Wednesday 29 February 2012

Thought Picnic: Pedalling in veins

Cycling again
Did I say I am back on my bicycle? In fact that was from Sunday morning when I thought I’ll reconnect the back carriage and straighten the handle bars before a careful probably 15km ride to church.
In the end, I probably did just about 60km on Sunday, more leisurely than muscle-grinding graft as each journey for the early and late services for the Lenten period took between 45 minutes to 55 minutes as I varied routes to determine the most optimal.
For the evening ride, I needed to fix the rear light that I thought required the replacement of electric bulb, thankfully, it was just the batteries that needed replacing because the lights were really LEDs.
Quite some damage
On Monday, I visited the hospital for blood tests in readiness for my consultant appointment which was rescheduled for the late evening of the same day in two weeks’ time.
The hand brake on the left handle of my bicycle which controls the rear wheel when applied created a rather howling sound, it was then that I noticed the accident I had just over the week before had broken the part of the fulcrum mechanism of the handle such that the brakes were applied too firmly than necessary – it works but should be replaced.
Getting back to cycling however is very helpful, it means I have the necessary exercise for increase muscle tone in my legs, strengthening my support and meaning I could do without my cane for longer periods of time.
Sides for blood
Then about hospital, I got there in the early afternoon, registered and once again I found myself a bit confused about which arm to put forward. It is strange that distinguishing between my left and right limbs gets me a bit flummoxed at certain times; I then presented my left arm.
I still cannot watch the needle go in but have to will the blood does not stop flowing into the partly vacuum primed vials, I do not think I could entertain another puncture wound as she easily drained out 7 vials.
I have not gotten to see the Catholic pastor for the best part of 7 months now; I hope to be able to see him when next I am in hospital.
Before I left, I went to confirm my rescheduled appointment which will be a late evening one; a Lenten bloodletting can presage delirium – God, give me strength. 

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Like the holiest Soy Sauce

Tastes from many places
I have never had a Chinese partner, maybe I should have one or even one from Thailand or I could dare with Korea – I know a few acquaintances have expressed a fleeting interest in a relationship but it never really came to anything.
In another place, it is said that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach and I know the many cuisines that excite my taste buds from the Mediterranean coasts, through to Anatolia and yes, I have had Iranian and Afghan, I could not survive on Indian, then the carnivore-leaning omnivore in me desires meat especially if it slightly bleeds but these are not where I have the skill in the Kitchen.
I was schooled in Nigerian cuisine and when opportunity presents itself, you can bet I’ll be cooking up something for nostalgia and much else.
My Chinese palate
Back to China, I like a good Chinese meal, it could be filling but the multiplicity of taste is wonderful Peking Duck retains a name that has changed to Beijing but my starters where available is also wonton soup, shrimp dumplings in a clear soup with green vegetables.
Then I season the soup with Soy Sauce, lots of it that the colour of the soup is completely changed, that is just how I like it. Back in Nigeria we listened to the radio jingle about Maggi Sauce making a good meal taste even better. It probably did but tongues from my part of the world need serious stimulation with all sorts if strong flavours from sweet, sour, hot, salty, and spicy as well as whatever else will have many on palpitations bringing them close to the edge of their lives.
Standards of excellence
Now, I thought Soy Sauce was ordinary enough until I visited a friend who when cooking a stir-fry brought out a bottle of Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce [Amazon], however, what really caught my interest was the other label that suggested this leading soy sauce brand was brewed and fermented according to 7 exacting standards.
  • HACCP - Hazard analysis and critical control points addresses physical, chemical, and biological hazards as a means of prevention, this appears to pertain to the American market. One would expect that as a matter of cause.
  • BRC Global Standard Food – This is the British Retail Consortium set of global standards and this in particular is about Food Safety. The big supermarket chains are also represented in the BRC as much as the small shops.
  • IP Control Program (GMO-Free) – This is a standard that defines IP as Identity Preservation, foods that are natural and have not been genetically modified for all sorts of plausible reasons that make scientists what to push these products. This will appeal to Europeans a lot; we are so against the spread of Frankenstein foods on the mainland.
  • ISO 9001 – This pertains to quality management. To be honest, I never expected this to be on a food label much as it is a useful standard for the organisation behind the product.
  • ISO 14001 – As the organisation is trying to publicise that its products do not adversely affect the environment.
  • Halal – Suggesting this is permissible for use by Islamic law.
  • Kosher – Meaning this conforms to the regulations of the Jewish Halakhic law, fit to be eaten by those of the Jewish faith.

I would suppose, all these standards suggest this might well be the holiest Soy Sauce on the market catering for all persuasions and ideologies, I can only wonder where else I’ll find a food label like this.
Meanwhile, time to find me a partner from the East.

Monday 27 February 2012

Nigeria: What The James Ibori Deal Exposes

Others doing the deed
That it will take foreign countries to expose the rot of endemic corruption in Nigeria just shows how the system appears not to have the capacity to reform and divest itself of the problem.
This morning [1] James Onanefe Ibori the ex-governor of Delta State agreed to a plea deal accepting all charges of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud in the United Kingdom.
In Nigeria, despite the mountains of evidence that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, it was literally impossible to prosecute the man, he gummed up the judicial process, employed militants to resist arrest by the authorities and successfully absconded from justice to Dubai hoping to have escaped from reckoning and accountability.
How the big fish was netted
Meanwhile, in the UK, his wife, sister and solicitor were fighting charges of money laundering for which they were all convicted but it meant James Ibori was fighting legal battles in at least three countries.
At first, he lost the battle in Dubai as a place of refuge and ultimately got extradited to the UK where the revelations today might just be a microcosm of gubernatorial excess in Nigeria, window into corruption and an introduction to how our dear country has been plundered for decades by our leadership who expect no censure or sanction because it has become the rite of passage for anyone near the cash till.
Born a criminal
James Ibori’s criminality goes back a long way and in the UK itself; he was convicted for stealing in 1991, then for being in possession of a stolen credit card in 1992; many of his sort have besmirched the name of Nigeria, disgraced us, creating for many honest Nigerians untold heartache, distress and difficulty in seeking access and opportunity abroad because of their dishonest and shameless activities.
We have had to work twice harder, produce more documents, jump through impossible hoops, aver until we were red in the face because we were deemed untruthful, dishonest, suspect and suspicious because the likes of James Ibori raised the threshold of plausibility even for the least significant issues – it is a travesty that those of his ilk still get celebrated, honoured and respected in Nigeria.
Despite the plea bargain, I am glad that the deal was not a sealed and confidential document; the prosecutor did not mince his words in laying out the depth of opprobrium James Ibori must accept and the inefficacy of the system in Nigeria to police itself.
The lack of checks and balances
James Ibori was to have earned $25,000 per annum as governor over the 8 years he was in the Delta State government house, which will come to $200,000 in total. I doubt the British police were plucking numbers out of the air if they are suggesting he stole $250 million during his tenure. In other words, James Ibori walked away with 1,250 times the money he was legally entitled to.
You have to ask what system we have in place in Nigeria that allows a government official or a politician with responsibility for an executive office to walk away with a multiple of 1,250 of his entitlements and still be untouchable, unimpeachable, feted in high places, having the adulation of the people and unaccountable to any authority.
The bigger Nigerian corruption problem
That is the problem Nigeria faces because the stolen $250 million is no doubt the tip of the iceberg in terms of how Nigerian has been plundered, raped and stolen from by a brigandage of leadership that still rules in our midst. He cannot have done this alone; most of this would have been facilitated by other accomplices and conspirators who have taken their cut and have blended into society as respectable and without blemish.
The numbers are in the news story, but in what really grates and shows that we are nowhere near resolution of the Nigerian corruption problem; the public gallery of the court was not big enough to accommodate the almost 30 supporters of James Ibori, some wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Free Ibori”.
Our fight
In all honestly, it would have been nice to have all those disgraceful, shameless, odious, dishonourable people corralled as promoters of corrupt enterprise in the UK, Nigerians who have been completely blinkered that even if the truth slapped them in the face and literally yanked their ears off, they will rather side with falsehood, shame and the disreputable.
The problem is more widespread beyond those who stole, we have grown to condone it, tolerate it, celebrate it and desire it. In some ways, James Ibori just foolishly got caught; we Nigerians who strive to build a good name for our country just have to work harder to ensure that the likes of James Ibori and their supporters do not become the enduring image of what a Nigerian is, either at home or abroad.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Nigeria: Prince Ade Adesanya is expecting your call

Courtesy of @seunfakze & @olaoluwakite
Just what Twitter ordered
The picture above came up on my Twitter timeline; a Tweet by @seunfakze one of the highly commended minds on Nigerian socio-political commentary spearheading a number of future-looking initiatives for good governance in Nigeria.
It looks like it was originally posted by @olaoluwakite and shared at
When I reTweeted it, I added the postscript, “Almajiri of the South”
RT @seunfakze: FRIEND OF THE GOVERNOR indeed. *sad times* "Almajiri of the South".
Mustering disgust
Now, Almajiri means emigrant in Hausa, mostly spoken in the North of Nigeria and in the belt towards the West all the way to Ghana and possibly beyond.
In reality, the Almajiri today who are supposed to be young Islamic scholars are more or less hungry street urchins, beggars, easy prey for peddlers of influence in mobs or for abuse as depicted in this Times article [1] and a child rights emergency as I highlighted in this blog [2].
Nigeria is a country where titles matter, the moniker of Chief has become too commonplace, people now use the particular chieftaincy title they have received even if it is from a hamlet of 3 huts. Beyond that, religious titles abound from the Alhaji meaning someone who has in a majority of cases had a subsidised journey for pilgrimage to Mecca to Christian ones like Elder so-and-so who is a minister of the federal cabinet and not to forget the Dame, the wife of our President.
Heirs of royalty no matter how remote from the throne are styled Prince or Princess and this is where our Prince comes in, son of some royal father and no doubt an influence peddler who has printed a calling card that suggests he has the ear of the governor.
Pulling the governor’s ears
In our federation, states have a latitude of autonomy under the management of an Executive Governor [3] who is the patron-in-chief for a patronage system that supports an endemic corrupt enterprise much of which has been exposed in poor development and infrastructure for health [4, Graphic], education [5, Graphic] and economic growth [6, Graphic] despite the fact that the states share in the largesse of oil money that floods their coffers every month.
Prince Ade Adesanya exemplifies a societal malaise for sycophancy, nepotism, hedonism, prebendalism and neo-patrimoniallism all of which are tributaries for corruption in the most odious form.
It is interesting, that the Governor of Ogun State has not seen it fit to appoint his friend to some ministry, committee or advisory position, but the friend has probably in delusions of grandeur with the very possibility of being a confidence trickster printed a calling card with gilded edges, golden lettering and the coat of arms of the state – surely, there should be a few charges to decorate a rap sheet on sighting this card beyond censure.
Scam Alert!
Sadly, some gullible and naïve person will be presented with this card and assured of the ability to short-circuit due process for a fee just because Prince Ade Adesanya is a Friend of the Governor with the address of Government House – now, it is not clear if he is a friend of all governors, the past governor or the current governor  - the fact the card exists is enough cause for excoriation.
Anyone with two brain cells will know that a yahoo email address on such real estate of identity name-dropping is as good as standing under a peel of ringing church bells, be alarmed and touch him not with a 10-foot barge pole and that is longer than a spoon to dine with the devil.
It is just so rotten and disgusting; we need to put an end to this kind of atrocious influence peddling and patronage that relies on circumventing every transparent and meritorious act necessary to make our democracy work.
Call him
The task is simple, Prince Ade Adesanya needs to hear from us all; call him and email him; let him know that this is reprehensible at best and nothing will be too extreme in making a public show of this nonsense just in case some other idiot is planning to print a Friend of Dog card to have a gnaw at the bone.
Prince Ade Adesanya can be contacted on and if you need a deal to make your eyes water before you cuss down the phone, call +234(0)8086683619 or +234(0)8098312640
Call him now.

Addendum: A news story in October 2011 here appears to suggest that the prince is the Special Assistant on Political Matters and is indeed a friend of the governor but it does not take away from the odious peddling of influence that informed the printing of that calling card. Such acts should be held in utter contempt at this time and any other time.

Friday 24 February 2012

Thought Picnic: FGM - On my use of "Clitoral Disgust"

Why the title?
Soon after publishing my blog about FGM in Nigeria, I entered into discussion about the title I had given the blog with the view that I review the construct and possibly the wording.
I am sure most of us know what Female Genital Mutilation is, it is also called Female Circumcision and it is evident what the practice entails; the mutilation of female sexual organs.
In coming up with the title, I could have used one of seven easily mentionable names of the object but I chose an adjective which contextually was already attributive and followed that with the noun form rather than the verb form of Disgust to create an adjectival phrase.
This in my view captured the fact that butchering exercise redolent of abattoirs was in traditional disgust of the object that was only mentioned in my blog within the types of FGM that WHO indicated.
Between abattoir and surgery
The use of the word abattoirs cannot be faulted if one views the implements used in this exercise which are by no means surgical by any stretch of the imagination and primitive in the extreme. The victims of FGM do not have the luxury of anaesthesia when then these caveman procedures are done apart from physical restraint and it is unlikely that the practitioners are trained to handle emergencies if they do occur.
If we can move beyond the title which at worst should be forgiven for taking artistic licence and read the story, it is of a girl, Joy Youmgbo who went to visit her grandmother for Christmas, she was mutilated, suffered great agony for days and died a horrific painful death that medical records cited as a result of post-circumcision haemorrhage.
Face up!
We would not have heard of this criminality – and I say criminality because no such operations as cutting the flesh in tender areas, no matter the traditional expertise should ever be conducted outside hospitals, in this day and age – if the other sister had not run away from home in the fear that the same fate might befall her.
Now, this topic is controversial and there are those for and against FGM, in my view, if the practise cannot be stopped, then the theatre of that practice must change.
If FGM must occur then it should only be in hospitals under strict medical supervision all the parties involved having undergone essential counselling and therapy before the decision to cut is made.
In the end, I stand by the title I chose, it in my view conveys the complete context of the blog that follows and the sooner we called a spade, a spade, we can start digging.
Thank you.

FGM in Nigeria: Raze the Abattoirs of Clitoral Disgust

Note: On my decision to retain the blog title see opinion.

This discreditable practice
This is 2012 and I find myself writing about acts in parts of the world that belong in a museum of antiquity long before mediaeval times as types of torture that defeminise women in a manifestly atrocious cultural or traditional rite.
Female Genital Mutilation [1] (FGM) despite the international activism against it is still rife and it does take lives without consequences for the perpetrators who do it still with impunity in their quest to hold on to their Neanderthal customs.
In this case, the news [2] in Nigeria is of a 17-year old girl who fled her family home and has been declared missing having witnessed the painful and agonising death over days of her younger sister who was grievously mutilated on January the 15th 2012.
Embracing shabby traditions
This reprehensibly irresponsible act was coordinated by her grandmother who corralled the family into participating in this rite of torture and enduring grievous bodily harm and what is almost unbelievable about this is the parties involved cannot be so matured in age to be oblivious of modern thinking.
The girls lived in Lagos, a sprawling metropolis and had returned to their homestead for the Christmas holidays in Ijaw-land, which happens to be the place from which our current highly educated, PhD holding President hails. Though from research, this practice is not restricted to that area, it is quite pervasive and it cuts a swathe through the whole south of West-Africa and parts of Chad arcing up through Sudan and Egypt to the north and through Ethiopia and Somalia to the east and horn of Africa where the prevalence [3] is up to 95% like a plague.
Types of FGM
The WHO identifies four types of Female Genital Mutilation [1] which intensify in the incredibly macabre for each more intrusive act that could involve cauterisation; it is almost unreadable for the horror of the exercise.
Type I: removal of the clitoral hood, the skin around the clitoris, with or without partial or complete removal of the clitoris;
Type II: removal of the clitoris with partial or complete removal of the labia minora;
Type III: removal of all or part of the labia minora and labia majora, and the stitching of a seal across the vagina, leaving a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood (infibulation);
Type IV: other miscellaneous acts, including cauterization of the clitoris, cutting of the vagina (gishiri cutting), and introducing corrosive substances into the vagina to tighten it.
Abattoirs of clitoral disgust
These are at best radical surgery, if tradition or custom and in some cases conflated with religion so dictates that this practice is essential, important and of the highest priority, they must be conducted under strict medical conditions probably under general anaesthetic and these village abattoirs of clitoral disgust must be razed.
The barbarity of this exercise is in the fact that seeming knowledgeable people aware of hygienic needs for surgical practice engage in the use of crude implements and unschooled hands hoping to be vindicated by long held traditions and the evidence of those who barely survived the ordeal.
It might be difficult to criminalise FGM in the many societies that practise it but all the charlatans who engage in the mutilation of genitalia outside of accredited modern medical facilities most be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and made a public example of.
Much as one will prefer that this practice be totally outlawed and completely stopped, if that is not possible, then this event must only occur in a hospital under professional supervision after extensive counselling of all parties involved.
This was murder
However, back to the case in Nigeria, the news story says the victim “suffered severe excruciating pains for days after the mutilation of her genital before her death.
It is very likely that after the mutilation she suffered severe bleeding and the perpetrators waited too long before they took her to hospital, by which time little could be done to save her life and that medical reports indicated she died of a “Post Circumcision haemorrhage.”
She basically bled to death.
Now, one can understand the sadness that accompanies the loss of a child, a grandchild, a sister and being back at the homestead, a close relation. It would appear that death did not remove the blinkers of absurd traditions from the perpetrators that they were ready to butcher the elder sister.
One cannot put it beyond these evil people that they were afraid that their heinous acts will be exposed that they could have schemed to sacrifice two young girls on the altar of tradition in order to cover their criminal enterprise – that calls for an intervention, it is an emergency that calls for justice to be expedited so that Joy Youmgbo would not have died in vain.
Arrest, indict, prosecute
The medical evidence is there, she died of a Post-Circumcision haemorrhage, it is now for the police to go after the grandmother and all her accomplices and pursue at the minimum a charge of manslaughter against all these people.
We have to come to a point in our society where no human being stands the risk of being sacrificed with impunity and with no consequence on the altar of custom, tradition, practice, creed or any belief system and civil society is able to protect the absoluteness of the right to life and happiness without anyone being subjected to the unpalatable for the preservation of the censurably odious.
If anything, the untimely and avoidable death of Joy Youmgbo must lead to greater agitation to stop the practice of FGM in Nigeria, one death is already one too many. I can only hope that Patricia Youmgbo finds succour for her pain of loss and protection from what those demons did to her sister.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Nigeria: Letting Our Children Live Like Dogs

Touching the untouchable
This is probably one of the most difficult issues to raise in Nigeria but one that requires objective and intellectual engagement more than anything else.
The systems that we have adopted that are inimical to progress and development and a good deal of them need to be abrogated, probably proscribed, in some cases strictly regulated and brought under the purview of the civil authorities so as to eliminate the bias and the sentiment that tolerates abuse.
The Time magazine published an article last weekend about Nigeria [1] and what jumped out at me was the Tweet posted that was used to bring footfall to the story.
I wept
 “Sometimes they fight dogs for food.”
I guessed things were bad in Nigeria with the poverty, health and security situations but not this bad that children will be jostling with dogs for food with the risk of getting bitten and all the attendant issues that might follow like contracting rabies and much else.
There are serious humanitarian and child welfare issues that need to be addressed with urgency, if only those who matter can allow themselves to be moved with compassion above all else.
In the wrong place
The first paragraph alone presents a setting that is almost primitive and it is mediaeval; beyond the religious accoutrements on the walls is the sad story of a very ill boy of 15 with his younger brother nursing him, if there was anything he could do in the situation apart from providing comfort by his presence.
A child in the 21st Century ill with malaria and typhoid fever should be in hospital being tended by modern medicine with the hope for recovery. The story is he had not eaten since the night before and the only hope for food was from leftovers in a neighbouring house.
The unwritten part of this travesty is if the sick were going hungry, there is no telling what will be the case of the nominally healthy and if the many were going hungry you can imagine after scrapping with dogs with the scratching and bites it will take the unusual milk of human kindness for that food to be given to the weak.
Where is our heart for the children?
The plight of children in Nigeria is a serious one and we need to put away many of the preconceived notions build on long held views to deal with what is both shameful and disgraceful – no creed or doctrine can be seen to condone or tolerate this, talk less of revel in this unconscionable evil masquerading as schooling for some higher purpose.
There should be no reason for children with living parents to live the existence of those deprived of love, of care, of consideration and the basic elements of food, health, good education and access to opportunity that many others take for granted.
It is incumbent on the elite and the intellectuals of communities where these activities thrive to excoriate the system in totality, condemning the perpetrators and offering progressive steps to child welfare should take priority along with adequate resources to redress the situation.
An unsure future
The more one reads into the article, it is evident that this is an emergency. Children hundreds of miles from their homes in squalid surroundings and unregulated institutions that portend to offer the kids a future though none of which is evident from the training or the activities they are forced to indulge in to keep body and soul together.
Begging in the streets, no matter how palatable the promoters try to make it is a low esteem complex that reaffirms a state of destitution, a lack of opportunity and a pliable mob that could be conscripted into nefarious activities of unscrupulous lords.
Besides, these people, children and by all standards citizens of Nigeria for the failings of their families, their communities and their governments are easy prey for all sorts of abuse from the basic withdrawal of support through physical abuse and the absence of essential care to sexual abuse and possibly murder which can happen with impunity; they all need to have their rights championed and asserted by all well-meaning people throughout Nigeria and beyond.
We need to talk
For a country so great and resourceful, it is a shame and disgrace that our children live in these conditions from day to day and there is no telling how many more in the name of evidently bad traditions have lost their minds and lives to untold destitution and the indifference that has made this evil an untouchable minefield.
It is time to talk about these matters, some practices need to be outlawed, others proscribed, some institutions need to be regulated by unbiased secular authorities, there is no doubt that some sacred cows will need to be butchered without mercy and the conditions in these environments must be raised to meet standards of boarding schools that provide proper meals, a strict curriculum, vocational training and proper inspection regimes.
Children should not be on the streets begging and proprietors should be held responsible for ensuring that when their wards are externally graded, they are within the aptitude and abilities of their peers in other public institutions.
We have deferred too long to systems that offer no functional development in our communities, regardless of our persuasions, service still matters and there is dignity in labour but that requires we train up children to be productive members of their communities at first and hopefully to the nation at large.  

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Thought Picnic: Caught at the end of a CV review

Stacking the shelves again
Putting yourself back on the market for a job after a break can be a daunting experience. Having accounted for your absence you are left with how to make recruiters interested in your skills, all acquired over time and packaged as experience.
Sometimes, what your CV was so good at doing at a certain time of your career may today be doing a less effective job and this requires that you have other people critique and review your CV – an experience that could be quite bruising but helpfully frank too.
Malleable CVs
The mistake many of us make is to turn our CVs into tablets of the law delivered from the mount when they should be as flexible and directional as a wind vane, catching the blast of the air and showing where it is going.
One truth I realised so recently was that your CV is not a one-size-fits-all for the jobs on the market, each time you have to skew your experience to match the opportunity which will allow the recruiter to immediately see if your skills match an opportunity on their cards.
For so long my CV was more suited to my professional network, it worked in the hands of people who already knew me, my work ethic, my abilities and potential. As one expert in the field put it, I had a social CV – that was a tough indictment.
Engage with the familiar
He went on to say my CV was telling stories that very few will have the time to read if I was not already known or somewhat recommended. With the competition on the job market and the attention spans that last less than the times to skim of the top page of the CV, one had to radically change the complete package to elicit better responses – my CV had to begin to target people who will only notice me from familiar things they see on my CV.
For that to happen, I needed things I have for long considered anathema in a CV but for the recruiter and manager are crucial – keywords, buzzwords, jargon, spiel and clichés.
The conservative mind in me with the well documented use of prose and language was now being asked to pedestrianize my CV for the lowest common denominator to order to have the eyes, then the ears and hopefully the role at the end of it.
Motivate interest with motivation
Another aspect I cannot say I am good at but I find is literally mandatory for when applying for a job in the Netherlands is the motivation letter or what the English will call a cover letter.
My friend offered these basic tips, if you know about the company; flatter them, then be excited about the role, tell them why you are well suited for the role using words or paraphrases from the job description and do not forget to include other virtues you might have boasting of your abilities and talents.
Use the active voice and ask them to call you providing your number within the letter, but even before the letter might have been read, call them too and ask questions that will compel answering services to pass you to the principals.
These are extraversion attributes I will have to cultivate, difficult as they might seem at first, it is war out there and you just have to be more than prepared to take the market on and work the system.
And much else
Along with this, position yourself for opportunities, show flexibility and broaden your view by including yourself in what you have the aptitude to attain rather than limiting yourself because you have not mastered a skill.
Much as you might want to tell a lot about yourself in your CV, leave space for the imagination and the desire for the recruiter to want to learn more about you by meeting you.
Between writing and speaking
One particularly fundamental lesson I took away from the review of my CV was to write about all my strengths but only talk about my weaknesses or vulnerabilities if the issue comes up.
HR departments on sighting a chink in your armour will most likely give you a wide berth than find ways to accommodate you.
As my preconceived thoughts about CVs got jettisoned and consigned to the scrapheap of the ineffectual, I can only hope that my new marketing literature, having excised the superfluity of the inconsequential will present interest, engagement, acceptance, consideration and contract.

Monday 20 February 2012

Editorial: Nigeria - The North, Religion and Politics

The incessant debates
Many a time in the discourses I have had on Twitter on that enigma of a country called Nigeria the politics of religion and the religion of politics have been so conflated that it permeates all facets of life with either associated or distant consequences.
It is quite debatable that many of the problems the country faces are political but the infusion of religion either as political tools of cohesion or ways of tapping of the innate docility of the people opiating them against agitation for lasting change can presage interminable arguments with every view containing nuggets of truth.
Religion and State
I have long advocated a genuine and complete separation of religion and state [1]. In the case of Nigeria, the fact that even the distinctive core religions which are Christianity and Islam are splintered into factions of adherences, creed, persuasion and passion is enough to put forward an strong argument for a purely secular state, religion being confined to the boundaries of the places of worship.
There are many factions of Islam just as there are many denominations of Christianity, the introduction of Sharia Law in the Northern States of Nigeria does not present a uniformity of access to fairness, justice or mercy as a secular civil law requirement will provide. In fact, it will be disingenuous, dishonest and naive for anyone to suggest there is any homogeneity in the North in terms of religion, ethnicity, politics, education or wealth.
The demographics of Nigeria
North of the rivers Niger and Benue you see such an ethnic diversity [2, Graphic] that sadly gets subsumed into the majority Hausa-Fulani linguistic group [3, Graphic] and consequently is presented as predominantly Muslim North – this is far from the truth as the graphics show.
However, much as there are many who might not agree to the idea that religion conflated with either politics and/or traditions has contributed to serious inequalities around the country especially when it pertains to critical fundamentals for economic growth [4, Graphic] as female literacy [5, Graphic] and health [6, Graphic], the correlations in parts of the country cannot be easily discarded with.
Beginning the analysis
This is not the complete picture of the how and why of troubles that Nigeria faces but it presents a starting point for honest discourse of a complex issue that is for long lacked objective truthful and searing analysis that could lead to addressing the problems and creating solutions.
The state maps should already show that beyond the much documented failings of the federal government, the state governments and local governments have hardly really suffered the necessary scrutiny and engaging need for accountability to force them to commit to serving their people – those inequalities are majorly the responsibility of leadership closer to the people than from the centre, it does not however absolve central government from inspirational leadership and infrastructure development necessary to tap healthy and educated human resources.
The cases being made again
More and more we hear from learned people about the need for religion to be personal rather than public. Senator John Danforth [7] of the United States of America has both been a senior politician and is an ordained Episcopalian priest, he probably has devoted a good deal of time considering the issues of religion and politics in society especially in America where an almost implacable activist conservative fringe is gaining undue vocal advantage in the politics of electioneering.
He had this to say about politics and religion [8].
“The language of politics is different than the language of religion -- politics is not religion. The language of religion is based on creedal affirmation, while the language of politics, when it works, is the language of compromise. To confuse politics for religion results in gridlock from the political perspective. To confuse politics for religion from the religious perspective is idolatry.”
In short, politics requires compromise which religion does not condone else you end up in gridlock and idolatry – he cannot have found a better choice of words to address this matter to Americans at first and then it should be amplified in Nigeria too.
Avoiding democratic faux-theocracies
Religion and politics can work together if in the service of humanity where the respect of humanity derives from religious persuasion of whatever sort and the politicians are statesmen with a purpose for progressive change – much of this almost sounds Utopian where selfish interests of leaders in either religion or politics comes before service and allows for the propagation of false doctrines and corruption in public office.
It remains the goal of many voices speaking up for change and coming out onto the streets in protest all around the world for more accountable representation which provides for equality untainted by the influences of religion because as the aptly named Lord Justice Laws of the UK once said [1] in a judgement:
“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.”
And of theocracies, he had this to say [1]:
"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.”
In other words, a genuine democracy has to be devoid of religious or political ideological influence for the people of any state to be free. The need to abrogate the religious sway over politics has only become more urgent.
Other references

Thought Picnic: Chronicling the sudden end of bicycle journeys

Bicycle accidents
In my first year in the Netherlands, I had 5 bicycle accidents. Some were avoidable but only two involved other parties. A tourist had just walked into a cycle path without looking, it was impossible to stop without hitting him.
As I got up, I was both apologetic and angry, though on realising his folly, he was more apologetic and thankfully, not too much damage was done to either of us. Last year, I had a similar accident, the lady coming out a shop just walked onto the cycle path without looking – there was just no way I could avoid her as I knocked her over, all her shopping splayed on the ground, I was not going at a high enough speed to be dismounted.
The worse accident I had wrote off my bicycle, the front forks holding the wheel were so bent backwards there wasn’t much that could be done to repair the bicycle. I was about to turn into a side-street and I did not see the cyclist coming towards me so we collided and that was the end of that journey.
In another case, this man on a scooter was definitely drunk coming round a curve and just came straight for me, that bicycle was completely written off too.
Not nice on ice
A few years ago, as I rode in winter, there was still some snow on the ground and one had to be careful to avoid the slippery icy parts. About 15 metres before my fall, I could already see myself having that accident, I do not know if it was prescience but I got to that bit of ice and probably did 5 metres of traction or lack of it after my bicycle and I were separated. Thankfully, the only thing that was bruised was my dignity and though there were onlookers none came to help.
Since then, I have avoided riding my bicycle in the snow just for the fear of falling and coming a cropper.
Yesterday looked fine enough, it was sunny, and though cold it did not appear to be freezing, so I got on my bicycle for a ride without much of a care about it.
I was just about 250 metres from home when I took a turn I usually take to on the long stretch of road that leads to my block, something I have done hundreds of times before but this time as I took the turn the tyres lost all traction and there I was on the ground, literally in the middle of the road.
They walked on by
I could not think of why I had an accident there as it took the best part of 10 minutes for me to get my bearings back, pick myself up and then get my bicycle. The two people who passed me must have thought I was drunk, but I don’t drink and none even cared to be concerned.
It bothers me because it is very unlikely I would see such a situation and never get involved, it is just not my nature to “Walk on by” but that is the community I live in and I have noticed that striking difference between Amsterdam and even Cologne to the South in Germany.
Having another look at the area, I saw the glistening reflection of what could only have been ice; innocuous and dangerous – it is what is known as black-ice, usually hardly visible on macadamised roads but treacherous at best, if I had fallen in front of a moving vehicle, their brakes would not have helped. That was close.
Fixing the damage
In any case, when I picked up my bicycle, I noticed the rear light had stopped working; probably the filament in the electric bulb had broken, then the handle bars were no more at 90 degrees to the front wheel – there wasn’t much I could do about that then and the carriage at the back of the bicycle had come off just below the back of the seat as if two bolts had been broken off.
As for the damage to my person, I was quite bruised in a couple of places around my legs but my left knee seemed to have bled through my trousers showing two big red patches.
I hobbled slowly to my home, chained up my bicycle and then inspected the bodily harm done. I did have methylated spirit but the big-baby in me could not contemplate the pain so I cleaned the wound with hydrogen peroxide instead.
Then I found myself riffling through my box of dressings, I learnt a lot about dressings a few years ago and now I was spoilt for choice. In the end I applied a silicone film to the wound, then an absorbent dressing and bandaged the knee. It is still a bit painful and I have a bit of a limp but I think I will be fine.
I should be back on my bicycle in a few days, I hope.

My bandaged knee.