Saturday 30 June 2012

Thought Picnic: When Things Don't Matter Any More

The things went
After I decided that things and those many things that have represented material prosperity will be given away what was like a great burden was been lifted off my shoulders and I was about to be liberated.
My attachment to the things had been loosened to the point that it allowed me to embrace a generosity of spirit to any and many who might find interest.
The things fell into groups of things I did not need, things of value that I wanted to give away, things I could do without, things others found useful, things I could throw away and things that were essential to my well-being.
The thing of the bed
By the time I saw those things fall into their different categories, I never felt a tinge of resignation or disappointment, things come and go but a man living in hope endures to give things their place – they should have no hold over you that your heart fails, your soul is sad and your body begins to respond to the stresses of misfortune and catastrophe.
However, one thing eventually stood out that I never thought had that significance until this evening – my bed – my bed, sturdy, strong with a good deal of engineering to put together has followed me that I have even though if I were to be suspended in air, it will be held up for me to take my rest.
As a man of faith, as I read through the gospels, I see the many places where a man with his illness is identified with their beds and their miracle always seemed to come with the bed attached from the man lowered in his bed into a crowded meeting place through to the many who Jesus Christ told to take up their beds and walk.
The battle over things
That fact that in my homelessness I still have my own bed to sleep in and none other is indescribable but ahead of me lays hope that life will get better and friends whose selfless ness just means I am not alone in the midst of these struggles.
When you have won the battle over things, you are ready to rise, take up your bed and walk.

Friday 29 June 2012

Homeless! My exciting life takes a new chapter

A roof
And so I read the story of a homeless man who had helped keep crime out of a neighbourhood cemetery who had now been rewarded with a trailer, the first roof over his head in three years.
I have been blessed beyond measure by the generosity of many who have since I lost possession of my home given me shelter, succour, space and sustenance.
However, what does it really mean to have a roof over your head? It means you can and do pay the rent or mortgage, you can and do pay the bills and most importantly you are not under the duress of situations that require that you vacate a place for more economically viable persons. I forgot, you’ll have an address too.
Friends beyond need
What would I have ever been able to do without friends, friends near and far who have poured kindly into my bosom to help me back to a semblance of life lived in independence.
Homes opened, hearts opened, hands opened and much more, I have not had enough time for a pity party or for a day to cry because they overwhelm me to a point that I worry that my reality is far from my discovery – I am in fact a homeless man at the mercy of lots and in the kindness of innumerable people who have been too wonderful for words.
Then a decision came just over a week ago, the power of things and what things do to your ability to move on, many things that I have I do not need for the things have no place to be things I could cherish anymore. Those things I have to let go of to allow me do other things and hopefully as things look up those things lost can be replaced.
So, as the week runs out, I find myself with a bag and arriving at a place after a long journey that started three years ago with the onset of cancer, the recovery of health and the seemingly long and sometimes impossible recovery of wealth.
Yes, the truth of the matter is, I am indeed a homeless man. There are probably many we see on the streets today who long before they ended up there have stories to tell but never get heard because we see them in the state they are in rather than on the journey they have travelled.
Somewhere in our hearts and minds we hope we will get to tell a different story altogether with these chapters fully detailed with what some people will call experience.
Note: I have received some messages with regards to this blog and some have asked how they can help, amongst other things, you can use the Paypal Donate button to the top right of my blog. I have also realised that some countries do not have access to Paypal, in which case using a Money Transfer agency or a Bank Transfer might suffice - you can contact me on forakin (at) gmail (dot) com for details or for address to send gifts in kind. Thanks.
Thanks for your help and concerns, I am grateful for all your kindness.

Monday 25 June 2012

Sunday at the American Church in Berlin

A different Sunday
If I did move to Berlin as has been a desire for as long as I can remember, I have wondered what church will be like. Amazing, wonderful, interesting and different.
I as returned from watching the revelling crowds yesterday, from the comfort of my seat on the metro I saw the sign on a church “American Church in Berlin” it read with services commencing at 11:00AM.
In all my time of visiting Berlin, I have never had the pleasure of doing church and so this was an opportunity to attend and get a feel of the community spirit the church contains.
Claiming it was ecumenical meant I will find the service familiar though from a distant past since I have for decades had a more Pentecostal bent to my faith. I have at times lamented the absence of liturgy and solemnity in our somewhat rambunctious services but I realise I need to lose some of my stodginess too.
Familiar familiarity
A traditional church with spire, bells peeling as the call to service, I crossed the road as I saw other congregants walk towards the entrance so already identifiable with head-ties that redolent of Nigeria ladies but without the flashy ostentation of the Yoruba of the South-West, I will suppose they will attend the more Pentecostal variety somewhere else in Berlin – mixed couples, not a few and of all races from many places.
At the door, I was greeted and ushered in, given a hefty hymnal which contained the order of service, we were celebrating the birth of John the Baptist that scripture says was 6 months older than Jesus Christ and acknowledging the work of the choirs in the church.
Looking up to the ceilings and rafters, the craftsmanship of church buildings of old were evident in how they inspired awe and to the front were stained glass windows after some modernist design and in the nave were pews. Pews, with kneeling planks, rests for books and on backs of the pews in front were hooks for bag straps to which I hung my hat, knowing that men don’t don hats in church apart from the bishopric with mitres and other clergy with their cloth caps.
Tradition flowed without any of the assumed lifelessness the Pentecostals had consigned to the established church. I was back in the familiar High-Church Anglican settings of my childhood.
Welcomes in difference
A welcome greeting was given by the pastor who did not go by title or letters and visitors were asked to introduce themselves. We were given the microphone to tell a little about ourselves, our names, where were from, what brought us to Berlin and what we plan to do next after which each visitor was applauded and the call to worship was made read alternately by the pastor and the congregants from the Psalms.
We shared the peace by shaking hands with each other and sang the first hymn to the music of the pipe organ. The hymnal was a bit difficult to get used to because the words were sent within the musical scores as if we were readers of words and music alike, though readers of music will automatically know how to sing the hymns.
Peculiar things
The reading of words of prayer as alternate acts between the pastor and the congregants made for engagement and interaction before the children were called forward for their portion of the service called Children’s Time – a mini Sunday School session where a teacher engaged the kids in conversation, shared a story and then they prayed together before the kids returned to the company of their parents or guardians.
The contemporary choir then stepped forward to sing a song in a traditional arrangement accompanied by piano and we clapped after that performance, which I felt unusual but interesting.
The first lesson we read from the lectern by a member of the laity with all the evidence to my hearing of a South-Eastern Nigerian English accent at the end of which we all chorused – Thanks be to God.
The chamber choir which I think is the main choir of the church then stepped forward to sing in canticles the Psalm that was the call to worship accompanied by flute and piano to the music of JS Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze, even I was amazed at my recollection of the title of this classical piece.
John the Baptist
The second lesson was read before the gospel was read announcing the circumcision and naming of John the Baptist to which we all intoned at the end. Praise to you, O Christ.
The sermon was delivered with the title Living in the Spirit and with it came interesting insights I had never considered before. The fact that John the Baptist who came to announce the coming of Jesus Christ was born of a woman, Elizabeth who was well past child-bearing age and Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin, Mary, a cousin of Elizabeth juxtaposing the old and to be done away ushering in the new.
He also dwelt on the life of John, his message and then the doubts he encountered when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus even after the great episode of the baptism where Jesus was the one to come or that there was another to come, with Jesus giving assurances that He was the one.
John had witnessed before that Jesus Christ must increase and he, John the Baptist must decrease.
After the sermon, the chamber choir stepped forward again and with the congregants we sang each alternate verse of Jesus Shall Reign.
More recitations
The apostle’s creed we recited using the Church of England – Common Worship version, it is amazing how many of the creeds exist in variation for liturgical and catechism reasons. To think I intend to visit Wittenberg-Lutherstadt where Martin Luther’s 95 theses created the schism that brought forth the Reformation and Protestantism will be interesting.
For the offering and offertory, the Gospel Choir stepped forward and this is quite different, accompanied by piano that appeared to lag the singing, it was uplifting and joyful. Three different choirs in the church and the pastor seemed to have a part in all of them.
At prayer, we all read prayers and then the microphone was offered for people to step forward and announce what prayers they wanted us to be in agreement with after which we said the Lord’s Prayer and heard the benediction.
In closing
The chamber choir sang another hymn and all the leaders of the choirs, the music ministry coordinators and all involved in music were acknowledged, appreciated and thanked before the service closed.
The pastor received us as we stepped out of church and amidst the tradition, you could sense a strong community spirit though the extreme contrariness of my host attempting to clear rationality will suggest the church was isolated – I could only differ but his forcefulness did make him a rather fascinating person quite steeped in interesting preconception I could hardly identify with.
This could quite well be a church for me, if I did move to Berlin.
The American Church in Berlin - The Luther Church on B├╝lowstrasse at Dennewitzplatz in 10783 Berlin-Sch├Âneberg. Services at 11:00AM on Sundays.
How to get there.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Opinion: You're Nobody Without A Name

Of reputational value
Almost 10 years ago, I went on a walk around my neighbourhood with my uncle as he lamented the apparent disobedience of his sons to obey an order he had given.
I could sympathise with him at the same time that I was strongly disagreeing with the premise of his irritation.
His sons being European citizens resident for just about a decade in England were instructed to send a letter of invitation to a distant cousin of theirs, which they refused to comply with, the circumstances of which I will not delve into but the fundamentals remain the same.
Unlike anywhere else, your name, your address and all your dealings in the West make up your reputational value that determines your credit rating for credit worthiness and other issues of integrity.
Your name is all that matters
Especially, in circumstances where you are legally resident and gainfully employed, you want to be in control of all the variables that make up your reputational value and most especially the people you decide to vouch for as referees, guarantors, sureties or witnesses.
My cousins had in their time in Europe understood this very salient point that they were ready to defy patriarchal authority to protect what many might think is intangible but is of the utmost importance to their livelihood, integrity and reputation – especially in an era where background checks are becoming quite standard for things as mundane as basic employment contracts.
A tarnished name by reason of acts of omission, inadvertent activity or unfortunate circumstance of some misfortune can take more than a decade to repair, the price for such a lapse in judgement, process or attention to the minutiae is just too high to expend on the apparent mundane act of writing a letter of invitation for a relation that can be vouched for by your father – the stakes are too high and in my view the boys were right – reputation counts, integrity counts and perception counts, always.
Farouk Lawan
This brings me to two recent events that Nigerians will be familiar with, the first relates to the Fuel Subsidy probe conducted by an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives.
We were literally glued to every communication device we could find that relayed the proceedings of that committee headed by Farouk Lawan who in the chair achieved almost hagiographic levels of praise for exposing the corrupt enterprise that was a nexus of government institutions, political appointees and private companies siphoning untold amounts of money to the tune of 10 times more than had been budgeted for by the Federal Government, it was an unprecedented scam that threatened to drag the name of the Presidency into the muck.
As it transpired a report was published and as it was being deliberated on, Farouk Lawan asked for the House to exculpate two companies because the committee had lately received fresh evidence on that matter. The House obliged.
Unbeknownst to us, a sting operation apparently engineered with the security agencies involving principals of the exculpated companies had successfully mired Farouk Lawan in a corrupt transaction that purportedly had him recorded on video collecting moneys from an oil baron in the dead of the night.
Lost on all fronts
Whatever plans Farouk Lawan might have had to expose the attempts of persons close to the Presidency to suborn legislative process and cast aspersions on the report he helped pen came to naught when those persons went public before him and then he did not immediately quash the rumours, he dissimulated, he deigned, he confessed and then spun tales.
His fight back was timid at best, but his reputation had been done irreparable damage and the report we had so greatly lauded was about to go down the drain with him.
The House of Representatives has done the minimum possible to restore the integrity of the report by censuring Farouk Lawan, deposing him and restoring the exculpated companies to the original indictments made in the report.
Ideally, I would have preferred the House of Representatives audit that report independently against the originally collected evidence and then reissue it, but that is a matter of process and procedure.
Perceptions on reputation
The second concerns people I respect and engage with, mostly on Twitter but in certain instances we have communicated through other channels.
They have not reached the point where their integrity and reputation is irredeemable but this and Farouk Lawan’s situation highlights how differently we tackle these matters between those of us in Diaspora and those of us back home in Nigeria.
Whereas, we in Diaspora will put in place systems, processes and safeguards to ensure that nothing ever touches the issues of our person, our character, our integrity, our reputation and every perception of our standing, our people back home are more poised to wait to defend the same when it comes under attack but risk losing the battle of hearts and minds when they are not prompt, forceful and immediate in disputing all assertions and aspersions.
This is not to confirm the presence of an impropriety, in fact, there is probably none and the circumstances within which they work and operate might impact on their ability to respond as promptly as might be required.
My view on Dana Crash Action
Once again, I find myself sympathising and even understanding but disagreeing with their approach to reputational and integrity issues, these are not matters to be trifled with and to tackle the same with deference to a few, seeming indifference to some and possibly arrogance bordering on hubris to others with the view that they are being so principled and above reproach is to misunderstand the considerable fallout that might ensue from this matter.
Much more than Dana Crash Action rests on how the principals respond to the attempts to besmirch their good names, their humanitarian efforts, the friends they interact and associate with, and each subsequent worthwhile campaign launched in spite of and despite the government on Social Media.
I have been informed a comprehensive report debunking all claims and assertions will be released at the end of the month.
However, it is not a matter of being answerable to anyone or being accountable to anyone, it is one of being seen to be accountable regardless, acting transparently regardless, doing that promptly regardless, protecting the present and future reputational value above all else and at the same time learning one serious lesson from Farouk Lawan that no matter the hundreds of millions of dollars that oil companies will pay in fines and restitution with regards to the fuel subsidy scam, a man’s honour and integrity is still priceless.
You are nobody without a name.

Monday 18 June 2012

Nigeria: Let's Do Twitter Sociology For Dummies

A dismal apologia
The weekend brought interesting mirth when a blog link by Noel Ihebuzor, an apparently erudite sociologist was shared with the title - A first sketch of a sociology of the Naija self-acclaimed “social activist” twitter community [1]
On my first reading of it, I opined that Sociology had joined Economics as a dismal science but the content in what was supposed to be a study of sorts played out as if the writer had identified hierarchies that had coalesced around the ejection of the ruling party from power and the power dynamics within the supposed clique.
Hierarchies and overloads
Having been on Twitter a few years, there is definitely strident criticism and opposition to the Nigerian government expressed on Twitter with a broad spectrum of expression from measured to intemperate, leading to discussion, arguments and biases but the idea that there are hierarchies of clones and mobs validating each other in mass denigration of the government controlled by some overlord is as far-fetched to be considered delusional.
I immediately sought his Twitter account as people began to tweet about the piece, but for me, what stood out was the clear bias and assumptions from someone with such a modest following whose claims to balance almost made a mockery of the science of sociology.
It is a given that the government does not have much of a voice on the Twitter landscape and where they do, the people are given to vacuous witticisms with the occasional breakout of attack dogs sent to maul “the opposition.”
Characters in the mind of a sociologist
There are some valid points in the write-up but they are poorly presented, however, in trying to press his case about the so-called hierarchies, he created some fictitious Twitter characters and some thinking had to have gone into this, because he offered a definition of sociology which I reproduce below:
The easiest definition of sociology is that it is a study of society – how society is structured, the rules, the norms, codes and convention that govern it and the power relations which sustain it.
It would be easy to overlook what he was getting at and he might well dismiss this analysis, but the mind of a sociologist is ever present with the object of his study, the assertions he wants to make and the conclusions he wants to draw.
At the top of the so-called power structure is @Yabiswacko, this no doubt formed of two words, yabis and wacko.
I found an interesting definition of yabis [2] - Not a ‘proper’ English term. A usage from ‘postcolonial English’ popularised by the Nigerian afrobeat maestro, Fela Kuti, in his recordings and live shows. In that sense of its most popular use it means ‘a playful insult,’ ‘light-hearted criticism’ or mockery.
Wacko [3] - A person regarded as eccentric or irrational or informally, a mad or eccentric person.
I suppose I can be allowed to say the Twitter overload in the mind of the sociologist is a mad, probably eccentric person and considering the tone of the study, definitely irrational, given to the maybe more than light-hearted criticism of the government, he makes a mockery of them and as for insults, he has a field day.
This looks like the concatenation of three words quite recognisable in Pidgin English; I will suggest the numbers are added to conceal the deliberate activity that went into crafting these names as if to show they were made up randomly.
Fine in this context is a qualifier; it is the shine-shine that is more interesting because that will be the Pidgin English occupation of a shoe shiner. However, there is another definition [4] which puts together shine shine bobo to mean a flashy trendy guy. What is missing here is any allusion to the person's independence, intelligence, intellect or ability to reason and this reflects in all the other names.
I suppose it would not take long to see that this is a homophone of airhead [5] which is a slang meaning a stupid or simple-minded person; idiot. Surely, this is not an insult, inferred or intended of the assumed character in the mind of the sociologist.
Again, using a homophone, this is definitely light brain and could as well be a synonym for airhead. Another seeking direction.
Homophones again, empty koko head, is no doubt, empty coconut head. By now, every claim to decency of the sociologist is rubbished. The feigned and affected cry of being mauled by Twitter should immediately fall on deaf ears, if you point a finger, it is most likely the other three are inadvertently pointing back at you.
This is a corruption of fine girl and considering the tone of the blog and the review of the preceding names, it can only be meant in the derogatory sense of someone who has beauty but no brains.
The context of how this is used in the piece might help, capo has an Italian etymology meaning head or leader. “@CAPO_ogbaegbe to all who follow him.” The underscore definitely suggested this was meant to be two separate words. I think the ogbaegbe is two Yoruba words ogba meaning compound and egbe meaning club, team or following.
This could easily mean head of a group of people in a compound but one gets a sense of what is intended, a power structure that commands troops.
How it plays out
Putting this together through the eyes of the characters, what we have is a vocal Nigerian activist Twitter community controlled by an irrational eccentric madman who trades insults, levels criticism and makes a mockery of the government.
Under him are hierarchies reporting to group leaders as these tiers control mobs of trendy but stupid and idiotic people ready to do the bidding of their Twitter overloads. Interesting! As the English would say.
I honestly, did not see anything dishonest in the backlash that had some rather humorous person create a parody @Yabiswacko Twitter account inspired by the sociology piece with Fela Anikulapo Kuti as the avatar and the URL to the source of inspiration added to the profile. His piece gained attention, even notoriety and possibly opprobrium; a badly written sketch deserves accolades from the persuaded and brickbats from the unpersuaded, the author has to bear the consequences of his folly. He should stop belly-aching and read Twitter's Policy on Parody accounts.
They who sow to the wind should be ready to reap the whirlwind once the veil drops from our eyes about this being a study to what it was; a hatchet job on supposed and imagined critics of the Nigerian Federal Government.
A sad day for sociology
If this is sociology, I am impressed but I will not be taken by the assertion that this is the sociological study it claims to be. Having identified in context a whole leadership structure that affects our federal government with siege mentality, this offers concealed but deliberate academic leverage to insult, abuse and vilify the supposed constituents of the power dynamic this sociologist has identified, simply mirroring what he appears to be exposing.
The subtlety of this term paper masquerading as a sketch requiring improvement as claimed by the author is probably one of the most sinister uses of propaganda I have seen in a long time. The government might however find this study quite useful because it could really now formalise structures along the lines of this piece to take on the Nigerian Twitter community it has heretofore failed to understand, manage, bribe, cajole or bludgeon into submission.
As for Noel Ihebuzor’s service to sociology, in deviating from his normal fare to deign to this, sociologists risk being put in stocks and pelted with rotten eggs and waste for the shame of its lack of rigour.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Thought Picnic: It's an Airfares scam, at best

Robbed blind
A few weeks ago, I visited London flying in from Amsterdam. When I looked at the pricing structure that added up to the total cost for that ticket, I decided it was important that a documentation is made of the different tariffs to indicate what a travesty the charade of airfare pricing had become.

Beyond explanation
The figures above were the breakdown sent to me in the confirmation email for my flight, they appear to speak for themselves and there are the many questions that you will find yourself asking on observation.
For instance, the cost of the flight itself is less than 50% of the total cost, why do the add-ons exceed the primary or principal cost?
It becomes daunting when you realise as in the fourth column; a comparison to the cost of the flight itself. I have to pay a Carrier-imposed international surcharge which as you can see is over a quarter of the total cost and by comparison almost two-thirds of the amount I am paying for the flight.
Indeed, it is a black box
KLM offers a lengthy but rather vague explanation of what goes into making up that number.
Due to varying costs outside the control of KLM, the carrier will impose an international surcharge per flight segment both on the outbound and return trips as well as any intermediate flights. The range of the surcharge amounts may vary according to your itinerary. Complete details on applicable carrier imposed international surcharge per itinerary can be found on the booking tool, at the bottom of the 'Flight Overview' page where the total fare is given.
No, I am none the wiser as to why I have to pay this surcharge which is literally an indeterminate tax composed of costs outside the control of KLM as if the four other charges and the duty are not also outside the control of KLM apart from the booking fee.
For a long time, I have tried to understand the inscrutable conundrum of airfare costs and I must say it was better when you were clearly able to see the fuel surcharge and other atrocious rip-offs that set the aircraft industry out as an outlier to every concept of common-sense.
Air brigandage
Maybe I should spare a thought for those leaving a USA airport because by the time you have reviewed every element of fees, taxes and charges in addition to the ones we get fleeced off in Europe – those who feared the highwaymen of old would have been visited by the mile-high bandits of the Wild West of Europe across the pond.
According to that KLM website, the following types of fees are charged when leaving a USA airport:
  • US international transportation tax
  • US INS user fee
  • US customs user fee
  • US APHIS fee
  • USA passenger facility charge
  • USA passenger civil aviation security service fee

How do they get away with this?

Monday 11 June 2012

Thought Picnic: God's Grand Plan of Fixing my Slashed Tyre

The plans I made
Despite all I have seen, if I had to be told I live a wonderful life and not realise it myself, I would have failed to count the many blessings, small and large that waylay me at every turn and bring me such happiness, fun, joy and encouragement.
I planned to attend prayer meeting at church this evening and had arranged to meet up with a friend two stations further on to journey together to church.
Usually, I cut it fine with just enough time to ride my bicycle to the station, lock it up and catch the train, but I also needed to get tickets so I made much more allowances for that and just some time.
The plans overturned
I got ready, unchained my bicycle and one look at the front tyre showed that someone had found the bizarrely twisted pleasure to dig in the tyre and slashed the inner tube – that this should happen in front of my house was just cutting, I had never in my 12 years of living in the Netherlands and many times of securing my bicycle outside had my tyres slashed and it is only in my first year that I ever and only once had my bicycle stolen.
I reported the event on Twitter, got sympathy and I never thought it could ever have been a hate crime; my street does have quite an international feel to it.
New plans working fine
Putting my cane together, I walked up to the bus stop informing my friend that I might not catch the pre-arranged train, but I was just in time for the bus, to get my ticket and catch the train. The clouds were looming ready to belch their store of rain and I did not think I was that prepared but my trusty umbrella was in my bag. We met up and travelled to church, my umbrella saving us from getting drenched to the skin.
We were on time to help set up the meeting room and the meeting started as I thought about how to get the bicycle to the repair shop just about 2 kilometres away and how long it would take to repair the bicycle before I could use it again – all sorts of permutations of solutions tried to take away my concentration but I persevered in prayer all the same. The prayer sessions were exciting, different and really edifying before we had a break.
My friend returned home and then I asked another friend residing in my city if I could have a lift back home. That was arranged when I saw that my neighbour arrive for the leadership and volunteers training session.
Altering the plan
After the session, I asked if I could have a ride back home and he obliged, I cancelled the other arrangement, we got in the car where I told him the tale of my slashed bicycle tyre.
He just about encouraged me enough to get my hands dirty after he shared with me how he learnt to be a handyman having known nothing about maintaining and repairing motorbikes just two years before.
I was not sure but I was willing to try, I really did not have to wheel my bicycle to the repair shop or remove the wheel and hump that by bus to the repair shop, I just needed to find out what size of tube I needed, get that from the shop, remove the old tube, take out the wheel, put in the new tube in the tyre, let in some air to set it on the wheel, then put the tyre back on, fix the wheel and then pump the tyre to the right pressure.
The part about letting some air into the tube was quite useful information borne from experience; I was somewhat ready to try something very different.
An unexpected plan
When we got home, I showed him my bicycle as he concluded it was a slashing rather than a mere puncture. He read the measurements for the tyre and then it suddenly occurred to him that he might have a spare tube in his car.
Apparently, a few weeks before, he bought two different sizes of inner tube for his bicycle being unsure of which size will fit and on fitting the right one he had lost the receipt he needed to return the other tube for a refund.
That tube just happened to be the right size for my tyre as I planned that I would fit it on the morrow only wondering about where I might have put my bicycle pump. The lights were down and the dark of the night had come as he offered that we do it there and then.
So I wheeled the bicycle into his backyard and he set up the lights, got out his tool box and disconnecting the brakes, he got out the old tube, loosened the wheel and put in the new tube, applied manly grease to the nuts and threading and basically put my bicycle back together again.
You cannot make up such as story if you wanted to, Buddy who might not have known for sure why he obtained two tubes and that he will have a passenger in his car on his ride back home, but he was the answer to the incongruous, the improbable and literally uncanny – maybe God does move in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, but at the end, it all came together in a grand plan none of us could have contrived.
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
I know that I was distraught, probably annoyed and at a time confused as to why anyone would find any pleasure in the wilful destruction of another man’s property but I was never bitter. There was going to be a solution eventually but it never went according to my plan and it was solved long before the day was over without me having to worry much and spend anything apart from the wheeling of the bicycle to the backyard and lifting the wheel ignorantly off the frame before checking where the washers were.
My friend, Buddy was a God-send beyond anything I could have imagined and I was grinning from ear-to-ear after it was all done with care, consideration, charity and kindness in an expression of unconditional love. "Buddy, you've been a great buddy," I said. Yes, that is his wonderful name lived out to reality.
In the last two months, goodness, mercy, kindness, favour and goodwill has chased me down and overtaken me so many times, as a man of faith, I can only say God has my back and has my concerns to mind – it is just amazing that God had already set in motion the plan to fix my slashed tyres long before it happened and it is a wonder how many times we have missed latching onto the good things He has planned for us long before we reached the difficult paths, situations and circumstances we come up against in our daily lives. 

Saturday 9 June 2012

Kemi: Suya Master in London

Update from Kemi: Orders are currently only taken for parties, functions and special occasions; in due course when premises are acquired, retail orders will be serviced. 

Nostalgia of tastes
Now, I have had my share of suya to the point that I can consider myself a connoisseur. From the times over 2 decades ago that I will stop my taxi on Airport Road, Ikeja where suya chefs with almost other-worldly culinary expertise would wield knives like scimitars slicing the beef off the skewers and then cutting them to bits through their fingers with such ease you wondered how they ever returned home with their fingers intact.
Sprinkled with dried spice and some onions and wrapped in paper, your choice of beverage depending on your palate completed what could easily be the meal of kings.
Once I was tempted to have it in London but when I saw unthawed beef go from freezer to fire at the London August carnival I was back-tracking so fast, I could have fallen over backwards hitting my head in utter disbelief.
Suya I have tried in other places and they have been passable, manageable with me just an arm’s length away from a sick bag but for my strong constitution.
Reliving quality suya
Then I visited my cousin Kemi who apart from her many creative talents in the arts and fashion had like any serious foodie would do found out the reason why suya in England was nowhere near the experience of tasty heaven we used to have in Nigeria.
We have seen enough of the bastardisation of our foods to presumably suit what we think are Western tastes and in the process lost the essence of the originality of our foods, just as many ethnic foods in Europe taste nothing like the foods back where they originated – it is a travesty.
I was offered suya and nostalgia collided with reality on my taste-buds, for Kemi had produced the quality of suya that if there were such a title, she would well be a Suya Master, not necessarily with the knife-wielding dare-devilry but she’ll pass the authentic suya test with bonus points by reason of satisfaction.
Choices to order
The suya magic can be applied to beef, chicken, gizzards, tripe, goat meat or chicken hearts, the attention to process and product is exquisite with an order/delivery area of East London that should expand in time.
The business is growing and you can tantalise your taste-buds and salivate in expectation by joining the I Love Suya Facebook Group or Liking the MamaSuya page – the pictures are untouched and representative of what you will get – I present, Kemi – Suya Master Extraordinaire.
Place an order and know that you can delay returning to Nigeria for the taste of authentic suya.

Friday 8 June 2012

Thought Picnic: Under My Roof

Twitter exchanges
I maintain a very vibrant discussion network on Twitter under the handle of @forakin and it is no surprise that the inspiration for this blog has come from discussions I had on Twitter.
I find that it is nice to flesh out my thoughts in a blog because whilst I have somewhat mastered concision, precision and brevity to carry a thought within 140 characters with spare to allow for those thoughts to be redistributed by retweets, for posterity sake and completeness of purpose, a blog brings together everything I have said on Twitter.
The news story came up that Pastor Creflo Dollar has been arrested for simple battery charges with regards to his 15-year old daughter and then additional detail was published as how he choked her.
A clergyman’s dilemma
There is no need for me to dwell on the substantive parts of the story, those will be covered in extensive detail by the news wires and other low-hanging fruit commentary, but there is much to say to create interesting debate and discussion.
I can appreciate Pastor Dollar’s dilemma, he is the founder of a mega-church with all that it entails, the idea that any of his children might be found in some unconventional setting can be scandalous though nothing is said of why he refused to let his daughter attend the party she asked to attend.
One thing is certain, preacher kids are not genetically modified to be like their preacher parents, in fact, whilst any child will share the genetic makeup of its parents and might look like either or both of them, even adopt a few of their mannerisms, they are entirely different personalities.
Children are distinct persons
Living together, eating the same food and doing the same things will not turn the child into a clone of the parent, they will be distinctly and noticeably completely different people and for any parent regardless of desire, calling, occupation or authority to think that they can shoehorn their child into some compact will spell unmitigated disaster.
Parents have to be constantly reminded that much as they have aspirations for their kids, they cannot and must not try to live out their dreams through their kids; it would eventually cause conflict, resentment, rebellion and separation.
This case also shows that leaders of churches with their moniker of “man of God” tending sometimes to the expression of “god of men” are in their time revealed to be mere mortals, suffering the same pressures, issues, situations and circumstances of life as you and I, prone to error, fallible and imperfect.
Under my roof
Then let us deal with the elephantine monstrosity of “Under my roof.
When a child reaches the age of reckoning and responsibility is when parents seem to encounter the greatest difficulty to exerting their parental influence. More often than not you will end up hearing a sentence that contains the phrase, “Under my roof.”
Indeed, it is under the roof of the parents or guardians but really, when a child is brought into this world not of its own volition but by the chemistry of procreation and every other sentimental and complicated working of the mechanics, it is the responsibility of the parents or whoever assumes that responsibility to care for that child until the child approaching adulthood can fend for itself having enjoyed parental care and succour over a period that could last two decades or more.
“Under my roof,” is only part of the package as it deals with the matter of provision in terms of food, shelter, clothing, education and some protection of sorts. These elements are generally material and do not represent or fulfil the emotional needs of the parent-child relationship in terms of love and care which might help shape the core personality of the child in having self-esteem, confidence, drive, ambition and purpose.
Sadly, certain parents confuse their role of material responsibility for their children with that which demands their emotional investment in the child which usually does not show in tangible returns but are affairs of the heart, the soul and the bonds that hopefully will last a lifetime of communication, understanding, happiness and more.
It is important for a parent to know where the limits of “under my roof” are and what extra work they need to put into the relationship to make that phrase the last thing that will ever be referenced or inferred in communicating with their child.
Spare the rod
And now, sparing the rod. When the matter of child discipline comes up every parent has been so schooled in this that it is etched in their memories literally from before they were foetuses.
Proverbs 13:24 (NKJV) He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
In more contemporary English, the Message says: A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them.
We normally hear people say, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” It in no way completes the context of the admonition, but we will get there. I will not argue the semantics of beating or hitting a child, there are broader issues at play than that.
Pastor Creflo Dollar by reason of his parental authority has inalienable and vested rights to discipline his child, which is non-negotiable. Maybe we should question how he goes about doing that, but we will be caught up in subjective analysis.
Discipline is function of love
However, reading the verses in full context, you cannot administer discipline without the purpose of correction through love and that love is not as I have clearly illustrated earlier by reason of mere parental provision.
Maybe there is a fine line between administering discipline that it crosses over into abuse and consequent brutalisation, the ability to wield discipline is under the control of the parent and the way it is administered is dependent on the maturity and character of the parent which hopefully has clear aims and purposes.
It is hoped the discipline is administered for corrective purposes such that the child in taking the pain of discipline might have learnt a lesson in understanding why the parent has been strident and corrective thus appreciating that such a situation should never have to arise again or rarely occur.
In that case, following the presumed guidelines, a rod, a cane, a whip or a belt might with a pre-determined number of applications to certain parts of the body without causing undue harm suffice; if and if the rod must be used. In other cases parents might institute authority based restrictions or activities that will cause temporary hardship as an instrument of corrective discipline.
Pertinently, I see no place where laying a hand on the child is sanctioned, in fact, the only place where that might have happened is where in the bible narrative God through an angel expressly told Abraham not to lay his hand on the child Isaac when he was about to sacrifice him. In essence, the slap, the smack, the punch or the whack is verboten.
Losing control
Somehow, Pastor Dollar in disciplining his daughter, matters appeared to have gotten out of hand, between he-said and she-said, she was smacked with a shoe, thrown to the ground and somewhat choked. You then wonder if the mother was there to observe, exacerbate or quell the situation.
It would be stretching the imagination to see where the rod, the discipline and the love sits in this setting, in fact, if anyone can fit any of those components into the context of correction, I’ll eat my hat.
It brings us to another element of parents momentarily losing control of a discipline process such that it is no more discipline but the parent acting out their frustration – everyone knows including the child that the event will never be corrective.
I remember an event with my father where he head-butted me, he was angry and probably frustrated and that was the discipline action that came to him at that moment in time, but as I got up from the daze of the head-butt, I looked at him as if he had gone mad. In fact, I just dusted off myself and basically walked out of his room because I thought if he laid another hand on me he might well go berserk.
No, that was not a discipline moment and at that particular point in time, I think we both realised that we would get nowhere and left the issue to another time.
Then there was another time when both my parents ganged up on me, from my perspective but the very interesting thing was my father stopped and my mother continued and then he said out of really grave concern. “Mind his eyes.” Maybe that was love, maybe it wasn’t but it was clear that he was not ready to see me brutalised regardless of how angry and frustrated my mother felt in taking it out on me.
Engaging the child
What am I getting at? The discipline process is not primarily a parental thing; the child can discern if discipline is out of love towards correction or anger towards more frustration. The former will yield the results intended, the later will just harden the child in its resolve to the point that it might just say the worst they can do is kill me – it should never get that far, in fact, the whole discipline regime is completely wrong-headed at the point and some things need to be fixed.
One admonition parents never seem to imbibe when they seek to command their children to obey their father and their mother is found in the three versions of Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (KJV). “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (NIV). “Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (The Message)
Believe it or not, you can exasperate your children, just as you think they exasperate you and to put that in context, I have provided definitions of exasperate.
  • To make very angry or impatient; annoy greatly.
  • To increase the gravity or intensity of.
  • To cause great irritation or anger to; infuriate.
  • To cause (an unpleasant feeling, condition, etc.) to worsen; aggravate.

Many a child has had a parent that seems to have freshly graduated from hell and ready to use every hellish skill on their child and then blame the child for making their lives a misery, have we ever asked ourselves if what we do makes the lives of our children a misery too?
Yes, children do test their parents, the real question is whether parents will pass or fail that test either proactively envisaging what to do correctly or reactively making a complete hash of the situation.
I have heard too many times that children do not come with parental manuals, thank God, they don’t. The manual of parenthood is borne of life and character built on strong principles, else children will be one fit like machines and clones of each other – we know by now, they are not.
Parenthood is a difficult vocation just as childhood experiences can form what a person will become. I speak from my having been a child and seeing others bring up their children. If I could have children, maybe I will see things differently. I have made peace with myself about the fact I could not have children and after chemotherapy life can be just as fulfilling vicariously watching children grow into amazing people all around me.