Tuesday 30 July 2013

Childhood: Memories of Natural Hair Care

Note to reader
After a Twitter exchange where I commented on the plaiting of natural African-American hair, I was invited to write about the childhood memories I shared, memories from about 40 years ago where somehow I might have confused names and descriptions of the styles.
I penned a piece for the Natural Ever After site where the full blog with pictures appears, and you are free to post your comments there too.
The main article at Natural Ever After - Childhood Memories of Natural Hair Care
I know what Afro is
Walking down a street in Antwerp, I was happened upon a large shop front sign – Afro Hair Centre – the shop window was pasted with pictures of beautiful African American ladies but I was at pains to notice any that anything remotely natural for hair.
The pictures regaled me with relaxed curls of fanciful design and the amazing reality of globalisation where rural Indian and Brazilian women had travelled the world by reason of their long hair cut to serve an industry of hair extensions – I have felt like I have entered a haunted house each time disembodied lots of hair formed the merchandise of any outfit.
Many evolutions of hair design
It reminded me of when as a young boy hair was natural and the embodiment of amazing beauty, long before combing irons were heated on kerosene stoves and the hair laden with Vaseline was singed to straighten it for a new kind of look.
My aunt after secondary school became a hairdresser and with that came relaxers and all sorts of chemicals and sprays that the African woman punished her hair with to give it an unnaturally synthetic look, but that had become the new look.
Cornrows a plenty
As big brother when we lived in Jos, I had two sisters much younger than I and every fortnight I knew my play time will be usurped for a new kind of duty.
My mother sat on a chair with my sisters on a footstool just between her legs had their hair washed, combed, parted and designed for braided cornrows or plaits.
The cornrows had names, Shuku (bunched up in the middle), Ipako elede (A pig’s nape – with the ends to the nape of the neck), koroba (bucket, designed as a whirl from edges to the centre), kolese (Without legs – with the ends to the front just above the forehead) amongst other designs that did not particularly have names but provided artistic licence, in some cases the cornrows ended up in plaits, it was left to what was fancied at that time.
Threading the clumps
In the case of plaits, my job was to string the black thread from finger to big toe probably about 20 times and then cut the loop at one end to produce lengths of thread.
3 lengths of thread were then knotted at one end, the hair was parted into sectors and then manageable polygonal shapes, each section of hair was then plaited with thread from the base until the hair ends, the threads were then knotted to prevent the threads and hair from coming loose.
Sometimes each plait was left alone kinked into an L-shape a third way up the length, in other cases they were joined up in wigwam fashion or linked together with one popular design being called Eko Bridge – this was named after the new bridges linking the Lagos mainland to Lagos Island over the lagoon. Onile gogoro suggested a tall house, the plaits were bent to different sides of the head to give a different look, the options limitless depending on taste and aesthetics.
Changes to hair fashion
The plaits could also be coiled on a pencil to look like twirls, this was all natural and beautiful. After a while cotton threads were abandoned for synthetic tubular threads called colloquially called rubber but those plaits were fire hazards even if for a while they were fashionable.
As we moved into the 80s, plaits became unfashionable and most what you would find in rural settings as relaxers became the stock in trade of hairdressers, much as it seemed to make hair more manageable the cost of maintenance was high and where unprofessional services were used lots of women suffered 1st, 2nd or even 3rd degree burns to their scalp.

The relaxers themselves have the most revolving and pungent odours, in some cases people were prone to emesis but after this foray into the unnatural and synthetic, some ladies are returning to appreciating the beauty of low-cuts or naturally braided or plaited hair without extensions or chemicals, and I think that is a good thing.

Monday 29 July 2013

Thought Picnic: The voice of my hurt is my cry

My silence had a reason
The phone rang and it was a quarter to two in the morning as I stumbled out of slumber to answer the call, one I would willingly take and I am happy to answer.
However, this was a time most unusual, I have never been called at this time and it could only mean something I had not anticipated, so I listened up.
Three successive questions followed beginning with why, what, why, with me just getting a word in edgeways in greeting, the end of the last question was presented with the booming sound of my silence, I was not going to engage this issue, not tonight and not if I can help it.
I have cried rather than talk
Because in me is a well deep with waters sour and bitter from a lack of stirring and a shielding from airing much from which I have refused to draw buckets to douse those I have protected from taking a sip of the poison that has coursed my veins in the last four years.
I have revealed little and borne the most of the burdens and travails that my eyes have seen for where I might have spoken, instead I cried, for myself making the sobs speak words too difficult to offload that it might be too hard to hear and bear by those who I hold so dear.
So, I know not how you have fed or how you have felt, if only you knew when I could neither feel nor feed but that I kept from you because I felt it was necessary not to unload this onto you beyond what you daily face.
I did not demand what I might have expected
Yes, I am the first, but I am one of six, when I almost died you were none the wiser because I called to say I was full of life. Could you have wiped my brow in my darkest hour? Could there have been a greater determination amongst all of you that one of you might have come to see the man who had 5 weeks to live and yet had many days to live still?
You know not, you know nothing, nothing of my pain of my many losses of my love, of my dear friend, of my status, of my home, of all I owned and yet presented a voice of calm as it all crumbled around me because I cared that you might not be overburdened by the cares faraway as you are already with cares nearby.
I am not afraid for myself
I love you but there is only so much I can do and I can only do what I can do if the means exists to do, where it doesn’t there is not much you can expect but pray that things improve for all that you can be better cared for.
So, I have not called again, sometimes, I do not feel like calling again, for who you are supposed to be to me, when you cursed out of bitterness that day from the womb that I will stray and not return, it harmed both you and me, I have a memory too keen to forget and you have a forgetfulness too sure to remember – it all has consequence and we are living it together.
The days come and go as I have things that move me close to the grave just as age might do to you too, I refuse to suffer beyond what I am willing to allow, we have lived separate lives enough to know that the talk must be soft, easy, caring and considerate else the distance will grow and though the heart yearns my account is closing with the clear view of where I want to go.

I am not afraid to depart before you, there will be much comfort for it because the road I have walked has perilously sapped me of the longevity I once hoped will be my lot, but my story will hopefully end with a message of hope for others.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Thought Picnic: My laughter and my pain

Laughing through the pain
It was a Sunday evening as I relaxed I realised I was in serious pain, much more painful than usual. I was on pain medication, an analgesic, an opioid and then a Fentanyl patch that was supposed to stick to my skin for at least 72 hours but sometime around the 30-hour mark, it had fallen off and with it came the excruciating pain of cancer that had no description than the fact that it took all comfort away and presented agony with no respite.
The only reaction I could have to this discovery was to apply a new patch and I later learnt I could use an adhesive tape to keep the patch secure.
However, for immediate relief, I began to laugh, deliberately and forcefully until it was like I was delirious, there, my friend thought I had lost it, but the laughter for all that was known about its therapeutic qualities was releasing endorphins that allowed a modicum of pain relief, for me it worked, but I was laughing through the pain.
Laughing off the pain
Then more recently, as I was chatting to a good friend about my circumstances, changes that meant I had no home with little resources and my general means running out along with attendant concerns for the immediate future that included the knowledge that making ends meet will be difficult since my contract had ended, I was sanguine.
I chuckled in expectation and even laughed in hope but my friend sensed that I was laughing off the pain, no so much of insincerity but for the absence of the kind of emotion that expresses depression or dejection, things were not as right as they ought to be though sometimes I wonder what is ought and what is not – I am stretched in what I can believe and yet I believe in the midst of apparent and real lack.
The memory of loss dogs me as the hope for gain urges me on, I am able if I find opportunity but like I noted in a blog I wrote in April, titled Hard Times, my choices have become limited, as are my options and the ability to make bold decisions, there is a constraint that accompanies lack that imprisons you in circumstances that only your mind can dare to free you from and maybe good fortune can provide amazing escape from but until then, the day is long, tomorrow never comes and the laughter is one of deep pain.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Nigeria: On Child Marriage, The Perception Drives the Debate

Between numbers and mumblers
A few weeks ago, we read about a survey conducted for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London by Ipsos MORI and it pertained to how public perception differed from the reality of issues and statistics with regards to crime, benefit fraud and immigration in the UK.
What made this survey all the more pertinent was when a country is hit by economic problems combined with a right-of-centre government, it is easy to play on public perception to formulate policy thereby giving the impression that serious issues of the day are being tackled with the prospect of radical and useful change, whereas nothing could be farther from the truth.
The perils of perception
In the survey, official statistics suggested only 0.6% teenage girls got pregnant in a year, whilst the public thought it was closer to 16%, in the process, the government ministers have rolled out ideas about making it harder for the girls to find welfare support for accommodation and other needs.
Benefit fraud statistically amounts to £0.70 of every £100 but with all the coverage of that minuscule criminality, the public have be led to believe it is £24 of every £100 spent and with that the government have been able to roll out sweeping benefit changes that seem to satisfy the public view but yields very little in savings on the whole.
Formulating policy on perception
In that survey, there are 10 indices where the public perception has grossly over- or under-estimated the reality for crime, religion (this FactCheck on the UK having a Muslim majority by 2050 makes interesting reading), for voting and any other issue that allows the government to roll out lop-sided policies pandering to sentiment, perception and populism with the public being none the wiser.
It colours our views of Europe in terms of the currency, the regulations and the justice system much as an exhaustive debate cannot be had on serious policy issues once they are hijacked by statistics plucked out of the air to push a programme and sound bites that make great headlines allowing for agenda-setting platforms amongst other things.
For the politician it is useful as much as it is perilous for the public, but the fundamental is that perception begins to matter regardless of the truth of the situation and it is unlikely that the truth of the situation will gain critical mass no matter how much the knowledgeable and the influential attempt to make this known – the urban myth has more currency than the real numbers.
The reading from the reality
I have found that the issue of public perception against academic interpretation is pervasive and universal, like for instance, in the United State, the matter of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution which I cover here; the simple English reading will suggest the right to bear arms is a function of a well-regulated militia with the view of securing a free state but the debate and perception has been argued and it has radically changed to mean the individual’s right to own arms and by absurd extension, anyone can constitute a well-regulated militia of one. More on that on Wikipedia.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Perception matters
It got to a point where I jocularly suggested, someone just chose the 4-letter words in the amendment and made a constitutional law out of it.
However, the point is, people perception weighs heavily on the politics and the policies of the day that it cannot be ignored even if the reality as posited by the academics and other experts suggest otherwise, they can pooh-pooh all they like but it is perception that gets the crowd, fills the streets and excites the mob, the good knowledge, if there is anything like that will only reside with a minority and that expert cohort will do well to recognise the fundamental difference between public perception and academic interpretation giving due consideration to both.
Legalising Child Marriage
Which brings me to the #ChildNotBride Twitter hashtag that invaded the Nigerian Twitterverse recently. The Nigerian Senate were making constitutional amendments that pertained to the renunciation of citizenship, in Section 29 of the Nigerian Constitution when a muddle of senate procedures coupled with a religiously charged disavowal led by a man notorious for marrying under aged girls turned the whole focus to child marriage and basically, the rest is history.
By academic and expert interpretation and the broad spectrum of opinions covered by the links I will provide below, this section is quite particular and has no bearing on constitutionally legitimising Child Marriage in Nigeria, the subsection has been in the constitution since 1999, but with the actors, the procedures and the wording of the subsection being expunged – Section 29 (4)(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age. – Public perception has overtaken the issue and it has become a cause that needs to be addressed.
Misguided outcry over the girl child – Egghead Odewale – The Nigerian Telegraph – Covers the extant laws covering the protections of the child.
Now That Your Ten Year Old Girl Is Of Marriageable Age | An Appraisal by Ayo Sogunro – Paints a scenario for granting rights to the married.
“Senator Yerima and Constitutional Review” By Maryam Uwais – Tackles more underlying issues to do with culture, religion and opportunity.
Still on Child Bride: The big yawn, By Cheta Nwanze – How lethargy sets in on our campaigns.
#ChildNotBride: The Real Issues. – Dr. Henry Olamiju – Why it is a cause we should all take up.
An urgent need for review
The jumble of laws, acts, codes and statutes that give and take protection to and from the Nigerian child needs to be streamlined to effectively provide universal human rights fully protected to ensure the child has every opportunity to reach their full potential rather than be sacrificed on the altar of accepted beliefs that are somewhat inimical to development.
The commentators above have done well to paint out the broadest scenarios to cover most of the interpretations this subsection might extend to unwittingly and consequentially; it is also important that we address the core issue of child marriage separate from the personalities involved, that a clear delineation be made to ensure the secularity of the state and that those with an ulterior agenda are not allowed usurp the debate with religious blackmail which in this case is what seems to have happened.
The Senate has offered to revisit the clause and hopefully it would be to refine all the related provisions exhaustively to protect the girl-child from marriage, abuse and exploitation whilst radically addressing the educational crisis that has over 10 million children of school age out of mainstream education in Nigeria.
Perception matters, Always
When I addressed this matter 3 years ago, it was evident that whilst it was morally reprehensible the said Senator had broken no laws, but his religious stance made his position untenable and it formed the basis for my argument that we need a strict and clear separation of religion from the State with the view to making civil law and the Constitution the supreme text to which all Nigerians find equality and must be answerable to such that no one ends up being or acting above the law.
In all, as I have been wont to say on Twitter, Perception matters, Always – it is immaterial if people got it right or wrong; if the public perception is that child marriage has been legalised, then anyone who has the power needs to act to rid us of that perception – it is perilous but it is not without precedence, as it stands, because of public perception, Section 29(4)(b) constitutionally legalises child marriage, fix it and address it with the utmost alacrity.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Refrigerant notice: Take dog to vet and dig hole for man

Drink like the last
I was offered a glass of coca cola after a long day in the heat wave that has engulfed England for the past few weeks.
Cool it was, especially that it contained ice to lower the temperature of the drink and give it the semblance of refreshing refreshment that I needed.
From the first sip, I noticed the ice was not melting as one would expect, rather, it was as if a new state of water was being synthesised in my glass, somewhere between solid and liquid, small globules of ice presenting a form of gel.
A new state of water
I started asking questions, about the ice as I downed the refreshing cola wondering what could have given the ice such a characteristic I had never observed before.
When I finished the cola, it became evident that this was not ice as I had always known it and perchance I happened on the packaging from whence the ice came, a product it was and the small print read, “Not for human consumption and not good for the dog either” or as I read it, take to the dog to the vet and dig a hole for the man.
Apparently, unbeknownst to my host, an ice pack had been crushed into my drink, the ice pack being colourless rather than having a blue tinge meant we were no wiser about it.
Refrigerant for the cool
Then I was on the Internet to find out what I needed to do, have the nurse perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre by putting his knee into my back, sticking my finger up my throat unhinging the peristaltic stability of what I had ingested or just wait it out.
Thankfully, the refrigerant component of the ice pack was not harmful and did not present a medical emergency of any sort, there was no need to panic and I was not on the verge of the discovery of a new state of gelatinous aqua much as I kept my calm not to be driven to the histrionics of suggesting I was about to be poisoned.

Makes for a good story though because, for my afternoon drink I asked for some refrigerant, what the heat will make you do, the consequences are yet to be imagined. 

Nigeria: The relative cost of our democracy is unsustainable

This is too dear
I have written many times about the exorbitant and probably prohibitively unsustainable cost of the democratic experiment in Nigeria and there are many reasons to be concerned for how much we pay our lawmakers on average. [Nigeria: Our Exorbitant Government]
The graph below published by the Economist is more than just an eye-opener but it is also revelatory about how political office is a parasitic drain on the national resources since politicians cannot be considered part of the economic engine of a country.

What makes this graph worthy of the most righteous indignation begging for public insurrection is not so much about what the politicians earn, but the gap in earning capacity between the citizen and the representative lawmaker.
The comparisons
Australian lawmakers earn the most at $201,200 followed by Nigeria at $189,500 and then Italy with $182,000 and the United States at $174,000 all compared to the people they represent, we find that Australian and American lawmakers earn less than 4 times the average economic activity of their countries divided by their populations (GDP per capita), Italians just about double that and Nigerian lawmakers earn 116 times that.
The World Bank, the IMF, the CIA and the University of Pennsylvania all put the GDP per capita of Nigeria at between $2,661 ranking 137th in the world out of 180 countries, $2,720 ranking 143/187, $2,800 ranking 148/194 and $1,716 ranking 152/185 respectively.
By comparison Australia is in the top 10 thrice, Italy in the top 30 twice and then the top 35 and the United States of America 4 times in the top 10, it goes without saying that Nigeria has no business paying its legislators in what is purportedly a representative democracy these atrocious amounts of cash that bilk and milk the country without contributing anything to its economic growth.
The consequences of expensive democracies
Worse still, it creates a competition for political office where the rewards far outweigh the commensurate perspiration leading to many situations where power-grabs by every means possible warps every notion of free and fair elections, talk less of representative democracy – it is utterly bad for Nigeria apart from the fact that it is unsustainable.
Looking at the chart again, you also wonder why Sub-Saharan African nations that hog the bottom third of GDP per capita tables are the ones that take the lead by far in the discrepancies between elected and elector besides the fact that only Ghana has consistently rewarded its electorate with the will of its people, Kenya did not in the penultimate election which has the current leadership indicted for crimes against humanity and Nigeria is a travesty in everything but name.
Nigeria is awash with oil money in the wrong hands which is used in acquisitive, ostentatious, hedonistic and wanton display of power, wealth, influence and mischief, it exacerbates a pressure cooker of ethno-religious and regional tensions, none of which the leadership have had the wherewithal to grapple with or understand that the consequences as it holds together with threadbare allegiances of snouts in trough might well be dire for the 2015 election year.
Enough is just enough
In my humble opinion, this democracy is neither representative nor working if the people we choose to represent us are so far removed from the reality of the citizenry that they literally live in a parallel universe, there ought to be no reason for Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana to be democratic outliers compared to the economic activity within their regions in comparison to their people, it calls for reform and this must be urgent, radical, far-reaching and deeply examining of the culture of corruption and influence-peddling we have allowed to become the raison d'être of political life.
This is the one time when the chorus from the village to the city and from the homes to the marketplaces of the country should ring loud – Enough is just enough.
Other reading

Wednesday 17 July 2013

The Gambia: That Claim About Curing HIV/AIDS Revisited

Back to that claim
I found myself discussing a blog I wrote over 6 years ago about a vaunted cure for HIV/AIDS which ended up in our agreeing to disagree on some fundamental facts about what might be the truth.
The Gambia in West Africa cannot be said to have the best of reviews from me and for those who read my blog, it would be evident that I don’t do sentiment, I am more excited by data, incontrovertible evidence, corroborated facts and authoritative sources – my science background demands this every time.
To have had to introduce a Gambian to a blog entitled A Gambian Cure for AIDS or An Epidemic of Stupidity is probably not the most subtle way of making friends but some issues needed to be trashed out.
Maybe he does, maybe
My friend believes his president does have the knowledge, know-how and ability to cure diseases - the African way, that might well be possible, and I will not quibble about that, but it is important to put this assertion through a simple test.
Now, say for example, John Doe having been to his doctor in any hospital in the West had by medical diagnosis been confirmed as having the HIV infection, that will be on the record that he is HIV+ (HIV Positive).
John Doe on hearing of President Yahya Jammeh’s healing abilities for HIV/AIDS amongst other diseases as asthma and whatever else, buys a ticket and flies to the Gambia where according to the original news story, the one-day treatment of the disease cures the person of the ailment, he gets to partake of the healing therapy and is presumably cured – that is good for him.
What is the result?
Assuming John Doe decides not to remain in the Gambia but he returns home where one would think he will visit his doctor to medically confirm that the virus has been completely eradicated from his system, there will be clear indicators from his medical history to prove that he contracted HIV, and now he has been cured.
There are clear medical indicators for the presence of HIV in the body, its progression or decline and this is a matured diagnostic system that should leave any doctor in the West in awe and wonder at first before asking his peers to review the tests and then publicly declaring that his HIV patient has by reason of treatments received in the Gambia been cured. [Going by the comments that littered this blog before I deleted and closed it the comment thread, the healed are ready to waive confidentiality, so there are no privacy concerns.]
There have been functional cures and reports of bone marrow transplants leading to cures that have been in the news, it would be utterly uncharitable and unreasonable of any doctor to have discovered a cure outside the purview of medical scrutiny and remain silent about it.
The International HIV & AIDS charity AVERT has documented a series of views, opinions and discussions on A Cure for AIDS and it clearly does not believe that the Gambia has incontrovertible proof of its claims, neither do I.
Feeling better is NOT enough
My friend suggests many Westerners have been to the Gambia have received treatment and are all feeling better, my concern is why none of these people have considered it necessary to return to their doctors to verify, confirm and ascertain the evidence of their cure, if in the least as a matter of gratitude to the President of Gambia who has brought something that defies Western medical science to the world.
Just because the Gambia is a small country does not mean it cannot produce geniuses who have ideas that border on the miraculous, but what I am not prepared to accept is the idea that anything that has been medically confirmed as present cannot later on be medically confirmed as absent after treatment regardless of whether you are Gambian, African, or from any other place in the world.
Let us agree on this
We must agree that medical scrutiny and peer review is paramount and critical to any claims of cure or that claim is questionable at best and must be challenged to the point of complete repudiation at worst.
I am also ready to review any additional information that comes to light about the cures for HIV/AIDS which pass the muster of tests that determine the presence of the virus before treatment and the eradication of the virus after treatment, and I extend this to include all therapies including faith healing – none are above the need for medical verification without which we must with all reasonableness debunk the claims and label the 'healers' purveyors of snake-oil remedies – charlatans and quacks.
If your doctor discovered your condition, allow your doctor the most basic courtesy of wonder, awe, amazement and incredulity by returning after your treatment, you must never ever stop your medication on anyone’s advice but that of a medically qualified practitioner, hopefully that will be your doctor too.
I have nothing against the Gambia or the person of the President of Gambia with his eccentricities, but the need for proof cannot be excused and for all the good that the Gambia might have for our very sick world, a standard of analysis and verification must exist, for notoriety between you and me, is not the way to get Gambia into the international limelight.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Nigeria: Taking Football to the Realm of the Superhuman

Records for the cooks
When I read of the amazing football match results in Nigeria, I was disappointed at the negative reaction that followed the issue; match-fixing allegations, suspensions and disbandment have followed, that is rather unfortunate.
Let us look at the issue more closely, the winning teams, Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine FC which scored 79 and 67 goals respectively.
Even Tahiti against the best
I see ‘Feeders’ and ‘Machine’ in their names and I am led to believe they are capable of that feat. For instance, at the recently concluded FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, we all eventually found out where a nation called Tahiti was, they conceded 24 goals in 3 matches having played Nigeria – the African champions, Uruguay – a two-time World Cup winning nation and current Copa América holders and Spain – the current European and World Cup champions.
For all the talent and ability of these able global football power houses, Nigeria managed only 6 goals conceding 1, Spain knocked in a paltry 10 and Uruguay knocked in a mere 8 both conceding none.
Feeders and Machine alike
In the first half of the games, the Feeders scored 7 and the Police Machine scored 6, probably no mean feat, but the second half of the games must be for the record books.
As it stacks up, it means the Feeders scored 72 goals in 45 minutes, that is a goal every 37.5 seconds, the Police Machine were not as prolific but close with 61 goals in 45 minutes, a goal every 44.2 seconds.
Now, I am no football expert, but the efficiency with which these football matches were conducted must reward the referees with accolades and the players of the winning teams with citations of amazing prowess.
Imagine the time it takes to score a goal, retrieve the ball, sent it to the centre and kick-off again before another goal is scored and my imagination suggests the players will be moving too fast for the normal human eye to keep up with – these are super-human feats.
Give them a contract
If I were a football scout, I will be making serious enquiries about these men, you only have to get the ball to their feet and the rest is football poetry never ever written before, unseen dribbles that leave opponents minutes behind a pass that the game is over long before it has begun – I cannot understand the opprobrium.
I am saddened by the knee-jerk reaction of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), as the spokesperson said, "It is unacceptable - a scandal of huge proportions." Honestly, I say to Muke Umeh, Calm down! Let us not make a scandal out of a feat of amazing and commendable human ability that is deserving of recognition and reward – they have taken football out of the reach of mere mortals – that is to be celebrated.
The best of football, ever
Obviously, one does feel for the losing teams, I am sure both Akurba FC and Bubayaro FC (now disbanded) acquitted themselves well even if the score line seems to suggest they were worse than lame in the field of play, I say they were overwhelmed by technical ability, finesse and superior football – these are men who by their great achievement should belong to the World XI in any competition worth its salt.
To the men who will put Pele, Maradona and Messi combined in the shade, I commend the prolific talents of the guys who scored for Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine FC.

Thinking of Daniel Pelka

A pro-choice point
If there were better interventionist policies that were predicated on unconditional love providing the best of parental care to children born into dire, indifferent, violent or extremely atrocious situations, I might have found myself waving flags and placards in the front of abortion clinics speaking against abortion.
Our reality indicates there is no such Utopian environment to fundamentally offload the circumstances that present abortion as an option some people might take for all sorts of reasons.
Unloved in this world
This introduction stems from a number of situations in the UK where children have been born into some of the most harrowingly wicked homes, where the children’s guardians take on the demonic mantle of depriving the child of every semblance of care, fun, happiness, joy and even life for reasons I cannot yet understand even if I were completely devoid of any humanity.
The case of Daniel Pelka represents a feeling that hell might well be an amusement park and the poor child saw more than hell.
Nothing is said of the circumstances in which Daniel was born and that is patently beside the point, he had a mother who starved him, almost drowned him, brutalised him and eventually killed him whilst his mother’s partner acquiesced, if not participated in the evil enterprise.
Unconscionable evil
The only place where I have seen such behaviour is amongst primates where a silverback will attempt to kill the offspring of a nursing gorilla in order to bring her into season to have his way. If I suggested Magdelena Luczak, 27, and her partner Mariusz Krezolek, 34 where worse than wild animals in human skin, I will not be far off the mark.
The unmitigated cruelty to Daniel Pelka mirrors what we saw of Peter Connelly, Baby P, a few years before, where the system failed the child who suffered more than 50 injuries over an 8-month period.
Before that, it was Victoria Climbié, creating a catalogue of guardianship criminality that can find no words of expression close to describing the hell those children went through.
Some justice
It is not just the fact that the children were unloved or probably unwanted but that their guardians especially in the documented text messages of Daniel Pelka’s guardians had no restraint in planning and executing their tortuous sadistic cruelty against defenceless kids for their pleasure or satisfaction.
No justice can be sufficient to punish for the world Daniel came to find himself and if there is a heaven, I will hope that he finds the greatest care and love imaginable to wipe away the sorrow and pain that was his unfortunate lot when he lived 4 short years on earth.
It would have probably been better he was not born because no child on God’s good earth regardless of situation, circumstance, providence or misfortune should suffer the way Victoria, Peter or Daniel suffered and I am glad that our society is still moved enough to ensure that anyone party to such evil will be severely punished for crime that are fundamentally against humanity.
Just because the children are defenceless in life and have been failed by the system does not mean that society will not act to seek redress, retribution and punishment of the perpetrators of evil that contemns our humanity.
May Daniel rest in peace.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Thought Picnic: Travellers of a blood cult

Strangers as friends
We all sat in the waiting room brought together by the randomness that accompanies passengers about to board a flight.
One fiddled, the other fidgeted, then the curse of modern gadgetry had others communicating with the world on the lifelessness of their smartphones, tapping, stroking and touching to while the long minutes that made the hour stretch into a day.
Brought together by a pestilence that had found a home in our plasma, squatting with the bearing of a landlord that we the host could barely eject the nuisance.
Our common stories
Our law enforcement being the pills we popped daily and the drugs injected to keep body and soul together, we are not planning to give in without a good fight.
Our common affliction left each one to his or her own, each a world of one hoping to be a universe of one oblivious of others as if we were secretly gathered not to recognise we all shared it.
None came with a friend and none left with a foe, our bloody secrets laid bare before strangers who could read the encrypted details of our lifelines like an open book hung in the town square that the blind could read.
Cult travellers
Yet, in a database with all our identities and details almost too intimate to share but for our circumstances lay the history of the world, diagnosis, disease, prophylaxis, therapeutics, prognosis, referral, and conclusion.
And a name was called, someone rose answering to it to speak, to hear, to be pricked, to be prodded, to appreciate but maybe not to understand that each bit of news confirmed our vulnerability and ensured our mortality
We are travellers of a silent but encompassing blood cult, our very existence governed by the stories of the adventures of pathogens in the meandering wilderness or arteries and veins.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Opinion: Some universal concepts from the SCOTUS sexuality opinions

Clarity of opinions
I have always felt that on matters of social justice when cases are brought to challenge a perceived infringement of rights, justices do take their time to give their opinions which might become case law if those opinions go unchallenged afterwards.
When it comes to the issue of the separation of religion and state, the justices in the United Kingdom have been lucid and comprehensive in the views they have expressed that one cannot but agree with them.
Just last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) that many will say have a rather conservative leaning on many issues ruled on the matter of same-sex relationships and the recognition of such relationships, again, I see a universal application of their thinking joining case law when such issues arise elsewhere in the world – the arguments are well made.
Liberty for all
There are many SCOTUS opinions, opinions being the majority verdicts searchable at the Cornell University Law School Portal, many of which I cannot cover but going by the opinions of Justice Anthony Kennedy who apparently has been at the centre of gay rights for the past decade, there are gems to take away.
It is clear that in the 21st Century, we are faced with issues that must compel us to promote liberty, ensure dignity, remove inequality and excoriate humiliation, these are the core elements of that govern every civil rights causes and it must stand paramount in quest for civilising our humanity daily.
I have a liberal to libertarian slant on these matters and I have liberally quoted from my sources at NPR and Cornell University Law School to support the views and understanding I have of the opinions.
We are not in a police state
The SCOTUS in a 6-3 decision in 2003 struck down the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law that criminalised some sexual acts in Lawrence v. Texas, this was a case where two gay men engaged in consensual sex in a private home were arrested, charged and jailed – more background here – liberty and freedom formed the basis of the opinions.
“Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the state is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the state should not be a dominant presence.”
Clear as this is, it suggests that the state should be limited in its access to dwelling places and private places except where it is warranted, it however should not be a dominant presence in our lives that it begins to operate like a police state – if a person is not a resident of a police state, then the state must constrain its surveillance into private affairs.
Autonomy or regulation
“Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.”
This again builds on the foregoing except if the state intends to regulate thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct – then the question arises as to how far the state will be allowed to regulate such for certain people until it arrogates the responsibility to regulate it for all.
This becomes pertinent when moralist laws are promulgated predicated on religion, culture, traditions and much else, the state must not extent its function to civil society to then encroach on the individual liberties of the people.
Mandating moral codes
Before, this view is extrapolated to support licentiousness, the SCOTUS goes on to develop this thinking.
“It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Court in Bowers was making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives.”
Here, the court acknowledges in 1986 that centuries old laws had deemed homosexual conduct as immoral and agreed that the concerns of opponents of homosexuality were not trivial.
However, in the following excerpt, the SCOTUS returned to the role of guaranteeing liberty.
“The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the state to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”
Here, the court curtails the power of the state by saying it should not take what the majority views as immoral and legislate on that view to create criminal law. As with the court, the state should rise to the responsibility of guaranteeing liberty for all and not be manipulated to mandate moral codes.
I see this view as quite pervasive and universal in the separation of religion and the state except where the state is governed by a theocracy and all the citizens of that state follow the same beliefs, tenets and doctrines. Where the citizens are not of similar and equal beliefs, it behoves the state to err on the side of secularity guaranteeing freedoms and liberties rather than codifying moral views into laws.
Protection and dignity
In United States v. Windsor, which was brought to challenge the Defence of Marriage Act of 1996 where the surviving spouse of a legally married sex-same couple in another country, then recognised at the state level in the country of their residence was not given federal estate tax exemption at by the Inland Revenue Service.
There are broader issues particular to the United States but there are universal concepts to take away from the opinion offered by the SCOTUS.
“In authorizing same-sex unions and same-sex marriages, New York sought to give further protection and dignity to that bond. For same-sex couples who wished to be married, the State acted to give their lawful conduct a lawful status. This status is a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship deemed by the State worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. It reflects both the community's considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.”
The key words where are protection, dignity, lawful conduct, legal acknowledgement, intimate relationship and equality.
Whilst communities around the world differ, they are evolving and whatever historical roots and systems those communities might have, the institutions they hold dear are coming under more persuasion towards more equality and this has applied throughout history on matters of privilege, citizenship, gender, beliefs, disability, sexuality and much else.
Laws injuring protection
Society strives towards egalitarianism where the equality of opportunity is not defined by status but through ability, character, merit and basic rights.
“DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect. By doing so it violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government.”
Here, the SCOTUS opines that there should not be an overarching statute that seeks to injure a class that already receives protection from such injury.
It goes without saying that the quest to protect a minority should of essence eventually have the support of a higher power to ensure that minority receives protection within the domain of that higher power – a process of time but where that protection is refused there is just cause to challenge that view as a matter of fairness, rights and justice.
“This is strong evidence of a law having the purpose and effect of disapproval of that class. The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”
Here, the SCOTUS questioned an overarching law promulgated to disapprove, discriminate and impose a disadvantage on a class, thereby stigmatising those who belong to a class already given protection.
Eliminating inequality
“When New York adopted a law to permit same-sex marriage, it sought to eliminate inequality; but DOMA frustrates that objective through a system-wide enactment with no identified connection to any particular area of federal law. DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code.”
The SCOTUS is clear in this by saying a federal law is writing inequality into the constitution, having same before that, “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”
“The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”
In general, the law does not just affect the principals, it affects the innocent offspring of that intimate relationship which is by no means illegitimate, but legal, valid and recognised as the community has evolved in its understanding of such relationships.
Unnecessary burdens
“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways. By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound.”
Not only do they have their lives burdened but unnecessarily burdened by reason of government decree – this burden is what the SCOTUS sought to remove by declaring DOMA unconstitutional.
Whilst we might generally agree that marriage constitutes the union of a man and a woman, the broader and wider definition of marriage today as society has evolved now is the union of partners regardless of the pairing of genders – it is the recognition of an intimate relationship of people who have committed to have that relationship recognised and with it will come all the accoutrements and benefits of having had that loving, intimate and committed relationship in life and in death.
In Africa and beyond
In Africa where the advent of anti-homosexual fervour and the promulgation of homophobic laws is gaining traction, the communities have yet to reach that level of guaranteeing liberties in such a way that their lawmakers do not preoccupy themselves with mandating moral codes and criminalising views the majority consider immoral conduct, but the opinions stated above will almost eventually lay the basis of arguing the human rights issues of minorities beyond just the matter of sexuality.
I am of the view that when the core purpose of protecting the liberty of all is the guiding principle of the courts above all else, in the hands of good human rights lawyers, no law will remain in our statute books that seeks to discriminate, denigrate, disapprove or stigmatise an African because they believe differently, act differently, or espouse views and lifestyles that are different and thereby all Africans will have equal access to justice, fairness and be protected from menace, sanction or injury to live in peace regardless of who they are.

Monday 1 July 2013

Thought Picnic: Before you call him a man?

In distance and in nearness
Distant and near has been the journey from home, distant in person and near in the mind, distant in its reality but near in the memory, distant in the possible but near in the impossible, the ambiguity and ambivalence of existence captured in realities that life is changing and priorities are shifting as one becomes more distant to others and near to oneself.
It was never easy, the hold that beliefs had on all of them that led to initiations into activities that simply weakened the bonds whilst creating longings that none could fulfil as needed and left the journeyed way out at sea that there was no boat to go home.
Once of the same beliefs
What the eyes have seen that reside in the memory is no more the reality, it is far gone that it has become the stuff of dreams, dreams that relive times that can never be now but come into the now with fearful impact from the unresolved, the undiscussed, the unsolved and the ignored.
There is anger, there is regret, when they could have listened to each other, they attacked each other and now that the listening could have been of the greatest value the bridges are too tattered for a crossing that risks a plunge down into eternal oblivion, they have grown more distant and never so near.
They all once believed the same, attended the same temple and grew knowing it did not have to be hard, at least that is what the children thought but amongst them, they fought, they railed, the jostled and rivalled.
They did things
She went out to wildernesses of supplications to prophets of the eerier and the utterly bizarre, rituals of incantations derived from Psalms prayed into all sorts of liquids, candles lit to outshine the sun, there were enemies everywhere; at home, at work, amongst enemies, amongst friends, within family and far abroad, to her marriage, against her children, they were consumed in a never ending battle of Psalmist wars that they were never sure they will win, each glimmer of hope was one that was almost but never grasped.
He had his issues, always denying lechery but seemingly always compromised, a dab hand at the core animist rituals, shaved heads, tortoise shells, charms and many more things that unlike her were kept away from the purview of the kids, discretion was evident and at play though in the end you never knew what he believed, the old or the new, the customary or the fashionable, he seemed to be able to straddle both systems in marriage, in involvement and in engagement belying a maturity to be envied.
He saw things
The boy was lost in all worlds of identity, discovery, expression and impression, each path seemed fraught with danger and peril, he never found the opportunity to reach out when it really mattered, things happened in ways that brought the empathetic out of her and the sceptic out of him.
It all culminated in one fateful night when earlier in the day, the stories shared to the hearing feasted on the most fertile imagination that as the dark came, it was able to create apparitions that only those eyes could see and voices only those ears could hear, all in the presence of people who could not understand the beginning of the knowledge of fear that brought terror beyond the control of all around.
Whatever it was, he had seen the devil and that was twice in 6 hours, red-chested, horned, tall and scary did not begin to describe it, he has searched and been unable to determine what that phrase he heard in middle of the night was – Poofau! Poofau! It was terror that put horror to flight and the gateway to much else that defined a journey that has never found words.
His road made out
Rituals too many to all sorts of religious practitioners and charlatans, baths in houses and groves, in forests and in pits, with lizards and too many unmentionable, everyone brought a story, a view, a prophecy or a reading, tackling it from all corners, he ate the inedible like performing magic tricks, scarified to draw blood on all parts of the body with all sorts of concoctions rubbed in, he had become a reliquary of absurd unexplainable theologies and a living receptacle of fetish practices that were forgotten lifetimes ago.
Conflicts came with the urge to break away when they were needed and then he veered off on a tangent of religious beliefs that left them first scared, then hostile and ultimately implacable, the purposes for which one was to exist failed as this path offered nothing but the reality of great disappointment.
Cursed from the source
One Sunday, he returned from church, she was livid with rage that the order never to believe as one had now chosen to believe was defied and there and then in her room, she stripped and cursed her son from the womb from whence he originally came that if he defies her again he will wander away never to be seen again.
He never understood the significance, there was nothing to fear from that act and they never talked about it afterwards though he did defy and did continue to do what he believed for himself and with that came separation and distance unbeknownst to the man who probably would have been absolutely livid with rage with her having tolerated much of her deviation from the conventional into the esoteric.
A wilderness of the world
He has however wandered away, far from all that is conventional, proper and expected, charting his own course away from prying eyes, he has died to emotions that once made them near, nostalgia is only a matter of taste than presence, the memories are things one lives, but the pictures today are too difficult to look at, the changes that come with age have wizened them all, they are all closer to the grave and as distant as ever in life.
That distance was consolidated when he found himself in hospital with just 5 weeks to live if the medicines did not work, he was there alone though maybe not alone, who could tell, but they were not there. He fought to live but lost everything else apart from the hope that something might just be made of a life that has done much and wasted much – time, resource, opportunity, fortune and relationships – regrets that could sink a man loom but they are ones you strive daily to walk away from.
How many roads must a man walk down, before they call him a man? To them, he has not walked enough roads and to him, he is honestly past caring, he cares enough for the basic connection that has history and a past but the present brings some resentment, some anger, some bitterness and very little forgiveness – this is not even half the story but it is a start - the wander in the wastelands of the world continue as tomorrow, if it comes, becomes another day.