Thursday 29 January 2015

Laser-guided down memory lane

The man who made it real
The news of the death of Charles H. Townes at 99 yesterday had me travelling down memory lane about an interesting science lesson that came from some of my early days of activism.
Charles H. Townes according to Wikipedia is known for his work on the theory and application of the maser for which he got the fundamental patent and this was the precursor to the laser and for this and a greater body of work in quantum electronics, he shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with two others, taking a 50% share.
A short history of failure
Now, my story was a simply one. After completing my diploma in Electrical/Electronic Engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, I was on the mandatory one-year Industrial Attachment programme at an Information Technology services outfit known as I. T. Systems.
I had always been involved in the Students’ Union movement from when I was at the Yaba College of Technology where I was the class representative in the Senate with the resulting academic exercise in futility. Smart, depressed and suffering too many things I never had any idea to get help for, I had nothing to speak of academically, two polytechnics and 4 years after secondary school.
It took a whole year to find my bearings again where an uncle, shielded me from scathing criticism and mentored me towards rebuilding my life again, this is how I eventually ended up at the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro with my uncle as my guardian, distant and removed from the influence of my restless parents.
Back in my mettle
This time, moving from being one of the youngest in class all through primary, secondary and two tertiary schools to being a grandee of sorts. I was elected the class monitor and I played my role fully as a representative of our class. We were the noisiest class by far and I fully represented my constituency in the cacophony we were so good at.
I graduated in the class of 1988 and soon we found we would not be able to return to Ilaro for the higher diploma until the school had fulfilled some additional accreditation criteria.
I drafted a letter to our Head of Department and Rector asking that they work harder that getting us back for the higher diploma. In my free time, I travelled round Lagos and environs collecting signatures of my classmates, I probably gathered about 30.
Technology back then
I had typed the letter on WordStar and printed it on our office Epson dot-matrix printer, saved to a 5.25” floppy disk, my friend Tope Agboba working for desktop publishing firm near the University of Lagos, took the letter and printed it out on their Hewlett Packard HP LaserJet 2 printer.
It was copies of these rather professionally looking letters that we took to Ilaro to present to our Rector and Head of Department (HoD). It was a matter of courtesy to first meet the HoD and he welcomed us heartily. We stated our purpose and presented our letter which he read intently.
Then he said, the quality of the print of the letter was so high, asked how it was produced? We told him, it was created with a laser printer.
A lesson I cannot forget
He then said, ‘Do you know what laser is?’ we said we did not.
He then told us that laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Simulation of Emissive Radiation, with that, the full implication of what a laser is and does became apparent. I never forgot that little conversation. We never really got what we wanted, but most of us were dispersed around polytechnics and universities continuing our education.
And life afterwards
I moved into desktop publishing consultancy where laser printers were in everyday use and eventually migrated to the United Kingdom fully ready for the market and then eventually embarking on a post-graduate programme, the wealth of my experience standing in for fulfilling all the prerequisites.
There are myriad applications of lasers, too many to mention because of work done by Charles H. Townes, the shoulders of the theorists which he stood and the applications that came from the pioneering work he did. Somewhere along the line, this impacted my life, in fact, I have owned a laser printer of sorts for almost 20 years.
There is no telling what a little funny idea in a head somewhere can do to change the world.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Opinion: We are up against a menacing kind of religious puritanism

This is the terrifying paradox of zealotry: no one hates humanity more than those who believe they know what's best for it." Howard Jacobson
Before us
Reading this in the Wit & Wisdom column of The Week magazine simply crystallised my thoughts about activities of religious extremists around the world.
In terms, we can all agree that the Islamic State has eclipsed both the Taliban and Al Qaeda in their utterly hubristic quest to somewhat purify their world and rid it of any person, view, thought, opinion or act that dares question their premise.
They have arrogated to themselves an omnipotent and untrammelled control of everything, having the power over life and death, killing off people like cattle with impunity and sadly, it seems without any consequence.
Religious puritanism
For how much longer we can continue to tolerate this rotten menace in our 21st Century world, I cannot tell, but the more we allow it to fester, the more this cancer will metastasise into an incurable blight on our humanity.
What we are up against is a brand of religious puritanism that imposes itself relentlessly on our humanity, grabbing headlines with more daringly desperate and reprehensible acts that threatens to condemn our civilisation to a mediaeval existence.
Like someone offered in a tweet to me a few weeks ago, he defined puritanism as the fear that someone somewhere appears to be having fun or enjoying themselves.
Human expression curtailed
You them ask why life is not here to be enjoyed? Why should we not be happy? Why should we not appreciate beauty in nature and in things, in art, in music, in sport, in theatre, in dancing, or in every form of human expression?
Why should anyone think they can impose their beliefs and their extreme interpretations of religion on others where it is clear we are neither uniform in our devotion or allegiances?
These are people, flesh and blood like you and I, yet they act like there has never been any like their kind that walked the face of this earth. Tombstones all around the world mark the graves of those who thought they will live forever, some never even had a sign for posterity where they returned to dust. History stands as a forever indicting judge over those whose heinous acts against our human coexistence brought pain, death, suffering, war and worse to their fellow human-beings.
Where is the outrage?
The height of this hubris was first demonstrated when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, a treasure of human antiquity about 15 centuries old that some misguided religionists suddenly thought did not fit with their religious world-view.
Since then, there religious puritans and megalomaniacs have ravaged and vandalised, treasures, cities, records and histories, convinced that they serve a cause too great for any other to comprehend. They terrorise with violence and atrocity, purveying their absurdities with more alarming rhetoric, this needs to be stopped once and for all.
What we can lose
As we watch these people and let them thrive, with satellites in Africa, Asia and beyond; just imagine if this plague sweeps into Egypt and razes The Great Pyramid of Giza to the ground, because the Pharaohs were not of a particular religious persuasion, or see how Damascus reputed to be one of the longest inhabited cities in human history being torn down in our time.
It is unacceptable and the longer these people are allowed to exist our very existence is not only threatened, we become lulled into a form of acquiescence that history will never ever forgive our generation for.
If there is no leadership to arrest this nonsense like Nazism was arrested and defeated just 70 years ago, then what a pitiable existence our once resilient humanity has come to.

Monday 26 January 2015

Thought Picnic: From the village with love

Longer than usual
These conversations never last long, at least not for as long as he can remember. 3 minutes would signal a rather long exchange that had pleasantries, an expression of concern, some laughs, always some laughs, a prayer or two and a closing.
That was deed done, duty done, even if there was desire to have a longer engagement, just because engagement and conversation is good.
Yet, this time, the conversation went on for much longer than one had anticipated, they caught the 20 minute mark before any semblance of closing materialised. Interesting is the word that came to mind.
Ambushed at noon
On a topic she had not broached for nigh on a decade, it became the burning issue, a funny deployment of older smarts came in to play, after opining about not seeing a recent picture it leapt to seeing a picture of the grandchild will be recent enough.
Quite an ambush that was that he reared before he caught himself, not so much in agreement, but there are things that were never on the agenda regardless of yearnings of others and this particularly, never was.
As she weaved and waned between the suggestion of promiscuity and lack of choice, she offered her own unique and quite funny solution.
A parcel to bear
To the village she shall go and obtain for herself a prospective daughter-in-law, green and untouched, she will embark on adventure to arrive abroad passing through border checks, the name of the son emblazoned across her bosom for the sole purpose of procreation.
This is the stuff of stand-up comics, something that should have people laughing until their tears flooded the auditorium. At once the whole idea can be both amusing and repulsive.
Some parents just cannot let their children live their lives if that life does not conform to a norm or some expectation. In this, fantasy and reality will never unite in the fulfilled desire of another and for that, he is saddened for the disappointment others will just have to live with. C’est la vie.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Thought Picnic: On the footstools of progeny

Gone like the wind
The fact that he is rarely overcome with nostalgia is a conditioning of self-preservation that appears to have served him well. He can walk away and not look back, yet not burn his bridges because he uses the wells of memory to water the fields of stories that grow and grow.
Would he have loved the company of forebears he has not seen for a quarter of a century? Interesting question, that seems when set against culture and tradition, you are to keep them close and give them a renewed youth from the fruits of procreation.
Tradition is broken and norm is none of his for conformity, the sacrifices they made were responsibilities they willingly took upon themselves, gratitude he must have, but not to the point of worship.
Beholden astray
He pines at times, but their differences are as stark as night is from day, the things they dwelt upon for leverage estranged them, they parted in mind and body, yet never in spirit, the bond was never cut like the umbilical cord is severed to allow child to begin to live independent of mother.
They enthroned themselves seeking homage when they probably could have asked and he probably could have striven to make well, each to a degree obstinate or set in their ways.
No meeting past or planned as time counts seconds to an eternity of something unknown, a beyond that is the destination of the many whose more recent tombstones signifies they passed this long road of personal and shared experiences.
For choices unchosen
They had a choice, much as he did, a will they both had, but deigned to act. Opportunity came when he lay dying in a foreign land amongst strangers who became family. Given 5 weeks to live, no one budged, they partied in their world, and he suffered in his world. He survived, thanks to their prayers, some providence, grace, medicine? In all, he and they were thankful yet still apart.
The pain lingers, yet the will is firm, lives lived apart might find a reunion of sorts with each a choice to make or abandon, the story told tending to regret about what might have been, but never was.
All is forgiven, yet nought forgotten, till we return and mingle with the sands of time from whence we came, a tear a day, a fear away, a care to stay, a dare to sway, to forbear we'll always pray.
No one is duty bound to serve the other, but respect for each other goes a long way.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

John Coll: Friend, Mentor, Gentleman

Borne by email
It is with great poignancy that it was by email that I got information about an event in the life of the person who gave me my first real email address just over 20 years ago.
It was an unusual friendship that started with my answering a job advert in the Pink Paper for a role I was not qualified for, nor was I looking for favours, but it launched me on a very successful career in Information Technology, something I can never ever be fully grateful for.
Unlike any other employer, John Coll did not dismiss my application and my CV by chucking it in the bin, he called me and proceeding to offer advice.
Knowing John
Then he invested 3 hours of his precious time in knocking my CV into shape, a CV he said appeared to have everything but said nothing. He was thorough and disciplined like an old schoolmaster that he was, in just over 3 months I landed my first job outside the public sector and the rest is history.
John became the man I could go to when I was suffering a crisis in confidence, a career crossroad or even issues of life and relationships, he had done it all.
At Connection Software, his drive and his ideas with his team of amazing young minds led in ground-breaking mobile software solutions long before the internet was big or mobiles were everyday products, he just had that foresight.
A little known fact, he was a pioneer in the personal computer industry having helped write the functional description of the BBC Computer and then the BBC Microcomputer User Guide.
The man, I knew
As a man, he gave so many support, opportunity, advice and encouragement, he mentored, he uncled, he fostered, he befriended, he encouraged, he was a life-long enthusiastic teacher who always had a great sense of fun.
When I last spoke to him, he did say he did not have another year left, I listened to how he had planned for things to continue after he had gone and had planned with my best friend to pay him a visit one long weekend I was in London.
Alas! That was not to be, John passed away just two days to Christmas and it was through an email that I learnt of his passing.
Thank you, John
There is not enough space for me to express my thankfulness for knowing John Coll, how he like a big brother always had my back, especially when I was at my lowest point. He was ready and generous with time and resources even before I asked, he was there.
I will remember John the most for his zest for life, his amazing unretiring self that even into his 70s he was a technology buff as good as any, his homeliness and desire to give others opportunity and vision beyond our limits.
He was forthright and funny, a great friend, a sure mentor, an example to living life sensibly and fully, a confidante, a supporter and a fine gentleman. Two years ago, I wrote an email to 6 friends I expected to be my pallbearers, one has gone.
Dear John Coll, thank you, you’ll be sorely missed and may your honest, gentle, loving and wonderful soul rest in peace. Goodbye John (1943 -2014).

Sunday 18 January 2015

Opinion: It is not African Time, it is deplorable conduct

This is the limit
At an event I attended recently, I witnessed attitudes that left me too appalled for words that the need to address it head-on is pertinent.
This event was to begin at a scheduled time and I arrived with one of the organisers ahead of schedule to help set up the venue. Soon guests started to arrive and quite many were on time, including Africans from other countries.
Two hours into the event the celebrant made an interesting observation to me as I was already seething with rage that our ‘people’ had not yet arrived. Most of the guests were friends and acquaintances of the partner and they were also on hand to run last-minute errands for the event.
I’m calling them out
After the third hour, the familiar Nigerian crowd sauntered in, amongst this lot were supposed organisers too, without apology or regret and they ensconced themselves in isolation to most of the early arrivals, there was very little mingling and I doubt most of them even introduced themselves to others, talk less of shaking hands. I was both scandalised and appalled.
We have somewhat embraced the rotten and reprehensible cultural trait of not being punctual and given it a seemingly respectable moniker of African Time. It is not African Time, it is deplorable conduct, excused by too many.
With African Time, you can descend into sloppy timekeeping even if you are wearing and expensive watch, since the purpose of the watch is not to keep time, but to show off your shiny baubles like a primitive given shiny worthless things in exchange for jewels of antiquity.
With African Time, you are under no obligation to give adequate notice of your estimated time of arrival if you will not arrive on time as other better-bred and cultured people do, it is an accepted norm to absent yourself from discipline and rigour, because Africans do not do order.
It is a thing of honour and respect
Sometimes, I wonder if the irredeemable purveyors of the African Time practice will arrive at interviews for jobs late too and what stupid excuses they might have to proffer that the interviewer will be too embarrassed to comment, but that simple act of late coming will be an automatic disqualification for the job.
Some suggested, that this African Time concept is a values thing, I will go further to suggest it is first a sign of indiscipline and unreliableness, which means I will never be able to recommend such people in a professional setting and I know some recommendations I have given count for much.
Beyond this, it is an expression of disrespect apart from surreptitiously dishonouring the host. Now, whilst any host will appreciate being respected and honoured with the attendance of guests at any function they arrange, the greater honour and respect are shown and fully acknowledged when guests arrive on time and more so when they stay to the end.
Keep away if you can’t be punctual
I cannot imagine myself arriving at a function late without giving advance notice, besides, I try to communicate to ensure my host is not left worrying where I might be. If the matter is tentative, we can work on probabilities, but if an assurance is given, then, my word must be my bond.
I write this blog utterly disgusted by conduct that leaves me close to reaching for a sickbag, African Time attitudes are learnt and to see this contemptible activity deployed to the point of expert utility by Nigerian youths is both unacceptable and untenable.
I have many times raised this issue with some of these youths to no avail and I am no more to condone or tolerate this utter uselessness. If you cannot respect and honour your host with being punctual or giving proper notice of why you will be late, please just stay away from the gathering of respectable and cultured people, it is evident that swine associating with people will not turn swine into ladies or gentlemen.

Saturday 17 January 2015

A birthday greeting to the incomparable @BisiAlimi

My Birthday piece to honour Bisi Alimi
The people who inspire me the most are those whose lives are a story, a story that is told about who they are and how have they have struggled to remain true to themselves and become the example and the inspiration to others, that makes all proud of them.
One such person is Bisi Alimi, and I write here to celebrate an amazing man, whom I see as a friend and a brother.
Bisi Alimi’s story is already well told in many places, however, what I have seen of this remarkable man is a constant lesson of believing in yourself, picking yourself up when you are down and an aggressive pursuit of happiness.
Rejected and persecuted in his own land of birth, I am proud to be British and to have cause with a people who not only embrace difference and diversity, they offer opportunity and the scope to create an identity in which you can thrive and be the best you can ever be.
Why Bisi inspires
Yet, the best is yet to come for Bisi, having spoken before princes, dined with kings, travelled the world all in a clear demonstration of that simple fundamental – If you know who you are and are not afraid to say who you are, you will be known, you will be spoken of, you’ll be honoured and you’ll be respected.
Each time Bisi has a platform to tell his unique story, it gives hope to many who struggle with their identity and sexuality, people are encouraged to have expectations that a better and sunny day looms regardless of the darkness of the present.
I am more than honoured to know Bisi, he has in too many ways brought me into his confidence that makes me more than just thankful for making his acquaintance, I am ecstatic about the buzz he brings to things.
Now, there are many areas where our politics or ideology are not aligned and that is good for healthy discussion, even disagreement, but it will never dim my affection and love for him as a person and for the things he holds dear from loves through passions to activism.
My birthday wishes
On his 40th Birthday and he does not look anything like 40, lithe, handsome and well, before I swoon in adulation with risqué description, I can only wish for him, more success, more blessing, more opportunity, more achievement, more recognition and definitely, more means to do the things he dreams of, aspires to, desires earnestly and to reach beyond anything he has ever imagined he could ever do.
I also wish that the love for the love of his life, Anthony, grows stronger in affection and fulfilment, that they may never tire of each other, but bond the more that we begin to bat our eyelids at the thought of the partnership. Love!
Bisi, Happy Birthday, may this herald the beginning of a more exciting and even more wonderful life, full of health, full of joy, full of laughter and full of every happy thing in life.
Many happy returns, my inspiration, my friend, my brother, you are loved.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Opinion: Now, a thought for Kenny Badmus' wife

On the one hand, praise
A couple of days ago, I celebrated the coming out of Kenny Badmus on both the matter of his sexuality and HIV-status with the hope that his decision will give strength and encouragement to the many who suffer under the societal strictures of conformity and despair.
However, it was impossible for the matter to just end there, because there was one key guiding principle that I had to revisit after a bit of reflection and discussion, the one of people who are hurt by that actions we take when we are faced with other difficult options we refuse to choose.
Now, Kenny Badmus said he learnt this from his father, “Die for your own truth, even if it's unpopular, but don't harm others with it.” Indeed, I believe there is a very strong influence of this in his decision to accept who he is, but that lesson has come long after damage has been done.
On the other hand, however
One cannot ignore the fact Kenny Badmus’ wife currently in the middle of an acrimonious marriage spilt is painted in a very bad light, even if she was culpable and responsible for the situation, according to Kenny Badmus’ side of the story, for continuing the relationship and contracting a marriage with the view of 'sexing' him into full heterosexuality.
What I did not read from his mea culpa was a clear sense of the personal responsibility he had knowing his sexuality, his condition and the fact that many might get hurt from his actions.
He in my view was a free moral agent, he had the choice not to woo the lady and end up proposing to her before it culminated in a marriage that lasted six years.
Think about her situation
One can only imagine the complexities and turmoil the lady would have faced when Kenny decided to begin a relationship and then she in turn became emotionally invested in that relationship that she was ready to give all and dare all in the hope that it would succeed.
Besides, one cannot begin to understand the whispering campaign that might have gone on behind her back within the Nigerian society, if at any time if was ever suggested that she was at fault for not being able to meet the full spectrum of the sexual needs of her partner.
I am coming very fast to the conclusion that the lady deserved better and a lot more from Kenny Badmus, that she is lashing out furiously in court seeking the full visitation of the anti-gay law on Kenny Badmus simply makes clear the utter sense of betrayal she feels about whatever intentions he had for her in the first instance and how he went through it all as if he had no will or say in the matter.
She however, as Kenny Badmus gets on with his new life of renewed celebrity and acceptance, will have an uphill task of removing herself from the category of ‘damaged goods’ in a society where once-married and then this intrigue of sexuality and HIV-status will always come to play, if she were to start a new relationship.
The harm done
Sadly, her trust in men will also be undermined, to what extent, one can never say. It might well be best to extricate herself from that society and community to build her life again in another country.
Kenny Badmus took his time to fulfil what he called societal pressures in getting married and in doing so, he did not really die for his own truth at that time. He took the popular choice of a society wedding and people have been harmed. Starting with his wife, then if there is any offspring, they are probably confused, his in-laws are probably scandalised, his family are probably embarrassed, friends who would have preferred discretion in association with him, his business, business associates, all have been harmed to some extent, from minimally to quite seriously.
Take some responsibility, man
Apart from the good of coming out, Kenny Badmus is no saint, not by a long hard mile, one must feel the most for his wife, she was never going to be able to compete for Kenny Badmus’ sexual satisfaction and I blame the fact that we have too conservative an understanding of sexuality and its expression in Nigeria. Sexuality is not just sex, it is a whole person, sex being part of the expression of sexuality.
Yet, there are many who have gone the Kenny Badmus way, their wives none the wiser that their men are on the down-low, many are going to get hurt eventually either in the secrecy that brings the unpalatable back to the matrimonial home or in the publicity that might end up destroying everyone involved.
We can make very hard choices and in the process save people from being harmed, I will submit that Kenny Badmus did not make that choice when he should have in the first place. He should share a larger part of the responsibility for the way things have turned out.
Die for your own truth, even if it's unpopular, but don't harm others with it.

Monday 12 January 2015

Thought Picnic: It's not the end of my world

Yes, it happens to us all
I have had my share of adversity, disappointment, tribulation, worry and despondency, those experiences have become part of my life.
Some of these events just happened to me, others as a result of injustices I have never been able to right and I must not forget the things I have brought upon myself through my daring or my plain foolishness.
I have my weaknesses and where I have not been able to compensate for them, I have borne the burden in a sense of dignity and acceptance, refusing to condemn myself in the many things that I have allowed.
Be human, then exceed it
That I have felt shocked, hurt, belittled, beaten, disrespected, shamed or even disgraced is beside the point, I have allowed just enough time to expend the emotion necessary to reaffirm the fact that I am human and then found ways to reflect, recoup, readjust and rejuvenate myself.
I am thankful that perspective comes quickly before the nasty takes root. Much as I cannot suddenly switch off from the fact that my pride has been battered and my ego bruised, I can begin to climb out of the well of despair and chart my course away from that rotten milestone.
Start off again
Looking for something positively enlivening to do, I flush out of my memory for the moment, that thing that apparently brought me down and leap ahead.
The opportunity once lost can be regained, after a temporary setback; the stress creating issue needn’t be stressful if I decide to extricate myself from the situation; the loss I suffered is just the loss of things, things can be replaced; plans can be rethought, ideas can be reviewed, life can be refreshed – there is happiness out there waiting to be worn with the fun, the glee and the gaiety of childhood expressed on a sunny day in wonderland playground.
It is at that point that I realise two important things about life’s many disappointments and harbingers of sadness that first, it is not the end of the world and then, it is not the end of my world.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Kenny Badmus: Thank you for coming out wonderfully

Coming out in Nigeria
Probably, not since Bisi Alimi came out on New Dawn with Funmi Iyanda in 2004 has there been a news story just about as explosive and interesting as Kenny Badmus’ coming out both as gay and HIV-positive. [Pulse.NG]
As usual, one look at the comments that post-fix each news publication of this story, and most especially the one on Linda Ikeji’s Blog, the vitriol out-numbers the support by more than 10-to-1.
However, let us address the fundamental issues in Kenny Badmus’ revealing piece, lest we lose the gravity of the substance from the sensationalism giving room for holier-than-thou sententiousness.
Previously, Kenny Badmus had revealed on World AIDS Day 2014 that he had been living with HIV for 15 years, the results of his tests should suggest clearly to many that being HIV-positive is not necessarily a death sentence, you can live well, be successful and thrive. Some of the comments I read on Linda Ikeji’s Blog were quite uncharacteristically supportive, I did not want to spoil it looking for the vitriolic ones. [Linda Ikeji’s Blog]
The pressure to marry
Kenny Badmus admits he was under societal pressure to fulfil the needs of typical Nigerian society to be married, yet, before marriage he told his prospective wife that he was homosexual and even told ministers in pre-marriage counselling to help dissuade from her quest for marriage to no avail.
The fact is, both young men and women are under pressure to tie the knot after a certain age and then they are supposed to begin to procreate, which in itself to many is proof that the marriage is working – in many cases, nothing can be further from the truth.
Even for a very religious and moralistic society, Nigeria has like many other places in the world a diversity of sexuality and sexual expression, and regardless of religious beliefs and we all do not believe to the same level, from atheist through agnostic and apostate, to relapsed, to committed, and to extremely fanatical, we fill the broad spectrum of beliefs in any religion.
Some will find some accommodation for heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, marriage, polygamy, celibacy, abstinence, adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, sadomasochism, or any kind of sexual expression – we are essentially sexual beings, at the very basic level.
You can’t ‘sex’ out sexuality
Despite the glaring truth, the unfortunate liaison was contracted because probably Kenny Badmus did not fight hard enough to stop it and also probably because his wife to be believed that she should make him straight, at least, she thought his homosexual predilections were simply a childhood disorder. I could almost laugh, but many do believe homosexuality is just a phase, a temporary outlet in the absence of opposite sex partners, some think it is an abomination.
Kenny Badmus alludes to another interesting fact, the tendency for women or men to think they can change their partners, literally ‘sex’ the other sexuality out of them. There is too much scientific fact out there as better understanding of human physiology and psychology in the last century has revealed that sexuality is a wiring of nature and hardly an adoption of nurture, in most cases.
That is not to say some people are not curious about the other sexuality, but to subscribe to the idea that all are curious, living a lifestyle rather than a life is as myopic as anyone can get. This notion is however, promoted by many religious leaders leading to the atrocious persecution of many who are already living a very difficult and secret life of guilt, pain and despair.
The pressure to conform
The consequence of this societal stance is no doubt why many homosexuals in Nigeria and some other unfriendly culture are living on the down-low; they have very public marriages, consummated with issue and yet find the greater sexual satisfaction in the arms of others of the same sex.
Laws and sanctions are not going to change the nature of man, the matter will be driven underground and become even more insidious. A society cannot forever ignore what it is composed of, that is, it will always be a representation of the broad spectrum of humanity, whether accepted or not.
After six years of marriage, the wife having failed in her silly quest to convert her husband into a single-minded heterosexual, divorce proceedings were instituted where the wife has allegedly perjured herself suggesting she had no knowledge of her husband’s sexuality before the marriage.
You cannot compete for sexuality
She probably is in for a bigger shock, because her vendetta exposes her to unintended consequences in seeking that her now to be ex-husband to be visited with the full force of that odious Nigerian anti-gay law. Kenny Badmus’ status carried some risk, though with an undetectable viral load, this might well have been minimal. She really should move on from this episode in her life than ruin it altogether with the fury of a woman scorned. [NAM AIDSMap]
The competition in the sexuality stakes is just too high, it is one thing for a woman to compete against another woman for a man’s sexual affections, it is a completely different thing for a woman to compete against another man for a man with sexual affections for men too, it works the other way too and it is a battle lost long before it has even started.
Live the truth of your life
A number of things can be learnt from Kenny Badmus’ story and I hope it helps many young Nigerian men and women struggling with their sexuality and being forced by societal pressures to contract marriages they do not have their hearts in.
First, is what Kenny Badmus learnt from his own father, “Die for your own truth, even if it's unpopular, but don't harm others with it.” More pertinently, I will say, live, live for your own truth, whatever the cost.
I hear of many desperate young Nigerians at the point of committing suicide just because of struggles with their sexuality, it ought not be so and I hope Kenny Badmus’ story offers some hope, stormy as the consequences have become, that storm will blow away for the calm.
Live a full life
The pressure to marry will always be great but you are never going to ‘sex’ away your sexuality, if a marriage is entered into with this lingering issue, the blow-back can be unexpectedly nasty. Kenny Badmus had to face the public spectacle and the shame apart from having to reinvent himself as his business contacts fell away after the revelations.
Being HIV-positive is NOT a death sentence, get tested and get on medication that can keep you healthy such that you can literally live a full life; do not suffer in silence.
More importantly, find an understanding support group that can help you through the hardest times, the coming out of Kenny Badmus strengthens him positively, he cannot now be blackmailed for his sexuality, he is free to be who he is, because he has fully accepted who he is.
Accept yourself and live life well
We all have that life’s journey, the journey of acceptance, from the denial of who we are, hoping we were something else, the depression that accompanies the incapacity to change what we have no control over, the anger of things past and present seeding in resentment and bitterness, eating away our innards, the bargaining that comes with rash vows we cannot keep, but the release that comes with acceptance of our humanity, our weaknesses and sexuality is the beginning of a new life. [Kubler-Ross model on the stages of grief.]
And like Kenny Badmus, we can begin to be really proud of who we really are, whatever that might be. We are all, if you allow it, God’s own children, gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, transsexual and inter-sexual, we are born of fellow human beings and surely this should not be the determinant of character or how we are allowed to thrive in this wonderful world.
Thank you, Kenny Badmus, for coming out and coming out wonderfully.

Happy Birthday, Kola

I sent him a birthday card, but it was not big enough to write all I had to say, besides, my writing after so many decades of tapping away at keyboards is literally illegible, so I have decided to put my birthday greeting on a blog.
Happy Birthday, Kola
My very best friend is quiet, unassuming and keeps in the shadows, yet he is probably one of the most influential men in my life.
Our communication is sometimes unspoken but very effective, we understand each other too well; it is quite funny.
Steadfast and sure through the good times and the bad times, he can read my heart and my mind in my writing, much as I can call him about anything that just bothers me, from the trivial to the serious.
He sees through me like no one I know can, he honours me much beyond what I deserve and he loves me unconditionally.
You should hear some of our conversations on the phone, we can so disagree with each on issues and opinions and still laugh it all off in the end, it is a bond that has stood the test of time.
It is just three weeks between our birthdays, no, he does not like talking about his age, but this is a landmark year that I have to acknowledge, whether he likes it or not.
A man who despite adversity early in life has one of the deepest wells of knowledge, has lived on four continents, experienced cultures so diverse, he is veritably a world citizen.
His quiet disposition should not be mistaken for powerlessness, his wealth of wisdom and consuming compassion is one that endears him to many in places high and low. He is just an all-round wonderful chap.
On this landmark birthday, I wish him the very best; love, wonder and adventure beyond his wildest dreams, the fulfilment of desire well above anything he has ever anticipated or planned for and blessings that overwhelm him with complete speechlessness.
Happy Birthday, Kola, many happy returns, never forget the pursuit of happiness and never lose your sense of youth and adventure. Thank you very much for being my friend.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

#JeSuisCharlie: Time to go after the extremists completely

No excuses
It was with utter shock at lunchtime that I saw the news on the canteen television set that 12 people had been murdered on the premises of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
Nothing in my view could excuse the blood-letting carnage meted out by murderous brigands in the name of some belief system or religion.
Satire is a wonderful tool and sophisticated medium of expression to carry interesting, difficult, complex or controversial thought to a reading or listening public, it is to make people think and reflect, never is it to inspire barbarity and atrocious behaviour leading to murder.
Undermining their cause
The three cowardly and masked criminals who shot up the place and left as they were heard shouting "we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic ("Allahu Akbar"), have done a great damage to any cause they portend to represent.
To suggest they were avenging the prophet is to promote the view that beyond the mystique, the mystery and sometimes the myth, the so-called prophet is weak, powerless, fitful and ineffectual. This can never be the case if the teachings of the prophet have thrived for over 14 centuries.
God is no doubt great, but this is not how to project the greatness of God, by spilling blood on the streets in the quest for their own personal sense of justice.
Lawless brigands
It makes you wonder, who appointed these butchering criminals judge and jury to run riot with weapons taking any life they see fit because they were seemingly offended?
In this day and age, we cannot allow people to overrun civil society bringing carnage amongst us and then running into some hiding place seeking refuge from justice. Cowards!
What damage these people have wrought in the name of Islam is beyond reckoning, and much as they are not representative of Islam per se, this act of unmitigated violence will give the movement that appreciates Islamophobia more fuel and support.
Damage to religion
Suffice it to say that the people who do the most damage to religion are those who through their actions in support of their beliefs are both unreasonable and extremist.
People whose perspective of life strips humanity of any expression beyond one of subservience to a deity that is cruel, merciless and humourless, yet, if we are to lose the richness of satire and humour to the feeble religious sensibilities of fanatics, we deserve no liberty nor freedom.
We must protect our liberty, our freedom, our expression and our wonderful humanity from these sort of people by chasing them and their sponsors; the acquiescent, the committed and those who give succour to the ends of the earth, bringing them to face the full wrath of the law.
Much as we have civilised ourselves beyond the routine shedding of blood, we must deprive these people of their liberty that no one else comes to harm by their words, thoughts or deeds.
Snakes in the backyard
We can no more pussyfoot around religious extremism, it has to be tackled head on and brought to heel, as every terrorist does not belong on our streets for more than an overly generous second.
It is like what Hillary Clinton said about tolerating terrorism in whatever form, “It's like that old story - you can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.
That is what we do when those with a tendency to terrorist activity are allowed to remain free because of our fear of engaging them and eradicating whatever the radicalisation or philosophy is.
Whose picture is it, really?
Then we need to deal with the issue of depictions, nobody knows what any of the original religious leaders looks like, it is quite beyond belief that anyone would then think a depiction is a representation. Like every picture of a white man with blonde long hair wearing a white robe is Jesus Christ, or every picture of a man with dark hair, a big beard and a wearing a turban is Mohammed.
How we can be so convinced of what we do not know to so act as if it were a personal living experience makes the hold of religion on some people feel more cultist than devotional. This is where people not so grounded in the richness of their faith and belief systems get so easily offended by completely innocuous things.
Can we have come through centuries of repression, persecution, wars and emancipating to then end up in the 21st Century looking like the Dark Ages? It ought not be so.
Protecting our expression
No one can so suddenly be so religious to begin to personify the original prophets and instigators of the belief systems we now hold dear, from whatever persuasions and anything that attempts to create and nurture people with that kind of mind-set needs to be nipped in bud.
Back to Charlie Hebdo, I am saddened and perturbed by this tragedy, but for the victims of this tragedy not to have died in vain, we must continue the discourse in the richness of satire and humour, whilst condemning those who have decided to forfeit this wonderful gift of human expression for murderous instincts.
Justice will prevail, peace will rein and may the beauty of human expression on any topic we so desire to reflect upon never wane.
May all those who lost their lives in this unfortunate tragedy, rest in peace.

Thought Picnic: Wondering about life

Desirous of something
Sometimes, you wonder about life, the choices, the options, the opportunities, the fears and the desires. Many things that make you think and think again about whether life is as eventful and fulfilling as one will want it or not at all.
Desire seems to take the fore when there is a yearning for some sort of companionship, the desire to have someone to share experiences with as is the fear of being alone.
You sometimes strive for it and at other times you are frustrated out of it unsure of which tactic is the right one, because what works for others might well not work for you.
Love to get
The quest for love is a trying process and knowing that one opportunity was lost because we were not daring or bold enough to take the bigger risks for long-term gain, you are sometimes beaten down for failing to capitalise on what was within grasp.
Choices come from things you have or things that are presented to you as options, what you choose might lead to exploiting opportunity or it might be an end.
Opportunity offers the prospect of uncharted waters, maybe new experiences and probably adventure. The hope is that one is not too old in body and mind to chart an adventurous course that brings new meaning to life and existence.
Banish the fears
We cannot however be governed by our fears, either real or imagined, for fear constrain us and imprison us the cocoon of the familiar and comfortable which for a moment might be convenient, but in the long run, we lose out on the better things beyond the façade of uncertainty.
We need to reach, reach out, reach beyond, reach for and breach the limitations that leave us incomplete and unfulfilled in the many things that bring happiness, fun and love.
Sometimes, you wonder about life, how you really could make it better.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Double life: Denials creating a first time every time

Learned to perfection
Society sometimes helps model people into quite interesting and unique individuals with somewhat common traits. I have observed this in people with fantasies, maybe dreams or daring ambitions.
The secretiveness that governs the quest should be a case for study; it might well have been studied, who knows?
They come across as knowledgeable of what they want having relived the fantasy so many times, it has become experiential as to be performed as rote.
First time every time
Having satisfied that fantasy, the truth then emanates that it is really just the first time and then a torrent of denials follow.
First about whom they are and how their deviation of the public façade they present is an anomaly, then about their fears about being discovered calls for utter discretion.
This is quite duplicitous and probably dishonest too, the secret double-lives puts all interactions at varying levels of risk as the protagonist finds an accommodation that balances quest and guilt with managed daring and pangs of conscience.
The art of denial
Using the device of denial, they deign to wipe the slate clean every time that each real repetition of the fantasy is projected as a novice who just seems to have the deft hand of the expert. Denial has become an art form, practiced with all the necessary safeguards to prevent the Jekyll and Hyde lives in the same person from visiting each other.
At which point you begin to wonder, who you can believe and who has created a world of make-belief, therein lies the erosion in trust of strangers with fantasies.