Wednesday 26 February 2014

Thought Picnic: Tolerating diversity on the streets of our humanity

Death on our streets
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Karl Marx [Wikipedia]
One fateful day in May 2013, a young 25-year old father of one who had served his country in the treacherous battlefields of Afghanistan and returned unscathed was butchered on the streets of London, his name was Lee Rigby.
The scene of that murder, macabre, gruesome and beyond belief was the handiwork of Michael Olumide Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Oluwatobi Adebowale, 22, both black, British and of Nigerian descent.
Just like me
Nigerian descent by reason of both their middle names and surnames which are of Yoruba origin, very much like mine are, we are Third Culture Kids.
“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” [Wikipedia]
That is probably where the similarity ends, beyond having Christian names this tale takes a turn for the worse.
Drugged by religion
They took religion, became religious and adopted an outlook to life and circumstances that seem to give cause to what they presumed was their oppressed existence – their fellow Muslims were suffering around the world; that appeared to justify their heartless act – to take an innocent human being off the street and butcher him like a dog and that informed their soulless utterances – expressing no empathy, care or remorse for the evil acts wrought by their hands.
They were opiated by religion that nothing they did made sense and whatever made sense to them was to any other human being manifestly evil, incomprehensibly beyond words and lacking in humanity that they had become demons in human skin.
Blinded by belief
They represented the extremes of how religion can blind people to the community, communion and commonality of our humanity with all its differences and diversity. The tendency to feel one has right by some deity or some instruction to lose perspective of the fundamental human rights of another and thereby deprive them of their freedom, their life, their expression and their pursuit of happiness.
As we battle with our conscience we sometimes lose consciousness of the fact that regardless of what we believe or what we are persuaded of, we may not understand the world of others besides ourselves, but as fellow human beings they have a right to live, survive and thrive in the world we all share – free of persecution, prosecution and execution - it is called tolerance.
Harm no one
The greater lesson here is not so much about heritage, culture or religion, but the need to recognise within ourselves our Good Samaritan humanity not to harm others because of our persuasion, omission, commission, inclination, indifference, silence or utterance.
Examples of which is fearfully expressed in the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria where children and people are massacred, and a government continually stand clueless of ability, purpose, resolve or empathy apart from the wringing of hands, the miniskirt ban in Uganda, the new homophobic laws of Nigeria and Uganda along with the religious and cultural expression that underpins such inclinations.
Free our streets from offence
As we all freely walk the streets and justice is served by taking extremists off our streets, we must be careful not to hound off the streets others whose only offence to us is to be different, diverse and divergent from what is our norm but not their norm.
Back to England, may Lee Rigby rest in peace, his family, relations and friends find some closure and strength in the fond memories of that innocent man and that we all learn that religious fanaticism can lead to ruinous consequences for both believer to the wider society. Our humanity must always inform, temper and moderate our beliefs, not the other way round.

Monday 24 February 2014

Thought Picnic: Problem Solving or Providing Solutions

Tyres and travel
Problem-solving can be interesting, you find yourself in the middle of some difficultly and caught in the maelstrom of something not going right that you need to right.
Problems however have a small sphere of choices to tackling the issue. A problem can be a punctured tyre, you fix it by changing the tyre.
You probably cannot stop a problem from happening, but if you had the greater scope of tackling a problem with providing a solution, you might get better tyres, ply a different route than one riddled with nails or sharp objects that could puncture tyres, have the road swept or even travel by other means of transport, by rail, by water or by air.
Time of travel, route and destination being factors and variables of that solution beyond the risk of a flat tyre.
Nailing the problem
Solutions have the latitude of choice because you are free from being tied to a particular problem to looking at all the issues and circumstances that present that type of problem.
Then again, a problem can be a nail that for whatever reason cannot be hammered in properly to complete some furniture. Obviously, you could hit the nail harder, maybe try to prise the nail out and try to hammer in another nail and still end up with the same problem.
If you decided to use joinery you have a solution without the need of nails, you could adopt a flat pack method that uses screws, joinery also does not require nails, maybe mould the furniture piece or forge it.
Beyond the nail, when one is abstracted from the problem, you have the opportunity to think up solutions, you move from immediacy of the particular to the appreciation of the general. You elevate the craft from the bubble of problem solving that a technician is saddled with to providing a solution that an expert is engaged for.
Stirring the solution
Providing a solution allows new thinking, resourceful thinking, allows for new approaches to a thorny issue and gives options to jettison whatever had been done before where things have been stuck in a rut.
It is the difference between fighting the politics of the way things were done before and a new way of doing things and doing those things differently and better. That is the spirit of progress and the joy of engineering solutions.
There are situations where the circumstances require that the presumptions of the resident geek be challenged, they having framed issues in their concept of what they think the problem is.
One can understand the difficulty if that becomes what solutions are being crafted for but it restricts the focus of the solution provider to that perspective resulting in a frustrating conflict of ideas, as a preponderance is being given to a situation over another quite unfairly.
Not on my rope
At which point the debate has to shift radically, let them down easily but not on my rope, one is here to provide solutions not solve problems, it can personal and one is presented with feeding the egos of geniuses who should be seriously preoccupied with something else.
Now, how do you present this in a meeting? Wisdom and tact with English reserve does not seem to be hitting the nail on the head of this conundrum, yet if we must pass the test of reasonableness, it must not be centred on solving the problem but on providing a solution. I have to get this across, assertively, aggressively and conclusively.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Thought Picnic: Fix the road and leave the wheel alone

Wheeling and dealing
Caught between the choices for the path forward, one is left looking for analogies to properly encapsulate the situation and hopefully persuade the decision makers of the best course.
I have moved beyond the concept of reinventing the wheel, it cannot be made any rounder than it is, it is a circle, and that is a closed discussion.
Probably there is a case for reviewing the materials used in the manufacture of the wheel, but that also after thousands of years of evolution, testing, change and review leaves us with the best wheels ever made in the history of man.
A little strengthening, probably for resilience and all terrain use that resists wear and tear is not necessarily ground-breaking stuff, rather it would for the inventor just be a differentiating selling point.
Fix the road
The next thing to consider is the road, the path, the way the wheel bearing load would travel and the comfort that it offers.
Much can be done about roads, and I have come to the conclusion that when the road is rough you work on the road and not on the wheel. Working on the road offers a broader advantage to every road user than working on the wheel would.
This is the kind of thinking that should go towards solving technical problems too. Understand what the wheel is and what the road is and act accordingly.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Nigeria: So, the US Envoy spoke Pidgin English? Big Deal!

Ambassador 101
Maybe we should sometimes wonder about what is expected of ambassadors. They are accredited representatives of their country to another country where normally they would live and interact with officials and people of that country.
Obviously, they should be expert diplomats in such a way that they should attempt to magnify the amity between countries whilst diminishing tensions between them, promoting understanding and friendships too.
There are many other roles of the ambassador, in explaining the policy of their countries clearly, being the chief executive of the consulate and its services for their fellow citizens abroad and host citizens who need to gain knowledge in many ways about the country the ambassador is from.
Soft skills of diplomacy - language
The ability to communicate is key, this is in the sophisticated use of language as well as in many cases they would be multilingual or dare I say polyglots. To expect them to speak the language of the court is probably not too much, if they speak the lingua franca, that is a matter of appreciated skill.
Enter, Ambassador James F. Entwistle, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria who has in his diplomatic career represented his country in Malaysia, Central African Republic, Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Cambodia, Cameroon, Niger, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and now Nigeria.
Pidgin English everywhere
Impressive and interesting, many of these places are former British colonies where English would have been spoken or a corruption of English known as Pidgin English of which there are many and the Nigerian Pidgin English now considered English-based creole language belongs to the broader group of West African Pidgin English languages.
If the producers at WaZoBia FM in Lagos had done very basic research on their guest, the Ambassador, they should have not been too surprised that given his wealth of experience in the subcontinent, he would have been quite able to connect a lot better than they expected.
In answering questions related to Nigerian democracy and US relations with Nigeria, he spoke quite fluently in Nigerian Pidgin English to which what he had to say was deafened by uncontrolled applause as the narrative that followed deviated from everything else he had to say. [PM News]
Noise obscures poise
Besides the commentary on the BBC, the management of WaZoBia FM should deign to conduct an orderly house with disciplined staff who can exercise a modicum of self-control and professionalism when pleasantly surprised. [BBC Audio]
The Ambassador indeed should be commended for effort and ability whilst at the same time we should not at the slightest titillation become a garrulous rabble in a circus act.
Much as we would have loved to listen to the recording of that interview, the sensational has gotten in the way of the substance of the meeting and that is rather unfortunate.
So, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria spoke Pidgin English? Big Deal! What did he say?

Monday 17 February 2014

Thought Picnic: My world, their world

All drama and histrionics
Now for the real reason behind this blog, it was inspired by a video I watched on Pa Ikhide’s Facebook page.
A boy decided to play a prank on his father clearly identifying the idiosyncrasies of people of that generation. Typically, a Nigerian parent reacting to some failings of their heretofore precious brood.
In this event, the boy of 16 announces to his father that he has impregnated his 14-year old Caucasian girlfriend and a flare up ensues.
Now, this video was the boy playing a prank on his father, as we laugh we must realise that there is a majority of cases where this is no laughing matter but the reality of an unfortunate set of choices that presage dire consequences for that child.
I failed woefully
I have a story much similar to this, and I hope this with other interesting narratives that the video represents about parents, their children, their expectations, their disappointments, our mistakes, their reactions and the usually contemporaneous bleak prospects.
The background to this story has been written in this other blog.
Having learnt that I failed again, and there was no option for re-doing the course after repeating the class, there was just no way I could return home to face my parents; I had betrayed their trust, squandered their investment and rubbished their expectations of me.
A typical Nigerian household
That is the kind of atmosphere we are brought up in, we are to excel and do our parents proud, we are constantly challenged to improve beyond ourselves, under serious scrutiny of incessant comparison with our betters at everything and in fearful juxtaposition with uncles, aunties, relations, friends and examples of those who have failed.
The trepidation is palpable and yet, I was never under pressure to excel academically from my parents, I was a problem child of a different sort, secretive and defiled through the sexual exploitation of those who were trusted to care for me, there were things I never discussed with my parents and even today have still not brought up, but have shaped many aspects of my life.
Begging and pleading
After a week of going missing, mother in desperation had sent people out to various haunts until word got to me and the friends sheltering me. I had to face the music and deal with the consequences of my situation.
My friend took me back home, my father who had begun a second career as a farmer had returned to Lagos that week too. At first, he would not let me in the house, but after much begging and pleading, prostrating and much else; a kind of grovelling subservience I had never really grown accustomed to, he relented.
Not like my father
Upstairs, he began with his own success stories, and indeed, my father was a brilliant accountant, a successful professional, in the upper tier of adulation of his peers, and he could begin to question whether I was his son having not taken after him.
I was useless, stupid, an idiot, a failure and to make the point more strongly, I was only good for the farm and we were to leave in the morning for the farm, I had no other prospect after that.
The more forgiving aspect of this encounter was no corporal punishment, no threats of sleeping in a police cell or the order that I sleep on the floor rather than in my room in my own bed, but the future looked bleak, very bleak indeed.
You’re off to the farm
That night, I prayed so hard, I probably prayed all night because I was at my wit’s end, and though I have been once suicidal at 13, I have had the grace of hope in the storm since then to know that whatever situation I find myself in, was just a matter of course.
When the morning dawned, I had not even spoken to my mother since I returned, but she left a message, with my sister. “If your father attempts to carry out the threat to take you to the farm, leave the house and come to my school.”
It was close to 10:00AM when my father said, “Akin, pack your things and get ready to go the farm.” I got 30 kobo from my sister, snuck out of the house and went to see my mother. She sequestered me with a teacher from her school for 4 months.
Rebuilding from scratch
In that time, I began to think of what I needed to do with my life, it was good fortune that at times I visited an aunt – aunts and uncles can be extended relations in Nigeria. I was related to her husband, I think 4th cousins.
She invited me to stay with them, my uncle who had seen failure in trying to pass his secondary school finals for years reminded me of a meeting he had with my dad when we returned from the UK.
My dad had promised him £10 if he passed his examinations, and though the promise is still owing, my uncle passed, qualified as a chartered insurer in the UK, became a fellow of the professional bodies both in Nigeria and the UK, was an examiner for the institute and reached the pinnacle of one of the longest established insurance companies in Nigeria.
Mentored by one who once failed
However, it took one man understanding failure to take my failure in the eyes of my parents and whoever else had a stake in who I was to put me on the path to rebuilding my life. I returned to school after, excelled, started a career in computing and did many significant things within 4 years of that personal catastrophe.
Sometimes I wonder if part of the estrangement from my family is related to this, I have forgiven as much as I can, but forgetting what is significantly part of my life and my story is a much harder job. And much as the reaction of my father might have given place to what my life eventually became, this kind of reaction of Nigerian parents to their failed or failing kids is all too common.
The many disappointments we’ve been
Failing at school, getting pregnant, taking religion, getting involved in gangs, engaging in vice, acting outside unwritten but societally constituted norms like not getting married, not having children being homosexual; these are all drivers for apoplectic rage, repudiation, overreaction, histrionics, rash decisions and regrettable outcomes.
In my next blog, I would deal with the many narratives that the video above signifies of parental reaction to children with problems.

Thought Picnic: My long dance with failure

The smarter of a big bunch
In primary school, I can say I was brilliant, though not good enough to beat Maya from Bulgaria to the first place.
I never revised or liked homework, examinations and tests were always a chore, but I did what I had to do, coming 2nd most times and probably 3rd once. In my last year, I was out of school for four months doing common entrance tests for secondary schools in the Nigerian South-West, when I returned, I still came 10th out of 22 in the class.
Just average
Secondary school was a different regime, homework and assignments were part of the continuous testing regime apart from the end-of-term and end-of-year examinations.
I probably wrote the shortest scripts and was out of the exam hall in half the time, my performance in those terms were mediocre and scores average that I was in the top fifth of the class, but hardly celebrated.
Many of those ahead were naturally gifted and smart though the teaching technique of learning by rote and evaluation in some cases of regurgitating lesson notes verbatim in answering exam questions would have had me handicapped. If I was endeared to any teacher and there were a few, it was because I was articulate, we never had oral examinations, no, not the dentist.
Succeeding at failure
After secondary school, the first four years of study in two different schools yielded nothing, I did not need to report the events at the first where I was advised to withdraw because I made it into the premier polytechnic in Nigeria of that time.
Much as there were distractions, what I realised with hindsight and I have written about before was I never really made headway academically. I attended classes I completely drew a blank in, I was like a zombie in class but able to thrive in student union politics and getting co-opted into religious activities.
I played truant in secondary school and here too, the classes were boring, the teachers were evil and the lecturer was either bombastic or had the worst command of English ever, it was tortuous beyond belief, I had to extricate myself. The die was cast for tragedy.
Depressing the F-key
I was in trouble and somehow I did not understand what it was between depression and probably something worse because the mental capacity was there, but the engagement was missing, it was like I had no purpose or direction and before long my world came crashing down.
Under duress, I repeated my second year after my father pulled all the strings to get me readmitted but I was far gone. At the end of that year when the results came out, I left home to check my results first running an errand for my dad.
I did not return home that evening, I went missing for well over a week and there began a new chapter in my life, an acknowledged failure, the child of role model parents, between them a successful accountant and a secondary school principal of 10 years.
That is the lay in for my next blog. The link would appear in the blog below when I have written it.
Blog - Thought Picnic – My world, their world.

Thought Picnic: How experience humbles our generosity of spirit

Peeling away at the sores
Experience seems to bring us into close encounter with the core of our humanity. It is in experience that we begin to discover who we really are, if what we can do in comfort can be reflected similarly in the presence of discomfort.
We may deign to understand, dare to sympathise or attain the supreme expression of empathy, but when we are touched, how would our minds change, and how would our concern for others dissolve for the ascendancy of the trumpeting of our self-pity?
How would we attempt to magnify our circumstances almost to the level that suggests we have been ravaged by the greatest disaster ever to overwhelm humanity?
They are questions we must ask ourselves always.
Beyond belief
Yesterday, I heard a sermon where the preacher told a story of a tightrope walker who did his act over the Niagara Falls many times with greater daring-do each new time he attempted the feat.
Charles Blondin did many feats, blindfolded, on stilts, trundling a wheelbarrow and even carrying his manager on his back as well as frying an omelette midway. It got to a point that people believed he could do anything, however, the same people when asked to sit in the wheelbarrow for a tightrope walk balked at the idea.
Experience takes issues to another level just as having to place one’s trust in the death defying feats of Charles Blondin to be a participant called on a new level of trust, a trust in circumstances one would have no control over until the feat is completed, the risk of it going wrong coming to the fore, in their minds.
Disaster comes here
There are many natural disasters around the world, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, droughts, floods, fires and much else. Most of them we would only see on television and are moved to contribute to charity drives to help the victims of those disasters.
It is probably our nature to give as an expression of our innate humanity, and that is a really good thing. However, the natural disasters have come to our land, storms raging, winds so boisterous bringing down heretofore stable things, rains coming down in incessant deluge causing floods and a few sink holes, this is serious and grave.
We are affected, some of us have to stay put, and others can apparently temporarily escape those conditions until things improve. Our attachment to our things might well determine how affected we are about possible loss as a result of a natural disaster.
The aid matters even more now
The UK has a large foreign aid budget, and it goes a long way to improving the lives of the people at the receiving end of our aid in fighting poverty, disease, disenfranchisement and inequality whilst sponsoring health, education, democratic and human rights programs.
We cannot in essence, in principle or in understanding our role in society and the world at large withdraw aid for the expediency of our little local difficulty.
That is why I am saddened that personal disaster has a tendency to expose the deeper selfish human nature where our temporary pain gains ascendancy and greater importance over recognising the broader context of the bigger, deeper and more serious sufferings of others.
It would pass
Indeed, we should help ourselves and find the means to tackle the big natural disaster issues that ravage our lands, but for that to be at the expense of the foreign aid that brings quality to lives, yet nowhere near the comforts we have enjoyed before disaster struck is unacceptable.
The power cuts here would soon be restored, many of those we give foreign aid to do not have that luxury, the flood waters would soon recede, many of those we give foreign aid as a consequence of natural disaster may not have resource or hope for the change that would make our bad experiences become history.
A selfish humanity
When I hear people on television go on about the government addressing our problems first before thinking of foreign aid, or by inference these first world victims of mishap comparing themselves to the poor and destitute of much less fortunate countries and circumstances, you begin to appreciate the shallowness of our humanity and its absurdity.
We are mostly good when things are good, but when things go bad we subconsciously reveal the worst of who we are. Much as man’s capacity for good is well regarded, our capacity for selfish malevolence when we are most affected is unspeakably unprintable and with that our humanity as a whole suffers the more.
Such is life.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Thought Picnic: Powerless in darkness

Rich and busy
Not too far down the road from me, though longer that a brisk walk, you will find some of the most expensive real estate, the residences of young and odiously rich footballers.
During the week, I am ensconced in what is left of the country pile of a squire, a farm house which mostly survives as a week day bed and breakfast concern.
The main hall or mansion, if you care is now the technological information technology nerve centre of a major bank with other buildings as offices housing up to 4,000 employees on a busy day.
In fact, I have found that major global conglomerates seek out a remote and cheap (affordable) location to host their information technology teams. For instance, when I worked for Unilever, we were in North Wales, a place called Ewloe.
Power lost
This discovery comes with its issues, like I have been here just 4 weeks and in that time I have experienced rarities, things I am quite unfamiliar with.
In the first instance, it was men-at-work upgrading a power substation, with that came a power cut that lasted a good few hours, that was understandable.
Last night, the whole of North West England was buffeted by stormy hurricane winds with speeds of up to 100 miles/hour (160 km/hour), there were recordings on the news whilst it was on of much higher speeds in other places.
I retired only to wake up around 18:30 to realise that we had suffered a power cut with no inkling as to when it would be restored.
Managing power sources
One of the safety features of buildings like where I am staying is they are equipped with emergency lighting, but the loss of power also meant the security system was constantly beeping.
This power cut scenario presented some challenging situations because it meant we could not use the microwave oven, my laptops only had battery life that lasted so long and if I had to use my mobile phone, I had to be conscious of the need to remain contactable or rather have the means of contacting others.
Contingency arrangements
Now, in Nigeria where I lived up to the end of the 1980s, if I were in a hotel, it is possible that the contingency to frequent power cuts would have involved switching on a power generator. In fact, when I was in India, the power cuts at both the hotel and the training centre did not last 5 minutes before the power generating set was turned on.
This was not the case, so it was cereal for supper and the luck of one of guests giving me a spare LED torchlight that he had.
To get online, I used my mobile phone that was charged through the USB port of my laptop, later I only had to power up the other laptop without logging on to keep my phone charged through the night. This eventually drained the battery charge of the laptop, but at least I could still use it.
Electricity really matters
I doubt I can survive another night without power and much as I can fully commiserate with those who have been victims of severe weather issues in the UK this winter, with floods causing immeasurable damage, it is not a situation I can get too accustomed to.
You begin to appreciate better the role that electricity has in our daily lives for literally everything, lighting, cooking, cooling, heating, freezing, domestic appliances, communication, entertainment or just a sense of wellbeing. First world problems you might say, but when you get used to something, its absence would probably be felt more than if it was something that was in short supply.
Knutsford is that place and no, I have not been meeting up with WAGs of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool or Everton premiership football clubs.

Monday 10 February 2014

Remembering Dick van Galen Last

A fine Dutch gentleman, and remembering him is a testament to the kind of man he was, as I have written before and will never tire of writing again, he is sorely missed.
Dick van Galen Last would have been 62 today, 4 years and 8 days after he passed on and 4 years and 2 days after we buried him.
I still remember that last day I saw him alive, he came to visit me just a week after I was discharged from hospital. I was too weak to go out for a meal, so we just talked over a pot of Earl Grey tea and some biscuits.
This was a little over two months before we had another chat on the phone where he informed me he had a health crisis, and we were sharing the same consultant. We even joked that we might meet up in the chemotherapy room one of these days.
Just three weeks on, he defended his PhD thesis; I could not attend as it was days after a chemotherapy session, I had no strength to do much, but vegetate at home. I heard that as he spoke, you could hear the strength drain out of him, but it was a spirited and commendable effort.
13 days after that amazing effort, Dick was gone and I learnt of his passing the day after. Tears in my eyes, literally sobbing all the way from my home to his, we, his friends had the opportunity to see him for the very last time, in his bed, formally dressed, with a cravat and as serene as if he was going to open his eyes at any moment.
I stood by him and whispered, “Goodbye, dear friend.”
I sometimes wonder if he was awarded his PhD posthumously, he did devote a good few years to that project travelling around the world doing research or looking for moments of tranquillity to complete the work. It was indeed determination in failing health that drove him to do what many might have put aside for another time.
When we gathered to see him off, there were hundreds filling that little chapel on that brisk and cold February morning, many paid tribute but I could not tarry for either the internment or the reception, I left after the service for what became my last session of chemotherapy.
My almost 13 year sojourn in the Netherlands began with Dick picking me up at the airport, lodging me for the first month and many other encounters of supper with his numerous multinational friends.
As interpreter, he would switch between English, Dutch, French, Spanish or German with the ease of a Babel Fish, he was such a person, thespian, cultured, refined, open-minded, loving, caring and much more.
To all of us who knew Dick, we all knew that when he died, a man indeed, of high integrity, a bon vivant whose joie de vivre remains as an example to all of us in the pursuit of happiness was gone.
Dear Dick, you may be gone, 4 years now, but you are never forgotten.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Nigeria: More Questions For Tobore Mit Ovuorie - The Human Trafficking Undercover Journalist

I have many easy questions
This would be the fourth blog I am writing about Tobore Mit Ovuorie’s expose on Human Trafficking published simultaneously on Premium Times in Nigeria and ZAM Chronicle in the Netherlands.
I am writing again because the more that Premium Times has put out in attack, defence and evidence seems to raise more questions that needs the person of Tobore Mit Ovuorie to answer, clearly and unequivocally.
One is now of the opinion that the human trafficking probably passes the plausibility test, in that everything she wrote about does happen in the human trafficking world, but it has consistently failed to pass the muster of a credibility test for the reporter and all her handlers.
Please answer correctly
Below, I have a list of questions, I would want Tobore Mit Ovuorie to address with a greater attention to journalistic rigour, truth, facts and honesty.
Scenario: Tobore Ovuorie's friend died in 1999 after being a victim of human trafficking to Europe. Tobore who is 33 now, was 18 then.
Question: How old was her friend when she was trafficked and in what year?
Question: For how long was her friend in Europe before she returned to Nigeria with the AIDS defining illness of Karposi Sarcoma?
Scenario: The average time from HIV to full-blown AIDS without any ARV medication is around 4 to 10 years.
Question: When did her friend discover she had HIV and consequently AIDS? If anonymity is waived, what was her name and who else knew of this story of her trafficking all through to her death?
Scenario: Besides the general criminal activity to do with human trafficking, Tobore witnessed two murders.
Question: Why is she not leading the police to where she attended the Abuja party which she left feeling very ill that she had to attend hospital?
Question: Why is she not taking the police to all the other significant places she mentioned in her report?
Scenario: Oghogho had a number luxurious cars and houses she had built or was building in her home town.
Question: Did Tobore forget to note the car numbers as an investigative journalist?
Question: Where is Oghogho’s home town amongst others she must have had conversations with who had progressed up the human trafficking chain?
Question: In all the places Tobore was taken to, was she blindfolded?
Scenario: Tobore attended a NAPTIP Human Trafficking conference after her ordeal. She supposedly submitted her report to Premium Times before the conference.
Question: Did she share her experiences at the conference?
Question: If not, why is her report similar to stories shared at the conference?
Question: If Tobore was so driven by her friend's experience 14 years before, where else did she share this compelling issue before she was commissioned for this human trafficking expose?
Question: How did Tobore get to be selected for this mission?
Scenario: The risk analysis was atrocious, she really could have lost her life.
Question: So, after that heinous ordeal and Tobore's rescue in the Republic of Benin, she was able to recover so completely from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder under casual medical observation in less than a month to attend a conference reliving the details of her experience?
Question: What has happened to Reece Adanwenon's Facebook page with which Tobore communicated with ZAM Chronicles?
Question: Why did Tobore not use her Facebook page instead or had she forgotten her password by the time she arrived in the Republic of Benin?
Scenario: Reece Adanwenon who was supposed to facilitate the rescue of Tobore in the Republic of Benin had never met Tobore, yet Tobore was able to recognise her from what she could recollect from Reece's Facebook profile.
Scenario: However, when Reece's Facebook profile was communicating with ZAM Chronicle, there was no picture of Reece on the profile.
Question: What happened?
Scenario: Tobore's head was shaved by the ritualists in November, just days before she escaped in Benin Republic.
Question: Where are the pictures of the condition she was in when she was rescued?
Question: Where are pictures of her at the NAPTIP conference since she appears to like hobnobbing with important people?
Question: Did she use a wig during the time it took for her hair to grow back?
Scenario: Surely, after suffering such a humiliation she as an investigative reporter cannot have lost the significance of taking pictures of her recovery.
Question: Why after her rescue with reference to the text messages she constantly exchanged with Premium Times personnel did she wait weeks to inform them she was safe when it appears she was ready to immediately contact ZAM Chronicle in Amsterdam?
Amateurish recklessness
The lax modus operandi put in for this Human Trafficking expose beggars belief. If the text messages she was sending were discovered by the traffickers, there was enough for a death sentence in her communications.
They used no code words, no call signs, the power distance index was very prominent that it was clear she was reporting back to someone and her boss was giving instructions. This escapade was so amateurish to be in any way believable.
With ZAM Chronicle involved, you wonder what they really know of undercover work especially in cases where a life or many lives could have been at great risk.
Too convenient and sadly expedient
Finally, it is all too convenient that critical evidence that could give the real truth to this story was lost, like why she had not immediately transmitted pictures, conversations and much else for most of the time she had her mobile phone. At worst, there should have been an electronic dead drop to collect all this data for the use of the expose.
In the end, we only have Tobore’s word and the threatened reputations of Premium Times and ZAM Chronicle through obfuscation, bluster, bullying and ad hominem attacks to go by, the rest in text messages and Facebook posts is hardly independently verifiable. It is a crying shame.
You cannot trust this
If Tobore was exposed to such evil and unconscionable human traffickers with connections to people in high places in Nigeria and abroad, she and her handlers must be recklessly bold, careless, and utterly irresponsible to reveal her identity where she must daily be at risk of being apprehended and assassinated.
I am sorry, it is time for Premium Times to cut loose of this travesty or both it and its reputation would sink with it, considering the reporter they are supporting has hardly been with the outfit for 6 months, the level of naïveté demonstrated by the seasoned journalists at Premium Times is befuddling to the point of bafflement.

Friday 7 February 2014

Nigeria: Another rotten church exploitation - brides without grooms

These foolish things
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” I Corinthians 1:27 (New International Version) Parallel Verses.
I have chosen this Bible verse to illustrate what passes for religious abuse in Nigeria, where pastors get their flock to indulge in farcical gimmickry, and the flock like sheep follow the shepherd down the precipice of ignominy.
A pastor in the Winners Chapel franchise and I have written about them many times, I dare say, it was a church I did attend in the late 1980s in Nigeria, had asked all the single ladies who want to get married this year to attend church in wedding dresses.
Gowns on clowns
Pictures which I saw on Facebook were really from Linda Ikeji’s Blog, the popular Nigerian gossip rag that one must admit has one of the biggest followings in Nigeria. We are people like that.
The ladies were bedecked in bridal dresses, all without grooms just as bridal houses saw the opportunity for brisk trade, renting out dresses as zippers and corsets might have caused a fitting frenzy in the ladies rooms just before the prayers of supplication and blessing.
Between God’s tactics and man’s stupidity
This is where I have issue, in fact, I have many issues with these corruptions of the Christian message and the drama that ridicules the whole purpose of religion and much else.
The verse above clearly states, “God chose the foolish things …”, it is God doing the choosing; how that comes about is open to interpretation, but I cannot find ways to suggest that verse instructs that we should act foolishly so as to shame the wise, nor does it suggest we should celebrate weakness to shame the strong.
This reads as a tactical ploy of God that is not in the gift of man to deploy, where men attempt to do this, everyone appears foolish, and there is no redeeming factor towards wisdom apart from compounded derision.
For those brides who went to church in their bridal dresses, nothing is said of bridegrooms ready to sweep them off their feet, rather, they were wishing and hoping and ultimately being presumptuous.
Shamanist grottos in church buildings
Herein is the problem, we go to our churches broken, needing, sick and desperate, a hungry crowd open to atrocious exploitation and manipulation by people standing at the pulpit as men of God.
However, the reality is we have the mind-set of ritualism, the church building has become the forest grotto where the Shamanist priest invokes the gods with incantations and the worshippers have arrived seeking instant solutions convinced of the fame and the powers of the priests. Anointing, we call it.
Obviously, we must leave a gift for the deities, something must be given in exchange for what we desire. That gift is now passed off as a seed offering. Though never under duress, very few in need ever think they would get anything if the tray is not filled with a generous gift. Where we have little, we are overcome with a guilt complex, the widow’s mite is now too little for the church.
Sadly, this is what things have become, it is like the temptations of Jesus Christ with the Devil’s chorus, “All this I would give you, if …” Yeah, if you can prove who you are; if you jump and show off; if you bow down and worship or in churches today, if you sow a seed. It is all full of conditions when the gospel stresses the things of God are free, free, free, and free.
The women suffer, always
Then again, it is the women that take the brunt of the abuse, they are the ones exploited for their singlehood as if it takes only one to get married or women should be more desperate especially as the biological clock ticks away, and society disrespects or dishonours extended spinsterhood.
Once they get married, they are on another conveyor belt of possible exploitation if they cannot bear “the fruit of the womb” in Church-speak. The man is never once medically assessed for fertility or the motility of his sperm to clinch the deal. The onus is always on the woman.
Yet, these women who came forward were expecting to get married within the year, the possibility looms of meeting, courtship, engagement and marriage all happening in less than 12 months.
Unworkable marriages
God have mercy as the thrill and euphoria of getting hitched wears off and the man begins to wander because neither party to this travesty was compatible, but hapless and foolish victims of manipulation, exploitation and circumstance, orchestrated in church by the chief priest who proclaims – “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Friends, no match is made in heaven, the match is made on earth between imperfect people and they have to work hard at it, daily tending the love and easing the hurt, it is not a fait accompli of life. Sometimes, it does not work and when it doesn’t be ready to get on with your life.
The miserable lives we live
The woman again, desperate is back in church trying to save her man from the other desires that provide him expression and satisfaction he cannot get at home. It becomes a vicious cycle where the unworkable marriage instigated by the spectacle of risibility and the hare-brained scheme of the pastor, who laughs all the way to the bank on the pains of his flock. It is unconscionable and manifestly evil, it sickens to the high heavens.
What then gives rise to wife-battering and much else? Frustrations, many frustrations. A lifelong relationship that should be given time to mature with interaction and engagement is turned into a magical trick of dead seed to tree in an instant – without roots, deep roots at that, it would die.
I think, I have written enough already. Marriage is not happiness, if you are not happy as you are, the risk of marriage bringing happiness is temporal and it would fade.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

The Dying Profession Of Journalism in Nigeria

The draft not getting to the craft
You begin to wonder what is happening to the journalism profession in Nigeria, with the many unfortunate events like badly filed reports that make no sense or serve no purpose than act as space fillers of incomprehensibility.
Then the Shibboleths of Nigerianese that have become the foundations of Nigerian English following none of the rules of common English grammar.
Where we are spared running the gauntlet of inscrutable English, it is verbosity that leaves you marooned as a castaway from context and reason as to why the writer deigned to put pen to paper.
Forget the fine art of fact-checking, proofreading or spellchecking and you end up with a slurry of a jumble of words produced by any fingered primate typing feverishly at a keyboard in the miraculous hope of producing a magnificent volume to upstage the works of Shakespeare.
Whimsical with the unethical
Then we move on to the ethical issues of journalism, where some are mercenaries for hire ready to plant a fabrication to favour a cause, a patron or some bias, many refusing to allow objectivity to get in the way of sensationalism as we have our focus diverted by the bold and screaming headlines of yellow journalism.
Plagiarism is rife, the lack of attribution, reference, acknowledgement or recognition of originality as the race for circulation and any other pursuit means everyone and anyone is trampled upon without any hope of an apology or restitution for the misuse of copyright or sources of material.
Which brings me to the most recent scramble to the nadir of this profession, the fictional construct of a story about human trafficking, supported and sponsored by heretofore reputable organisations, at least we have been deluded into thinking they had any semblance of integrity until now.
We’ve been had too many times
This made me post a comment on Facebook about the supposed investigative epaulets of Tobore Mit Ovuorie.
“That girl would be the complete ruin of any semblance of journalism in Nigeria as newspapers exacerbate this continual fiction of every undercover story appearing to endanger her life.
She has found an emotional and sentimental switch on the Nigerian psyche, speak of endangered life, and we almost always lose the ability to reason and question as we begin to sympathise and empathise - we have been blackmailed into losing our rational minds.”
Indeed, she appears to have found what we as Nigerians are too susceptible to, our lack of curiosity in the face of consuming activity.
We’ve lost our bearings
Our senses stimulated by macabre, bizarre and atrocious stories, pictures and videos that drags our humanity into inurement to the sufferings of others as we feast on what passes for news when it is mostly gossip, rumour and uncorroborated events.
We race so well ahead of the truth and the facts that when they eventually catch up with us, the damage is done as we wait for the next heroin high of another sorry tale of life in Nigeria.
You then ask, who would rescue this noble profession of journalism from the dregs of reprehensible, lying and unscrupulous purveyors of the contemptible? Who?