruling party and if he cannot buy that platform, one of the other parties would mortgage the future of Nigeria for a chance to have a plunderer in charge to dole out the largesse of Nigeria’s bounty like he has done before.

The biggest onslaught on the country has come from an interview he gave to the BBC News Hausa service recently where he said [2] “we have seen the signs that they are not capable of leading this country and so, we feel we should help them.”

He offers no new help too

That is too little too late, when he was in government 24 years ago, he had 8 years to help the youth see their great potential in future in a place called Nigeria, he had neither the wherewithal and persuasion give this vision to us as we entered our 20s with aspirations and dreams – in the end, he oversaw probably the greatest exodus of people for the great Nigerian dream who are scattered around the world now in their 40s and very few returning because they have significant ad laudable contributions building the economies and resource pools of foreign countries.

Just like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo before, they have not been able to give way to the youth whilst doing nothing for the better of its assets – the story goes that when Obasanjo was Head of State he visited a primary school in 1976 and said to the pupils “You are the future of our great country, Nigeria”, in 2006, a pupil observer of that event said, 30 years on, we have that selfsame person in leadership.

That is where the future of Nigeria has been hamstrung, in the hands of the so-called experienced who have no new ideas, no vision, no mission and a personable inclination to convey a sense of aggravated entitlement to every decision-making process and position that matters in Nigeria so as to continue to thwart every progressive move and darken every light of inspired thought for change.

Time up for them and time now for the youth

Nigeria today however still has great youthful resources of successful, able, inspired and resourceful people; they have in all their endeavours in other walks of life shown themselves full of purpose and vision that a country like Nigeria needs at this time of her history – they can lead and lead the way to the promise of a country we are proud to call our own anywhere we live in this world.

Let us call time on these people and let us do it now.


[1] Ibrahim Babangida - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Nigeria: “My Regime Was Better Than Now” – Babangida | AfricanLoft

Welcome to recovery

What is recovery?

Sometimes one wonders, as the global economy recovers from the banking crisis, what really constitutes the road to real recovery? The bailouts, the needed reforms and keeping the engine of growth well oiled – the former and the latter are comfortable, reform is a bitter pill.

Likewise, I look at my road to recovery and see certain new thinking and some old habits that die hard – does my full recovery include the reliving of the old or the adoption of the new but unfamiliar? And so much introspection about attitude and the ingestion of pills leads to dilemmas about lessons learnt and ones to discard, reform is not easy.

Escape velocity of a train

For the first time in over 7 months I finally escaped the gravitational pull of being in the Netherlands for a foreign trip to Belgium, Antwerp in fact, just by high-speed train now 1 hour 12 minutes away if there are no delays – this was a journey that usually was about 2 hours 6 minutes – it was my first time experiencing the force of traction at that rate on this journey.

A carefree attitude almost accompanied the booking of my tickets but for the presence of mind to book ones that are changeable, you just never know, the cheapest ticket is not necessarily the best ticket if mistakes or eventualities arise – that must be known.

The inconvenience of not now having a credit card meant transactions were done either with a debit card or with the fact that one still possessed a loyalty card for all sorts of services which had not yet expired.

The Hague is left in the haze

As we raced through the countryside it was not fields of green but greenhouses on swathes of land that imitated foreign climates and lots of tunnels, wherever we surfaced we came up beside macadamised routes for cars and bridges of concrete – indeed, there were areas of nature but not much to admire – contrast with Bohemia and we might well have our windows blacked out.

The route of the high-speed track was bold; bold in the fact that it runs from Amsterdam, through Schiphol international Airport and then to Rotterdam before it arrives in Antwerp in Belgium. The Hague, the administrative capital and seat of government is apparently, well obviously not in the route of the direct journey that runs from Amsterdam to Paris through Brussels.

In words that might sound so foreboding to the residents of The Hague when they do need to go South, they need to board a train to Rotterdam and then change trains – alternatively, they could travel on the slower Intercity train that calls at a few more stations and terminates at Brussels – as I was saying, The Hague has become provincial and almost unimportant – the facts on the track that I have put in words.

Almost business as usual

Everything else had the feel of what I was used to and the questions I would normally ask, as to why I ended up in a twin-bed room rather than a king-size bed room, the safe locked needing opening and what not about services and expectations.

However, one part of the journey I did not fail to notice was when a passenger was told she was not entitled to some apparently free service – she considered it rude, but I thought what she meant by rude was that the steward was not reverential and obsequious – I should have pointed out to the passenger that I did not once hear her say please when she made an aggressive strike for entitlements.

Rudeness begets rudeness, even if the customer thinks they are right – on my part, is this now welcome to recovery?

Thank you.

Friday 23 April 2010

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos II - Beyond Civic Pride

Originally published on Nigerians Talk.ORG please post your comments and views there. Thanks.

Makoko – the Venice of Africa

The second part of Welcome to Lagos [1] shown on the BBC yesterday was another compelling viewing that would leave many viewers divided between the humanity of those communities and the conditions of the same communities.

The second part can be viewed courtesy of Nigerian Curiosity [2] who has obtained video viewable on her blog – Thanks for a splendid job.

There are however a few incontrovertible facts, Makoko is part of Lagos, about 100,000 people live there, they are Nigerians and there is no reason for them to feel inferior to any other so-called emancipated Nigerian who is too ashamed to see the realities in their own country.

Spare me the whining

The middle-class whining about the image, tourist potential and places of superfluous grandeur that majors on trends and the mimicry of foreign styles and mores without any substance, hoping to portray an air-brushed image of life and opulence is interesting but not about Nigeria at all.

In my case, I would have preferred to see the tenacity and in the words of the narrator, the resourceful, determined and unbelievably resilient people of Makoko than pretentious haughty hedonists living in gated communities built by foreigners for which they have to pay fortunes to keep up with the Joneses.

A family of note

Indeed, the life of the 65-year old who had been there for 40 years was interesting as a father of 18 children welcoming a new grandchild, it would be easily to castigate the creation of such a large family.

However, unlike typically large families that make the news in the West as scroungers living on welfare, the man held his house together, they ate together and he strove to maintain discipline within that seemingly happy household apart from the difficulties he had with a son who was not keen on the dignity of labour for the waywardness of social excess.

A jack of many trades, mastering most, he was fish-farmer, fish-monger, landlord and lucky gambler with an interesting lottery prediction system – the man was grounded, able and willing to do whatever he could for the good of himself and his family – that at least should be commendable.

Let there be sand

Land reclamation was a fascinating mix of the foundation of rubbish, layers of sawdust obtained from a saw mill nearby which also absorbed the foul odours and then sand.

The sand divers collecting sharp sand for the building trade were men of a different kind, one of the divers was 50 and his body could easily pass for a fit athlete half his age. They filled their boats in hours and rather than row they put up huge sails and made for land to deliver their cargo.

The flotilla of sand boats was a sight to behold, a regatta of hard labour and of people who in difficult situations made a living worthy of great respect.

An abattoir for trees

The sawmill was a hive of activity with lots of child labour, one of the foremen slept on the premises but hoped to acquire a place for himself once he had saved enough money {he eventually did} – they were driven and only stopped when the electricity supply was lost for all sorts of infrastructure reasons that have consistently plagued Nigeria.

Thankfully, none of the sawmill owners were in the game of one-upmanship of acquiring generators to draw more business to themselves but when two deaths occurred from electrocution all the operators gathered in a union style meeting and proposed that all operators must wear rubber gloves and boots. Each death initiated three days of mourning along with contributions towards the burial of the victim and for the upkeep of his family.

The sawmills were a seriously unsafe environment but the fatalities necessitated a change to their working environment. At one time, an owner opined that siblings working together might just be engaged in chit-chat, but the dedication of the children lead to their permanent employment with nostalgic memories of home.

A university student, a marine science major paid his fees by logging in the holidays, he felled the trees and used the buoyancy of water to transport the trees to the sawmill over the period of a week – his command of English was hardly good but I felt it was useful for the environment he was in.

A marine science specialist is not necessarily going to be speaking the Queen’s English to the fish when he eventually gets his degree.

Long lost traditions

Animist potions and incisions for protection have always been our traditional way of dealing with omens, evils and the need for protection – logic and religion might have robbed people of faith in the ways of our forefathers but herbal remedies are usually what they are made out to be, if the dispenser knows the detail.

The mode of transport was mainly by canoe and you could see women “drive” their vehicles paddling with a sense of purpose and dignified strokes that caressed the waters of the lagoon.

The people

The idea that the documentary is negative is preposterous and insincere at best, it is dishonest to deny these people a peaceful productive existence because of some aspiration for a civic society where the privileged can showcase their “bling” whilst the underprivileged gets hounded from place to place by government bulldozers and schemes to pave those paradises to put up parking lots.

In an article in the Financial Times [3] about the first instalment of the Welcome to Lagos documentary the columnist said we miss “a compelling case for Nigeria’s economic potential and its greatest but often overlooked asset: its people.”

The people of Makoko and the people of Olusosun are assets to Nigeria, not shiny, window dressed, fake, fickle and plastic imitations of life looking nice, they are the salt of the earth and like it or not – They are fellow Nigerians with rights, dreams, aspirations and much more – live with it.


[1] BBC - BBC TV blog: Welcome to Lagos - it'll defy your expectations
[2] BBC's Welcome To Lagos Part 2 (video) ~ Nigerian Curiosity
[3] / Management - Business flair in the slums of Lagos
My reviews of all the parts of BBC’s Welcome to Lagos documentary
Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos III - Welthauptstadt Nigeria

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos II - Beyond Civic Pride

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos - An inspiration

My Dummies Ride to Social Security

My own man alone
The independence of mind and means is a wonderful thing to have but this kind of single-mindedness comes with dangers and hazards that I have so well learnt.
I have been in employment since 1991 and the longest time I was out of work before now was for 5 months between December 1999 and April 2000.
In the UK, welfare and social security was never anything you felt encouraged to call on, no matter how dire your situation might be; after visiting those offices for 3 weeks in early 1991 I decided nothing will compel me to enter those crooked jobless statistics ever again.
Now, in the Netherlands, I never fully understood what my working status was, where I thought I was freelancing as an ICT Consultant, I was actually on an agency’s payroll but my employment was limited to the duration of the project I was in.
That confusion of project-based employment gave me the feeling I was not entitled to any social security funds, but apparently, I had been paying my dues all the while and indeed I was entitled to a lot more that I could have expected to receive.
The downward spiral
Having this independence and resilience was working its stubborn stoicism in me, as savings ran out, debts piled up and demands grew more aggressive, my health was failing too – in a desperate quest for funds I offered part of my real estate for sale at a bargain but the market had fallen out of favour and I was near destitute.
Here I was, a one time high-flying expatriate on the verge of entering the dreaded credit blacklist, losing my credit cards and unable to face the fact that no money would just appear, I needed to talk to people and many people at that.
My creditors from mortgage lender, through insurance, rates, utilities, credit cards and every leech that felt they had some hold on me put on the squeeze.
By the time I knew it, penalties were mounting to the point of doubling the debts, it is so amazing how businesses apparently make their profits out of misery – people like me are conveniently classed as delinquencies – we are treated as “can’t pay, won’t pay” people who need to be sent to some workhouse till we have bled the last drop.
Starting up from below
Surely, if I had the money, I would pay, but I had no income and I had to come through the realisation that I needed every ounce of positive energy I could muster to fight the cancer that was threatening my life – honestly, I had no time to think about my iris recognition travel pass, it was the last thing on my mind – subscriptions can wait.
I was eventually persuaded to register as unemployed in December but registered myself as seeking work, this was me believing I could work whilst I was still halfway through my course of chemotherapy sessions, the serious pain did not subside until the middle of January.
Eventually, I started speaking the truth about my situation to my creditors, some had already run out of patience and I really had no great stories to tell, I was completely dependent on the charity of friends and relations and just prayed that this great tribulation would soon pass.
Working to May day
The bank sent someone round to collect, there was nothing to collect but the story he heard was the opportunity for a period of grace until May, but just 3 days after that visit, the electricity company that had been making a mint out of me refunded the excess which basically put my account back in the black with nothing to spare.
The mortgage company called and I arranged to meet them in February, they also agreed that May should be the time for reckoning, it meant I needed to start making money by May.
In reality, it was a tall order when I now realise that the chemotherapy took a lot more out of me than I was ready to admit but what looked a long way away was fast approaching me like a rampaging stampede.
In fact the real application for unemployment support only got properly filed in at a meeting in February and it got stuck within the bureaucracies, it took the help of the social services of my hospital to unwind the process and gain some traction.
They will pay and did
The social services finally made a decision, the unemployment benefits would only go back 6 months from February which was August to the day I was admitted in hospital after which I would be entitled to sickness benefit until the day I returned to work.
Apart from my mortgage arrears and a few little issues, all other rates, debts, claims and demands have basically been paid off by what came through.
I find myself thinking, if only I was not so stubbornly independent and just walked into the social security office and told them I was out of work in May 2009, I would have saved myself a whole world of misery, the money would have covered the basics and the worry about the bigger bits would have been much less.
If only …

Thursday 22 April 2010

Thought Picnic: Talking down and listening up

For ancestral angst
The amazing power of silence came to play in an ambush this afternoon. Whilst he has been a stalwart of moral support in these trying times there are times I consider certain views inconsiderate.
I am grateful that in the rather dire times he took it upon himself to call regularly to find out how I was and hope that I recover fully in health, wealth and means speedily.
There was great comfort from those words and desires, one could only accept them in appreciation but it also opened the door to conflict – I must get a woman, I must get married, I need a carer, they are a necessary evil, you need to have children.
Really, I just want to get well, none of those other wishes appear anywhere in any list of priorities I currently have or project to have in the foreseeable future.
In paternal roar
So when I got back to work, it was not a complete slam dunk of the past, it was the beginning of a journey but it appears I was already expected to have completed that journey to means and ability.
Indeed, I wish I had completed that journey but I am happy to be in the right direction so I was so surprised at the ambush this afternoon when I was basically accused of being inconsiderate, not calling, not concerned and not communicative.
A call does not come cheap and though I would like to count the pounds, I have been counting the pennies – I was not going to go on the defensive and I refused to allow anger to rise for the offensive – I do speak my mind if occasion does really warrant it.
Offspring expressions
Using English for communication allows me to convey my views much strongly and forcefully than I could ever do in any other language and I use that to its full effect but this time, I allowed the torrent of recrimination and kept quiet, silent and devoid of determined contemplation.
Hello! I heard him say afterwards, it was not interminable silence but long enough to mean, when you have gotten it off your chest we can continue the conversation – without my addressing those matters – fair enough, he had a grievance, it was not something I had the immediate means to address – the conversation continued, respectfully, reverently, purposefully and wonderfully.
As it ended, I said to myself what I usually do say on the phone – but today was the day for the unsaid – I love you, sir.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Reaching a milestone of work that pays

A milestone passed
Looking back and seeing the path on which I have travelled, there is no doubt I have come a long way.
And how best to appreciate that amazing journey than to look in my bank account this afternoon and find that I have been paid for the work I did in March.
Yes, the month of March offered me five working days and that was a week’s pay for 40 hours, my very first income in a year wherein I have been very, very ill, treated with chemotherapy and recuperating all together for 9 long months.
Though nowhere near my earning potential at my last project before those circumstances, the thought that one has been productive enough to get paid is like the feeling I had regarding my very first job some 29 years ago.
More thanks again
Without doubt, I have been nurtured and nourished on the full cream milk of human kindness from neighbours, friends and colleagues – in so many ways, no matter how small, it has been for me a bountiful harvest of grace and favour.
It is good to know that one can now begin to do something about those bills, every little bit is a start to forestall the incessant harassment especially the one that has harangued me in the name of Queen. I never told them, that could well be my name.
I have every reason to be thankful, the future is bright, my days are fun and life is beautiful – to everyone that loves life, cherish your health and keep it strong, it is your foundation to wealth and the breath of fresh air each glorious day.
Thank you one, thank you all.

Monday 19 April 2010

Nigeria: Senator's teenage marriage is lawful though reprehensible

{New information added 21/04/2010 18:00hrs} This conversation is ongoing on Facebook and I have received new information regarding the adoption of the Child's Rights Act of 2003 by more states in Nigeria - in this article Cross Rivers States was presumably the 23rd state to adopt the Act, other issues on Children's rights are discussed too Source Article.
What is legal can be immoral
I found myself engaged in a debate about morality and legality having seen a number of postings by friends regarding a Nigerian Senator who had married a 13-year old Egyptian girl. (Grandiose Parlor[1]) (AfricanLoft[2])
When I first read the topic, I was caught in great revulsion but I refused to allow my emotions becloud my judgment, despite the presumed research the news columnist appeared to have made regarding the marriage.
So easily, one can be taken by the sensational stuff and depart from objective scrutiny when one hears of what was paid as dowry that some have made appear as a wife purchase.
Between religion and homeliness
Indeed, because the man is Muslim, it is also easy to make Sharia the whipping boy, castigating religion whilst thinking the worst of the situation.
Categorically, it is morally reprehensible that a married man who already has three wives would take on a fourth that is only 13 – now, there is nothing wrong with a Muslim man marrying four wives – Islam allows for that “luxury”.
Having taken this 13 year old as a wife, I doubt she would be put to bed immediately, she would probably enter the family and adapt to the way of doing things within that polygamous family being groomed by the matriarch first wife – consummation may not take place for years - a need for cultural studies over preconceived personal prejudices would do us all a world of good.
That is not to put a gloss on the matter but to disabuse the tendency to think of every uncommon relationship through the myopic prism of sex – I find it amusing when the thought of homosexual relationships automatically creates revolting pictures in the minds of people who have no clue of what is going on between the persons involved.
The Age of Consent
Anyway, the first thing I did was to determine the age of consent [3] in Nigeria.
That being the age at which a person can be considered legally competent of consenting to sexual acts.
Apparently, Nigeria has one of the youngest ages of 13 [4], which means a 13 year old is considered legally able to engage in sexual activity [5] and adults need not suffer any legal consequence as a result of the sexual liaison.
In the Northern African countries the ages range from 16 to 18, whilst the Arabian Peninsula allows for sex with 9 year olds, Saudi Arabian sets no minimum age at all – the mind boggles with apoplectic moral rage – but the law in those lands allow for it.
The ambiguity of the Marriage Act
Now, there is the conflict of laws that allow for sloppy judgment to lead to the witch-hunting of the senator – the Marriage Act [6] of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expects for marriages to be contracted between persons above 21 years old (Section 11), however, it also grants exceptions for marriages below that age if consent is granted by the father, the guardian or some legally constituted authority (Section 18 & 19).
In essence, the Senator most probably has broken no laws, whilst he might have excited our moral outrage, there is no reason to sanction him for marrying a girl – a lapse in judgment should not metamorphose into a criminal act just because we find that contract reprehensible.
There is definitely a case for changing the law to deal with the matter of making the “Age of consent” explicit and then merge that into the Marriage Act, if not, the loophole exists for children to be contracted into unhealthy relationships without the ability of self-determination or resistance. {Added 21/04/2010 - In addition the Child's Rights Act of 2003 needs to be adopted by more than the 4 to 6 states that have given it credence, because a child is defined as a person under 16 or 18 years of age, depending on the document reviewed.}
The law of in need of adjustment
The religious dimension to this matter however must not be left insignificant because a Nigerian mother lost the bid to annul the marriage [7] of her 18-year old son to a 55 year-old woman – whilst this interesting reversal of sexes might not excite passions – the matter of maturity and religious laws sided with the man against what would have been expected of a woman of a similar age.
In the end, the marriage of the Senator to the girl which would not have been allowed in Egypt is perfectly legal in Nigeria without resorting to the religious allowances of Sharia – however, if it gets reinforced by Sharia legal opinion, it is left to our legislature to argue to case for what should be legally acceptable and make the necessary changes to the law for that purpose.
Baying for the head of the senator is mob rule fuelled by mass hysteria – we should have avoid the inclination to formulate laws to accommodate our feeble sensibilities.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Thought Picnic: Deleted but not forgotten

Spring-cleaning the mobile phone
I picked up my mobile phone with a feeling of social interaction and awakening, scanned the contacts list and decided to call a few friends I had not spoken to in a quite a while.
Most of the calls went to their answering services apart from two others than were disconnected numbers, those I deleted and dual entries were cleaned up.
In the process, I came across another two numbers, ones I could call but was sure I would never get the expected person ever answering again.
With a tinge of sadness, I removed those contacts from my contact list and then wondered where they could be remembered and my memories of them kept in some place for posterity sake.
I devoted blogs to them and sometimes in deep introspection or times of feeling vulnerable I realise they were taken away in similar circumstances that I have been blessed and fortunate to survive.
They are remembered fondly as friends and very much missed, but I also believe as they have been my supporters in times passed that they would have loved me to live life to the full because they in their own adversity before me were full of life, full of humour and brightened my outlook.
They are not forgotten and even though they are no more on my phone, I still want to thank Dick and Chris for being my friends. Thank you.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Volcanic sacrifices

Ash and cash
The irony cannot be lost on anyone to note that the ash of the Icelandic volcano is doing a good job of starving the airlines of cash.
I could not help but ReTweet this very hilarious quip RT @ocicat_bengals: Lets offer Willie Walsh as a sacrifice to the volcano god #BA #ashtag #hilarious.
The link goes to a FaceBook page where over 200 people are ready to wear painted faces and beat their drums as we chant to the cries of the sacrificial offerings in the hope that the god of the volcano is appeased.
Sadly, the state funeral of the Polish President who died in an aircrash last weekend might only be attended by heads of state who can arrive in Krakow by land or any other means but by air – some things are just out of our control.
The wrong kind of ashes are preventing a global ashes to ashes for the Polish leader, in our little ways we will with ashen faces and some sadness bid them all goodbye.
Volcanic aggression
Just as I heard just now on television, this star struck gentlemen was dumbstruck when introduced to a celebrity and thankfully his colleague was about to offer excuses as to how he lost his voice.
Meanwhile, this afternoon, I was out to pick up some takeaway pepper soup and okro stew, there a group of children who appeared to be unsupervised by adults had been given the task of distributing religious leaflets to commuters coming out of the metro station.
One of the girls, probably not older than 10, accosted me but I refused a leaflet, she then took an aggressive poise, tried to obstruct me while questioning why I refused a leaflet, if I was an unbeliever and that I had to take a leaflet – I was quite on the verge of losing my temper.
I do wonder what that girl would turn out to be with her “gentle” manner, I really felt like being a volcano at that moment erupting molten lava on immovable impediments and annoyances - thankfully, God is not like one of us.

Friday 16 April 2010

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos - An inspiration

Originally published on Nigerians Talk.ORG please post your comments and views there. Thanks.
Expected little
Having seen the seeming hatchet job on Nigerians in District 9 [1] and only seen the first part of Blood and Oil [2], I was like many others of Nigerian heritage ready to be cynical about the another telescope on Nigeria centred on Lagos.
Indeed, there have been rather unfair and negative portraits of Nigeria by the realities, the poor news research and the acts of Nigerians especially their leaders that any new perspective might well draw broad skepticism before viewing what was to be said.
Expectations of Welcome to Lagos [3] – a 3-part documentary of which the first was shown yesterday was presaged with low expectations and considerable criticism with defensiveness long before it had been aired – the need for balance on matters concerning Nigeria where getting positive perspectives might be fleeting at best is a fervent desire.
Whilst balance is necessary, sometimes the truth is better, the reality is sure and an understanding of the perspective is pertinent – we were told, Welcome to Lagos will defy our expectations [4] from every objective perspective, it did.
I recorded it on my digital video recorder and I would be watching it again and again, it has been set to record the next two episodes automatically.
Beyond the rump of a dump
The producers of this documentary went to observe life in the Olusosun rubbish dump where about a 1000 people live, work and thrive with an amazing spirit of humanity.
People can so easily be blind-sided by the setting and miss the more serious message of people who are resourceful, able, diligent, orderly, respectful, responsible and successful – all that not necessarily the way we would view those attributes.
You had to look above the ground to see beyond the default to another shameful view of Nigeria and Nigerians – this was no window-dressing as we would all want people to see of us, but this life that had much to teach everyone.
The human stories
A number of themes came through strongly in this documentary, people were very hardworking, working all hours with particular aims to provide for their families or in another case to launch a career in music – they gave everything to that vision of responsibility.
At another end of town, a cattle market showed the cattle broker who years ago was a nomadic herdsman from the North and now was the chief broker, speaking 6 languages and making really amazing business deals that could better so-called efficient markets.
There you found an agricultural science graduate who found an opportunity for processing the blood of cattle slaughtered in the abbatoirs for feeding poultry.
Enterprising and improvising
Back at the dump, the waste thrown out by the seemingly well-off found extended usages, better uses or some recycle value that most of the residents thrived on; scavengers at the bottom of the market chain sold to bulk gatherers who sold wholesale to industries – economic laws just worked.
The human interest quality was just exuberant, the bulk gatherer had a very good command of English with an enlightened vocabulary, the scavenger hoping for a music career after working for studio fees had a manicure and when he turned up for his recording session, there is no way you would have believed he lived in a dump.
The sense of community and order was strong, when a fire engulfed the dump, they all gathered with the fire service to quench the flames; when a thief was caught amongst them, I expected the rough justice of a lynching but the culprit was given a stern telling off and banished from the dump.
A community of love and care
The community bond was even deeper as they had a hierarchy built on the democratically elected chairman who was the authority, judge, arbiter and father-figure to the community, when the aspiring artist got into serious police trouble after being charged with grievous bodily harm occasioning the loss of sight in one eye of the victim they closed rank in support.
Having negotiated an out of court settlement with the family of the victim the whole community chipped in to defray of the hospital treatment costs totally and gave the aspiring artist a second chance to redeem himself – our political leaders need to visit this university of commendable leadership.
See the people not the dump
Again the setting of this documentary was a dump but the people were not in the dumps, they were aspiring, amazing people who were optimistic, honest and friendly, they had a sense of purpose that was not encumbered with senseless fanaticism and religious stupidity – they were the salt of the earth.
After watching this, you could only first count your blessings, then proclaim that Nigerians just have the innate ability to make the best of any situation without grumbling, bitterness or rancour.
I saw Nigerians that made me proud and none of them despite where they lived and worked could ever be seen as anything short of a rebranding of Nigeria with values, aims and a driven passion for the pursuit of happiness.
I cannot wait to see the second part of Welcome to Lagos – not the superficial and the mimicry but of real people of substance with their heads lifted up and their feet on the ground. They might have been poor but they had no poverty of spirit, ideas, goals or desires for a better future.
Related articles by Zemanta
My reviews of all the parts of BBC’s Welcome to Lagos documentary
Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos III - Welthauptstadt Nigeria

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos II - Beyond Civic Pride

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos - An inspiration

    Thursday 15 April 2010

    What a day it was

    All laid most failed
    Home, a place to be, especially after a long interesting day, I had basically been out for 13 hours and there was never a dull moment.
    We had great plans for the day, a whole raft of changes we confidently put together and researched to infinity only to find the whole scheme decimated by others who until it became obvious they needed to be seriously involved had been at best indifferent.
    Meanwhile as the day matured, the realities of the other decimations became evident, beyond the quip of Iceland being able to affect us economically and environmentally people who needed to fly found they were grounded.
    The nature beyond us
    UK airports were closing and it was only a matter of time before Amsterdam Schiphol airspace was closed, looking at the boards, literally everything had been cancelled and no arrivals expected earlier than 05:00 hours.
    The disruption is spreading south but the volcano seems to be in an emetic abandon, not a sight to beyond.
    At work, each milestone we planned to reach was being removed by sudden exaggerated concerns; hopefully some lessons have been learnt because things cannot continue like this at all.
    Some hope for many escapes
    Not all transport suffered, the buses still ran, the trains were on time with additional services to Belgium, and the Amsterdam Passenger’s Terminal had a huge cruise liner docked with probably the people tasting things in our esteemed coffee shops.
    The people who could not fly out might really be so cross whilst those who could not fly in might well still have another day of holidays – how I wish I was far away – but one phone call I got today just threw confusion into when and how my sickness benefits would be decided and paid up.
    The Holy Father asks us to do penance, but how that helps those who had no resistance, I would not know, maybe the repentance of the offender is supposed to be the deliverance of the victim – where is the chapter and verse?
    Now, a late dinner, my pills, my bed and tomorrow – Deo volente is another day.