Sunday 29 November 2015

Nigeria: Time to bring accountability to sexual assault in all forms

Let’s talk about sexual assault
Two very notable and important stories appeared in recent weeks and pertained to accountability coming to men who had either been accused of or indicted of acts of sexual assault. The men concerned due to recent events were about to assume high political or academic office and it is my hope that neither do, as a sign that we are beginning to recognise that sexual assault in whatever guise is unacceptable and punishable too.
I did not comment much on any of the cases in particular, but I had decided to write about that one that did not hit social media like a storm, eliciting commentary from all and sundry, reflecting how society still finds itself scandalised to the point of silence, acquiescence and the acceptance of sexual assault as the norm.
Not knowing how to begin the blog for days, I let the idea percolate in my mind until this morning when through a direct message on Twitter, I was asked my views about the rape story and the following messages formed my impressions of the matter.
Expressing an opinion
I am more interested in the UniUyo sexual assault one which I have been trying to write about, but in a few tweets yesterday, I expressed my frustration with how victims are victimised many times over if they share their ordeal.
I believe a young girl was taken advantage of by people who had an entitlement to impunity and the audacity never to be made accountable because of their status and how society protects them from sanction.
I guess my blog has begun.
To the comment that the current case was confusing, I responded.
I am not confused at all. Consent has a wide spectrum just as rape does. A student can consent to sex with a lecturer under duress with the threat of failure, whilst the student willingly engaged in the act, the method of obtaining consent comes into question. In my view, an act in the rape spectrum has occurred whilst the law terms it sexual harassment.
With power and influence the poor girl was trapped in a situation she had no control over, she was already on a slippery slope to sexual assault the moment she encountered dishonourable men and they took advantage of her naïveté to satisfy their lusts.
That this what I have to say in general about the case that has consumed social media as I begin to discuss the one pertaining to the University of Uyo.
This abuse of power was egregious
I was interested in the University of Uyo sexual assault case because, the man at the centre of the issue is now the prospective vice chancellor and the outgoing vice chancellor, Comfort Ekpo has asked for this appointment to be suspended until the matters at issue are properly resolved.
As it transpired, Enefiok Essien allegedly demanded sexual favours of Linda Onyebuchi Essell who was accused of examination malpractice by the then Mr Essien who is now a professor in 1995. However, it appears Mr Essien might have gotten his way at some time and then threatened to ruin Ms Essell’s academic career if she did not accede to his proclivities.
Invariably, having manipulated the university system against Ms Essell and the courts found that he was involved in utterly reprehensible and disreputable conduct, having stood as accuser, judge, jury and executioner leading to Ms Essell’s expulsion from the university in 1997, one must commend Ms Essell for fighting her case through the courts to win at the Federal High Curt and the Court of Appeal in 2005.
Does anything matter here?
Her victory set aside her expulsion and she eventually went on to complete her degree at the same university, but the court also found and indicted Mr Essien for forgery and sexual assault. It is staggering that a man with such as reputation slur should have remained in academia, been promoted through the system as a professor of commercial law and had become the dean of the faculty of law at the University of Uyo.
It is either both reputations and indictments count for nothing or victims of sexual assault, no matter how egregious especially when it also involves the abuse of authority, power and office are irrelevant in the scheme of things.
Either way, it is astounding that any man accused of forgery by the indictment of a high court, even if he was presumably absent in the UK working on his Ph.D. will be considered for higher office on the one hand and that he on returning to Nigeria will do nothing to clear his name.
This smacks of complicit ineptitude
Professor Kimse Okoko who is the pro-chancellor of the university and headed the committee that appointed Professor Essien the prospective vice chancellor of the university says he only received notice of the standing indictment after the appointment was made, which really beggars belief, because the university and Mr Essien were co-respondents in the cases brought by Ms Essell, and it was the university that took the case to appeal where they lost again and had to rescind their decision to expel Ms Essell.
Now, either the university is completely lax in record keeping that suggest a reputation-shaping case just 10 years ago was forgotten or they like society had acquiesced to the view that the powerful and prominent are never answerable for sexual assault criminality that they must be excused and the victims further victimised by further approbation and vindication of perpetrators of sexual assault.
Is there any justice in this world?
In a just world, Professor Enefiok Essien should not only be dismissed on the basis of that indictment of 2005, he should be stripped of all honours and then made to face the courts for his alleged dishonesty, abuse of process and sexual assault which I might be persuaded to belief did not just involve Ms Essell.
If Professor Essien does become the vice chancellor of the University of Uyo on the 1st of December 2015, it would be a travesty and the battle that many victims of sexual assault fight to get justice would have been setback seriously, rubbished and lost.
For the very first time, let society speak up for the victim and speak loud and clear that there is no statute of limitation for making anybody accountable for sexual assault, no matter where that person is placed in society and what time has passed since the event happen. There is no statute of limitation of the lifelong damage that is done to the body and the soul of a person violated sexually, neither should there be one for calling the perpetrator to account.
I hope she is doing well
Finally, all the laurels must go to Linda Onyebuchi Essell who challenged the pre-eminence of a system that is rarely made to account for its accounts in a country where the pursuit of justice comes at a high and almost unaffordable price to the many. I hope she is doing well and I hope her fight for justice will not only be recognised, but commended by more.
The least of all in recognition of her should be that Professor Essien is never inaugurated as the vice chancellor of the University of Uyo.

South Africa: From Sandton to Melrose Arch through Sandton

In any case
There is a more important blog I wanted to write that I have been ruminating over for days already and have not been able to write the first word of a sentence, yet it is working and forming in my mind as it is not ready to be birthed and given the light of expression.
On a lighter note, however, I hailed an Uber ride from my hotel to Melrose Arch, the driver decided to take the back roads through Sandton and it was quite revealing.
I would have loved to take pictures, but this might have been considered a security risk and probably endangered my life before I was given the opportunity to explain my interest.
Prisons of defence
Whilst I find the security at my hotel a bit superfluous and cumbersome because it requires all drivers of vehicles into the grounds sign in apart from the fact that gates are manned and have barriers, what obtains in residential Sandton is quite enhanced.
Literally all compounds have high walls topped with barbed wire fenced that I believe is also electrified. To my English mind, the affluent literally lived in the equivalent of prisons, if not fearful, at least, concerned about the world beyond their walls that is violent and so far removed from wealth and access to opportunity.
The walls themselves are architectural pieces and there are some notices that suggest that there are armed response units ready to tackle any trespassers.
Overwrought oasis
On arriving at this apparently exciting Melrose Arch that exudes affluence so alien to the generality of South Africa served by many from the townships spruced up to slave in genuflection to the presumably sophisticated or nouveau riche, it looked very much like an oasis in a vast desert, the appearance of Melrose Arch from the motorway read true in reality.
I first stopped at Sunglass Hut where I asked for lens cleaners having forgotten to pack any for my journey and the store assistant quickly offered a luxury case with a refillable spray cleaner, a washable ‘Microfiber’ cloth and a jeweller’s screwdriver. Meanwhile, he offered to clean my glasses.
When it came to paying for the goods, he could not operate the till, and after fumbling for minutes, he called his boss who was out of the shop on some business and he immediately appeared to sort things out. Why Sunglass Hut needs to have a mobile phone number to conclude a transaction escapes me, and if not because I felt a bit amenable since I was paying cash, I would not have parted with any information about me.
Cavalier cravats and more
My view was almost coloured by this experience until I was accosted further on by some affable gentlemen who looked rather dandier than I was. They run the Cavalier gentlemen’s fitters shop where for once they seemed to have everything that exuded class, taste and sophistication.
They had seen me walk by and came out to compliment my dressing and even averred that they have never seen someone as smartly dressed as I come by their shop before. They had me when they said they also had day cravats. This considering that last time I asked for cravats in Sandton, I was presented with a Velcro-fastened bib. The horror.
The variety of colours and quality of the stuff, I could not resist, yet I restrained myself, I left with two beautiful cravats, and to their recommendation of getting matching pocket squares, I intimated them of the fashion faux pas of matching pocket squares to ties, it should never be done.
Yet, I did like the way they wore their pocket squares, much like a blooming origami rose, I should have asked to be shown how to do that. I might well be inclined to have a bespoke Savile Row suit made for South African prices made for me. We’ll see.
After shopping at Woolworths a brand that looks a bit classy in South Africa though long since extinct in the UK and probably never really related to the one that once rules the shopping precincts of the UK, I hail an Uber ride back to my hotel having learnt again of the great disparities that ail South Africa.
Postscript: I have since learnt Woolworths of South Africa is modelled after Marks and Spencer of the UK and has never been related to the old Woolworth’s brand in the UK.

Friday 27 November 2015

South Africa: Uber despite the annoyances

Uber knows
Being in a strange city or a foreign country, apart from airport shuttles to my hotel, I have been quite confident to use the Uber taxi service to get around town.
In Johannesburg where places could be so obscure, and some addresses are at best a guess rather than a precise location, that relying on the Uber navigation aids is very useful.
However, whilst reviewing some of my journeys to and from our offices dotted around Johannesburg and the suburbs, I could not help but think I was being taken for a ride in some sort of disadvantageous collusion between Uber and the driver against me.
Uber throes
Some journeys just seemed to be twice as long in the distance without really making up for time or missing the traffic and with that an unexpected tour of the periphery of Johannesburg, the cost, no doubt outrageous.
It got to a head that I had to register a complaint with Uber about my trips, because to my mind I was being unfairly taken advantage of, either through design, some Machiavellian scheme or the quirks of technology having a mind of its own. My complaint:
I am unhappy that on a number of journeys between Randburg and Sandton, I am taken on unnecessarily long journeys via the freeway doubling the distance that would have been covered without the need for a bypass especially when there is light traffic going into Sandton.
The idea that the distance from Randburg/North Riding to Sandton should be 33km is outrageous and a total rip-off.
One would have expected Uber to provide options of the shortest and probably the most optimal journeys rather than defaulting to the longest possible marathon coverable between 2 points in Johannesburg.
I have no problems with the drivers, but between Uber and the guidance offered by your navigation systems, this customer relationship is not only badly served, but seriously fleeced too.
Please do not spam my mail box with requests for comment, just sort this matter out.
Thank you.
Uber blows
Uber eventually apologised and offered a ZAR 50 compensation that was deducted from my next journey and whilst it appears things have been a bit better, it does not half ameliorate the fact that I have been well and truly rogered and ultimately fleeced.
The additional annoyance is that for every comment I leave, I get more spam from Uber asking me to comment on my comments, I really do not have the time for more small talk, just have the service delivered with professionalism and consideration.
I guess one other thing that will not go amiss on the Uber app is giving me the list of my most recent locations and destinations as well as not generalising street names when there is a possibility that there are many occurrences of that street name in the same city.
Uber glows
On such event was where there were two Industrial Roads in Johannesburg, the one we first arrived at was not right and in one morning I had a 66-kilometre ride on Uber for what should never have been more than 18 kilometres just because I trusted Uber to know better than I did about where I was going.
Besides all this, I will still happily use Uber, even if drivers end up on the wrong side of the road and I have to hobble across the wide and dangerous Johannesburg roads, cane in hand to join my ride.
For better for worse, Uber is here to stay, it, however, should get better at precision, direction, instruction and value.

Monday 23 November 2015

Nigeria: Let us include the rite of the autopsy in the burying of the dead

Speculation was rife
The apparently sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu who was more or less on the cusp of a gubernatorial victory has elicited much commentary on social media.
When the news of his death as we were awaiting the announcement of the electoral results first emerged, I was persuaded to overlook the breaking news and curb my curiosity for the frenzy to dissipate enough for the facts and the truth to emerge.
The only truth that has emerged from this tragic tale is that he is deceased and has been interred according to Islamic rites, everything else with regards to manner of death, cause of death and other extenuating factors has been a matter of accusation, supposition, speculation, conjecture, suggestion, rumour, innuendo and fable. This list is hardly exhaustive.
Nothing really was known
I cannot attribute anything, but in all the reports I have read, there has been mention of cardiac arrest, stroke, poisoning, paranormal activity, voodoo and all sorts of silliness. None of this helps the matter at all.
For all the enlightenment we have acquired, we tend to heighten our superstitious predilections at times of birth, at marriages and at death, even if our general lives are hardly lived in any recognised adherence to faith or religion and the tenets the books require us to espouse to be model examples of our belief systems to our common humanity.
Now, I have no medical training, but the most recent pictures of the man depicted an unhealthy pallor, very much like that of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua when he ailed with nephrological complications that led to his demise.
Besides looking overweight and other deleterious conditions that might evolve from that, it is very likely that there is a clear-cut medical condition that resulted in the man’s death.
Bound to ages gone
Yet, as we live in the 21st Century, our lives and livelihoods are majorly trumped by belief systems, traditions and cultures that have not evolved for many quincentenaries, that we fail to benefit from the knowledge, logic, reason and developments that have brought humanity to the amazing modernity and comforts of the present times.
One such area we fail to deploy at death is medical examination and autopsies, the advances in modern medicine can in most cases determine the cause of death, not only to put beyond doubt the rife speculations that surround a sudden death, but such knowledge in either a minor or major way can also help the living.
Knowledge from deaths
In cases of cancer, it might cause survivors to check if they might be susceptible to the same  type of cancer especially if there is a genetic predisposition to it. It might aid medical science in know what to look for if anyone presents symptoms that might lead to complications. This is a valuable knowledge that goes beyond the individual and the present tragedy to the greater good of humanity.
Part of what has given medicine the tools to treat many ailments has come from the study of the dead and much as it has from observation of the living. It is sad that one only has to leaf through the pages of a Nigerian newspaper to read obituaries of many of died of a brief illness. The brief illness is a catch-all term that covers everything from a fatal asthma attack, through epileptic fits to cancer discovered so late that nothing could be done beyond providing palliative hospice care.
Bringing reason to belief
Whilst there is nothing wrong with being religious, we allow religiosity to becloud both judgement and reason. In the absence of a modicum of reasonableness compounded by grief and loss, we accentuate a fanatical tendency to fatalism, providence and destiny allowing the burning questions to remain unanswered in submission to the primordial where ignorance becomes the cradle of bliss and succour.
Whether, there is a soul or not, once the force that animates and enlivens the body is gone, we have just a body in the process of decay and disintegration. We must respect the memory of the person departed and treat the body of the said departed with dignity, but there is no rule created in anticipation of the modern times that prevents gaining knowledge from an autopsy.
The rite of the autopsy
In times past, there were probably no means of preserving the dead, the Egyptians of old used mummification and embalmment for their pharaohs, other cultures found burial, cremation or some other means of disposing of their dead. Yet, we attach ourselves to age-old customs at our convenience when at other times we desperately avail ourselves of the benefits of medical science.
We need to rethink this clash of options and the time has come to include the autopsy in the burial rites and have civil law demand that where cause of death is inconclusive or death is sudden, internment will not proceed before medical examination, else the body will be exhumed for final determination.

Sunday 22 November 2015

South Africa: Chance encounters of the uncouth kind

Chance encounters
As a lone traveller and guest in a hotel, I would normally go down to the restaurant with some reading material, usually a magazine. However, I might be fortunate enough to meet another guest and strike up a conversation.
However, at breakfast yesterday morning, having placed my magazine on a table and gone to make tea, another guest took up the table to the right of mine, seeing the magazine, picked it up, had a brief look and put it back.
Not a likeable person
When I returned to my table, I said hello and before we could commence a conversation, an acquaintance of his passed by and they disputed about some matter that required the other person send him an email since the day before which he did not and the exchange degenerated into belittling him and calling the other man ‘full of shit’.
From there, he descended to stereotyping black people as unreasonable and unreliable, that he had never met a black man that either delivered or kept his word. Addressing me, he asked why black men were always like this.
I answered, back saying he should expand his circle of acquaintances because my job is primarily based on delivering on projects apart from the fact that I always keep to time. I then attempted to educate him on cultural differences between the West and other places where time is based on season and convenience rather than on strict adherence to the hour and minute hands of the clock.
Tempering bad sentiment
He should know by doing business in Africa, the cultural differences and adapt to it. At which point he said, he knew two black people who were quite impressive in their attitude to agreements and time before letting on that he had a meeting with a number of white people that should have started hours ago, but they had not yet arrived. I guess that just affirmed the point I made earlier about the issue of the cultural issues of adherence to agreements and time.
The conversation moved on to other things as he observed that I had a Wiko phone which was a competitor to a phone that he had exclusive rights to distribute in South Africa. He was garrulous and in many ways uncouth, the kind of Englishman that irritates abroad with a sense of superiority that needs to be challenged.
A working class oaf pretending to standards and class abroad when at home the only things he might have plenty of will be the gift of the garb, money and the same shit he said black people have. When he learnt I am English too, he toned down his nonsense, I was saved much of additional tripe when another of his ilk appeared and their banter assume a tone best left out of hearing.
They disparage in packs
Later on, I went out socialising in some drearily dark scary part of Johannesburg that I doubt I will return to again. My arranged taxi ride back to my hotel was not available, so the club recommended an alternative service.
As I got my jacket, a group of four men arrived and the mouthiest of the lot saw me and made a rather disparaging remark about me in a language, they all thought I did not understand.
They continued in their banter of sighting people and finding something uncomplimentary to say about them as I watched and smiled before I said in that same language they thought I did not speak that ‘I have travelled the whole world and now I have come to meet Yoruba folk here.’
The shock and horror of realising that their bad attitude was observed and understood was interesting to watch as they made to apologise. It did not matter, I have seen this kind of behaviour many times before amongst the Yoruba and this might be because I do understand the language, and it might well be prevalent in any other ethnic group that believes they cannot be overhead or understood.
There’s always a better way
Yet, the other prejudicial part of this kind of behaviour is a kind of prissy superiority complex that thrives of disparaging and belittling others in order to feel good within oneself. It suggests a low self-esteem with a tendency to bullying others if the opportunity arises.
Genuinely, self-assured people with confidence rarely have the time to belittle others when more can be gained by helping others be better expressions of themselves. Even if there is much opportunity to insult or abuse, there is a better path if one can find encourage, praise and good advice to give.
However, in the two cases above, entrenched preconceptions close the mind to new experiences, stereotypes colour the view and deny the person the wholesome experience of seeing people as uniquely individual even if they easily fit into a group.
In South Africa, many of these elements of prejudice and cultural adjustment show, people lazily belong to group and class, then someone with a completely different cultural outlook and perspective upsets the accepted norms by not subscribing to the stereotype. It can make for interesting conversation and I have had a few of those.

Saturday 21 November 2015

South Africa: Hotel life at first glimpse

A wary European
It is quite unusual not to have written about my hotel life, maybe because there hasn’t been much of an event to make of things.
I did say that when the airport shuttle came to pick me up at the airport, they had mangled my name, this was after the lady I called heard me spell my name twice and she read out the letters of my name and my phone number for confirmation.
It is, however, possible that in relaying the message to the cab company, some of the message was lost in translation. The driver from the airport was quite affable and friendly, he offered to do all sorts of things, get me a SIM card, give me a tour of Johannesburg, be a stand-by chauffeur and so many other things. I think the wary European in me slightly uncomfortable at the familiarity that borders on inveigling into my life just decided, whilst he was being helpful, I just did not need to be helped that much.
It is tolerable enough
I had to wait almost 90 minutes for a room to be ready for me to occupy, it gave the impression that the hotel has a high occupancy percentage though I was a bit sceptical about that. When I booked the hotel, I saw there were charges for early check-ins and there were for late checkouts.
The room was a slight disappointment at first and I cannot understand how when a manager sees a customer about to spend 3 weeks in their establishment, they dump you in a room as if you are passing through a motel. No views, no air, no welcome home feel.
It had a twin bed, immediately, I remonstrated and the bellboy called reception to have the problem fixed. At least I was told I would be called, I never got called.
Change, it must
After two nights in the room, which also did not have a fridge and the middle-of-the-night parting of beds which had me on the verge of repeating my coconut days of falling out of bed when I was 5, I went to the reception and asked for my room to be changed.
On returning from work, I immediately asked if my request was granted and I was moved 4 rooms up the corridor were a king-size bed and fridge had been installed. With the rooms being in close proximity, I really did not need help to move my stuff. That was done in about 15 minutes and I settled into my new room which was laterally opposite to the one I left.
All teas abound
To forestall the near disaster I had at breakfast when I was at another hotel in Johannesburg, I determined to carry my supply of Earl Grey tea over from the UK. All that I forgot to pack into my bags, but the situation was saved at the duty-free shops where they stocked Fortnum & Mason’s Classic Earl Grey tea.
Then, at breakfast, I needn’t have bothered, they had some many teas to choose from and Earl Grey tea was just as prominent. I have only been to dinner once, the food was alright.
I guess I could endure the absence of more comforts at this hotel, it is, however, not bad for a 4-star hotel.

Thursday 19 November 2015

South Africa: The bread and the spread

A communion in disparate communities
There was a time when everyone broke the bread, even though the larger part of the loaf went to the few as freshly baked and the leftover part of the loaf that went to the most was stale and barely edible.
Yet, the many were hungry and made do with the piece of bread they got whilst asking for more of the loaf and a having it fresh too.
Besides that unequal sharing of the loaf, the few that had the fresh loaf also had butter and jam to spread on their slices of bread, it was a good life for them.
The thinner spread of yummy
Then there came a more equitable sharing of the loaf, not necessarily equal, not by any stretch of the imagination, however, there was no increase in the jam and butter spread, this meant that for every slice of bread there was a thinner spread and less of a satisfactory bite for all.
Yet, to compare the confectioners before equity to those after would be to miss the point that more jam had to be made and more butter churned to give a healthier spread to all.
The scale of the problem then
That, in a nutshell, is the story of South Africa in the Apartheid times when infrastructure and services were built to serve the minority and then post-Apartheid the same infrastructure was to stretch to serve all.
It has meant the black majority government has been met with challenges of inheriting working infrastructure and scaling that up with the same standard to serve all South Africans. However, this knowledge and plausible excuse can only go on for so long, we are 21 years into black majority rule and the need for seriously noticeable change for the better for the majority cannot be overlooked.
The time for excuses is fast ending
The need for greater accountability of the leadership that has taken the larger racial constituency for granted is more pressing than ever, the opposition also needs to up their game and begin to present themselves as a real and viable alternative for leadership, government, progress and development.
South Africa has both promise and potential, it needs to touch the seemingly inconsequential that for whatever reason lives from hand to mouth, whose future only appears to extend to the next minute and it would be ambitious to see beyond the next hour.
We cannot avoid it
Those realities cannot be ignored, as we cocoon ourselves in the prosperous areas, we have to traverse the pathways between the conurbations of the privileged where we see a grimmer reality and the temptation to say, South Africa is not working for the majority.
That is the lesson I learnt from my fellow passenger as I was flying from Paris to Johannesburg.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

South Africa: Unplanned and unsettled

Upsetting all plans
I guess I can say that I was literally rushed off my feet with regards to my second visit to South Africa. It meant the many other activities I had planned to be part of in the UK fell by the wayside and was quite unfortunate.
I had not expected that anyone will make up their minds about this visit, this side of Christmas, I was just so messed around last year that it took over 6 months from conception to decision, I really should have presented a clear ultimatum as to when a decision had to be made before all bets were off.
The only red line I was not going to cross was to be in South Africa beyond the second weekend of December, I want to have my 50th birthday amongst friends at home.
Little time to plan
I only really got to pack my bags a few hours before my flight, for an absence that would be over 3 weeks, there was so much going on at work, a delivery I was expecting did not arrive at two arranged times that I had to go the depot through football traffic to collect my order before racing down to London and back again.
There was also the small matter of a booster vaccine, everything taken together, there wasn’t much time to relax and plan, I had become an automaton of circumstances around me.
Get with the plan
My flight was via Paris and as I made to board my flight in Paris, I presented my boarding pass to the ground crew having joined the priority queue because by loyalty status and choice of ticket, I was eligible. Rather than view the boarding pass, she suggested I might be in the wrong queue, I did not bother to react, I let her review the boarding pass before giving her a withering look that ended in a smile.
The last time I was on the Paris – Johannesburg leg of my journey on the Airbus A380, I was sat beside a Motswana, what was the coincidence that I will be sat beside – well, I was this time beside a South African who was on holiday in Paris when the terrorist attacks took place last Friday. He wasn’t as engaging as the Motswana.
Humouring the plan
The flight was smooth and at one time as I returned from a toilet break, there was some turbulence and the air steward was already insisting I fasten my seat belt, long before I had settled down. It made me wonder as I was in the toilet when we hit turbulence whether it would not be sensible to have seatbelts in the toilet too.
Coming out at the airport, at my first pass, I did not see the airport shuttle to the hotel, I then attempted a second pass and there was sign where two letters had been dropped from my name. Mr AKINYO, it read. I could only shake my head at the humour of my second welcome to South Africa.

Friday 13 November 2015

Nigeria: Where we chew hungrily on the bones of our children

They never disappear entirely
Words spoken and heard by others might well travel far, however, what fascinates me is when astronomers say that can still read the echoes of the beginning of time. More so, is the fact that some stars we see today might well have expired, but the light from those stars having travelled lightyears has only just reached us.
So, imagine my surprise when yesterday someone retweeted a tweet I posted 1,065 days ago on the 12th of December 2012. The Internet has become like space, constantly expanding and extending to almost limitless reaches beyond the purvey of the originators of the published content, like a star whose light persists long after it has perished.
A hard summary of Nigeria
Yet, in its oldness was a new freshness, it was retweeted by others many times over again, maybe a testament to the fact that if some thought is put into a tweet, it will probably resonate with others.

Much as there has been a political change in the country, the real effects of the change are yet to be felt, the new government has been slow in starting and whilst the change is as good as any, especially from the outrageous kakistocrats that held the nation in an unconscionable grip of nepotism, obsequiousness, corruption, impunity and squander, things are very much the same.
Without belabouring the point
The #ChibokGirls are still in captive with the menacing #BokoHaram, we still have about 10.5 million children are not in school and facing a rather bleak future. That is not to talk of children victimised and brutalised by spiritualists and other kinds of reprehensible abusers.
It is still a struggle to start up anything viable from businesses to any kind of project and keep it going, employees are abused and exploited into complete helplessness against the tyranny of their employers, kidnapping for a ransom is sadly becoming a thriving business venture, the thieves might well be arraigned, but they have gummed up the system willing incomprehensible victories in the courts.
Besides, if you can show enough ostentation even from suspicious and unaudited sources of wealth, you will probably be worthy of emulation and be the people’s darling, the idea of being modest is literally excoriated and well, forget about justice or fairness, the system is weighed in favour of the powerful, the moneyed, the well-connected and those who can troop the best lawyers into court to intimidate the bench.
We do clamour for some change for the better, but it is still much a dream than a foreseeable reality, for now.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

South Africa: Again?

All going south
Just this morning after the regular telephone conference which is never without event and surprise, I sprang out of my seat and saunter across the aisle to announce to my colleagues the newest development.
Our project had reached an impasse and with all the problems we were having, the business was ready to can the whole deal, 22 months of my work about to go up the swanny.
To say I foresaw these long ago will be to boast, but email after email presents an audit trail of insight and understanding garnered over almost 30 years in the field, but generally Project Managers know best until fiction meet reality in a collision that will make the Big Bang a simple puff of smoke.
It was forgettable enough
We had ventured that I will be needed in South Africa to confirm my obsolescence to the project by my handing over the engineering environment to the local support teams. I am already used to being important at the start of a project and then being expendable after I have created a working solution.
Any freelance consultant will be used to this kind of cycle and I have been doing this for 20 years. Whilst they were counting the pennies about whether I was needed or not in South Africa, I had already concluded that nothing will come of it, if ever, and not on this side of Christmas.
A similar desire to have me visit was first mooted in October last year, it took them until May to finally get it sorted, I was not going to put my life on the hold for this, I have not had an annual holiday since September last year.
Wham! What happened?
Then hardly two hours after the telephone conference, I received an email asking me to visit and attend brainstorming sessions in South Africa next week. My line manager, I have many, in fact, there are many lines of management in my purview, I might well be snorting lines of something else to keep informed of who is managing me now.
Yes, my line manager wanted me to be in South Africa on Monday, it could be done and since I do not have that kind of outlay, I could have had someone else fork out a king’s ransom on a golden landau to Johannesburg, but I am a very reasonable man.
I have seen a better deal for the midweek and I have learnt better of getting hotels too and I have forwarded the information to another line manager who holds the purse strings. I will be out to South Africa until the middle of December.
The feats are beats
There is no scope for me to hate my job, the uncertainties, the surprises, the unpredictability and the madhouse order in the perfect chaos of achieving the impossible with the Project Management tools of hope in the midst of hopeless recklessness.
This is where faith is leaping over gullies filled with the imponderables and the incredulity of starved crocodiles half sated at the sight of you attempting the daring-do of death wish – I am overwhelmed with the excitement of constant change and I guess in the scheme of things, it is fun too.
I hope I like South Africa better than the first time.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Spectre: A spectacular demolition derby and the new totalitarianism

Not things I do
There are a number of things I will not attempt to do just because I will find myself utterly inadequate to acquit myself well. Dancing to Michael Jackson or Madonna because they have so out-danced us that one might well look like an embarrassing middle-aged dancer (EMAD) whatever you do to their music. Just imagine yourself trying to moonwalk or vogue – don’t try it.
The other is trying to review a James Bond movie, I just can’t whether by plot, by thrill or by feel, and there is just too much going on and as the thrill puts you at the edge of your seat, the overwhelming willing suspension of disbelief.
I was out of town earlier in the weekend, but I had decided to see the latest in this over five decades old movie franchise on an IMAX screen which takes you sound and vision from just watching the movie into becoming a part of the movie itself.
Thrills and destruction
I got my ticket to watch Spectre in a premium seat with somewhat tasteless sweet popcorn and a Pepsi Cola.
It took a while for the plot to develop, from the scene in Mexico of the Day of the Dead festival that started off with James Bond up to spying antics of listening in, shooting down and eventually creating a greater incident of bringing the building down. At which point I was already gripping my seat and kicking about in syncopated excitement, I did not realise I was kicking the lady sat beside me.
One could be forgiven for thinking Spectre was a Demolition Derby, albeit of buildings, and there were three such massive destructions of buildings, interspersed with three thrilling helicopter episodes with all the conflagration that might ensue, there wasn’t much to the torture scene or the gadgetry whilst the violence was moderate to extreme.
The script itself tried to tie together the historical James Bond adventures and I could not help but notice that Daniel Craig was credited as one of the co-producers.
Without giving too much away, the ending tended towards the romantic and James Bond resisting his killing machine instincts.
We have much to fear
In the subplot where politicians and apparatchiks felt that human assets in intelligence work were now outmoded and to be replaced with information surveillance linking the intelligence gathering networks of nine countries and play on The Five Eyes Intelligence Sharing Network and expanded to Nine Eyes.
With the introduction by the UK Home Secretary of the Draft Communications Data Bill more commonly known as the Snooper’s Charter, I will not be surprised if Spectre does not contain a subliminal message to all of us.
The egregiousness of the political elite to invade every recess of our lives on the premise of we being better protected if they can invade our privacy untrammelled with the view to contriving situations that suggest we are in such grave danger that can only be avoided by our ceding more of our liberties to unlimited surveillance.
Quite a lot to fear indeed
More so, the greater danger here is the extent to which politicians will go to obtain the right to trawl through our lives and with that information being stored somewhere, there are powerful and nefarious agencies or organisations will also do anything to gain a front seat and full access to whatever the government has about us.
This Big Brother situation is one we must never allow to become the law of the land, the inch we have already given the government has grown into lightyears of unfettered access, we are tending to totalitarianism in everything but name in a democracy.
This seam has been exploited in our name and in secret, but for the providence of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden that has forced a modicum of accountability into the discourse as to what we can allow democracies to do, yet the government is hardly giving up anything, rather they want to codify their excesses into law and legitimise this abuse of process.
I liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and waited through the credits before leaving because we must after the entertainment spend a few minutes acknowledge the teams that worked together to create such movies and not wait until the Oscars to discover beyond the actors who did what so well that they have been acknowledged by their peers.
I might watch Spectre again, in the company of friends.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Opinion: Thoughts on the Sharm el-Sheikh situation

A subjective view at first
One cannot help but notice a sense of unfortunate karma in the downing of the Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 – Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula having just taken off from the Sharm el-Sheikh Egyptian tourist resort.
On my hearing of that air crash last week, my mind quickly turned to an earlier to the alleged shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over rebel Ukrainian territory, purported perpetrated with Russian weaponry with the loss of 298 souls.
One somewhat dominant view in this discourse that Russia is much implicated in that unfortunate Ukrainian incident by the way it has supported and aided the rebels, the chickens have now come home to roost in the sad loss of 224 souls in Egypt.
Exploring the situation
Yet, one cannot entirely eliminate the Russian intervention in Syria from the equation in terms of the desire of the Islamic State to avenge the drubbing attacks from Russian air strikes. Then, either by coincidence of sheer numbers, it had it be that it was a Russian airline that was targeted, but we must not ignore the fact that Russians make up about 60% of the tourists that visit Sharm el-Sheikh every year.
Daily as the news comes in, I watch how an unfortunate disaster is being turned into a diplomatic mess. Everyone is now coming to the agreement that a bomb went off on the flight, probably in the cargo hold. It can only have been put there either stealthily in someone’s baggage or some agent of the Islamic State had infiltrated the ground crew and secreted a bomb onto the plane.
Using intelligence without intelligence
The UK apparently intercepted some chatter well after the fact that it might have been a bomb days ago and rather than inform Egypt and Russia at the very least, they unilaterally suspended all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh precipitating a diplomatic crisis just as the President of Egypt was airborne on his way to the UK.
Whilst the price of having intelligence and the knowledge to use it can be valuable, this was one piece of intelligence any fool, talk less of a government should have been willing to share with other governments who in the end would have been saddled with the responsibility of how to deal with that information with regards to the safety of their citizens.
It makes you wonder what the harvesting of communications will achieve as a means to preventing criminality and terrorism if it only really matters for investigatory activities after the crime or terrorist act has happened.
The reprehensible politicisation of our humanity
I find it utterly disgraceful and amateurish that Her Majesty’s Government found political expediency instead of a greater service to humanity in this matter. It goes without saying that the UK government is responsible first for British lives abroad, but it does not make the lives of people of other nationalities any less worthy of given cover and safety to prevent another air disaster brought on by terrorist bombs.
How, the UK dealt with Egypt in unilaterally withdrawing flights is colonial imperialism in the extreme with a clear lack of respect for the government and people of Egypt. That it has not degenerated into a full diplomatic spat is one of providence rather than agency. In these days of modern communication, it would not have been impossible to get word to President Al-Sisi wherever he might be, even if we would not be dissuaded from our intentions.
Can the airport be safe?
However, it brings into the sharp relief the question of security at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, the staff on the ground are poor, poorly paid, corrupt or easily suborned; we have heard of people being fast tracked through security for a fee, there is no telling that there might well be a syndicate given to receiving bribes or inducements to completely short-circuit the security procedures for the convenience of some and invariably someone who intends to have a bomb placed in the cargo hold of a departing aircraft.
It is sad that only a few weeks ago when a friend told me of his booking a very affordable holiday to Sharm el-Sheikh, I opined that it was probably the safest place to go in the Middle East. The resort itself appears to be safe, the problem appears to be at the airport and the security procedures therein.
Egypt’s loss
If Egypt cannot win back the confidence of tourists that visitors can arrive safely and return home without mishap, Sharm el-Sheikh is at risk of losing its tourism draw and as a greater net contributor to the Egyptian tourism purse as well as a huge employer in a country that is still in political turmoil, the resultant effect will be dire for the Egyptian population at large.
Now that Russia has also suspended all flights to and from Egypt at large, along with a few other countries, the about 60,000 tourists from Russia and the many more that would have presented a bumper tourism season at the advent of Winter in Europe will find cancellations and bookings for other resorts that do not seem to be under threat presently.
It is a mess
Beyond that, it will be a logistical nightmare to evacuate the tourists from Sharm el-Sheikh, like yesterday, 21 out of the flights that would have been UK bound were cancelled at the behest of the Egyptian authorities that averred that the airport could not manage the traffic apart from the fact that tourists will only be able to return with their hand baggage, their luggage will follow sometime after.
Whilst Egypt denies this is a diplomatic situation, one can only give them the benefit of the doubt amidst the suspicion of ulterior motive. They have been dealt with quite shabbily and the resultant mess is partly of our own making, we are capable of better than this.
I reserve the greatest excoriation for the people who planned and planted the bomb on Flight 9268 and a close second to whom there must be opprobrium and contempt is Her Majesty’s Government with their absence of tact or diplomacy for ends that might look reasonable at face value but does not broach the very least that can be expected of good English manners, that I am appalled does not begin to describe my feelings.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Why do they read this blog?

A fish tossed
Only a very few of the people who read my blogs post comments about the things I write. In fact, I rarely ever come in any contact with those who read my blogs.
What I see is that there are visits, some long, some short, and some just passing through, my blog trawled up in a net of searches, like in a net of more tasty and valuable sea treasures of fish and shellfish whilst if my kind of fish survives or not, it is still tossed back into the sea.
Then the fish that I am lives to write another blog and be netted again, only to be tossed back to whence I came, swimming listlessly in the dark polluted waters of the seas where oceans or rivers beckon for another adventure of being caught and being tossed again.
My blog is my mind
The blog is however the dissection of the mind, an autopsy of thoughts of the living, at least for now. Biopsies taken from different parts of the body because the doctor thinks there is something they need to be sure of.
Perspectives and many they are on life as one, life amongst many and life in others, the stories told in ways that might not be as vivid as I think they are.
Each word weighed as if reading a recipe for the perfect cuisine, yet when finished, there is no guarantee that the taste will entice or lead to convulsive emesis. Each sentence weaving between the lucid and the obscure that the paragraphs might well be meaningfully meaningless whilst hopefully meaning something.
I’m laid bare here
My blogs are my mind, my madness and my peace flowing out of my fingers in words and words about pictures of things seen and thought of, the complexities and the simplicities of life in constructs that baffle and enlighten, emotions laid bare like a man without a poker face taken to the cleaners at the casino. For still, I am just a novice.
Nothing is lost that I have not been prepared to lose, if you want to see the changes of light in a soul from darkness to light oscillating between phases without any duration of how long any gradual transition will last, keep reading and the more you read, the more you might just realise, it could have been a waste of your time.
Thank you for coming by and if you come again, I am honoured in your pity of me.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Thought Picnic: May there be cause beyond this

An act withdrawn
The message is hard to convey in words so the act is what is left to express a view that is both of sadness and steely determination.
It is a selfish mind that thinks of self first and others later, yet as a pall of unhappiness blots out the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey suddenly seems much longer and the groping in the darkness is the hoping against hope that each step forward leads to some escape.
The message is the act of not sending a message when it mattered, a whole of debate and disagreement, the mind spilt into a duel of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde contesting the will of desire and dissent.
Dissent won in the end, the situation is not made any easier by the fact that another year may have to pass in the brooding and sulking.
Losing battles and winning wars
Yet, like one would realise as always, they may be impervious to reason, reasoning, the reasonable or reasonableness as one battles again against forces unfussed or unconcerned whilst stuck in the quagmire of their own making.
To relent, one must not as page after page of the saga is written until it rings a bell somewhere in the annals of reflection and consideration for a better and alternate course. That call was not made and will not be made.
It is a battle for familial sanity and a war for right thinking, but like many wars fought long before, generals might be lost for all the battles it takes to win the war.
May there be hope, may there be the promise, may there be the possibility and may there eventually be the mind to put all this in the past and the many days to celebrate the better of each and every one of us.
May there be happy cause soon to make the calls that one should make for love and more that matters than just this.

Tuesday 3 November 2015


The turmoil
The more the thoughts roam,
The emotions find no home,
But to erupt in ferocious anger,
Churning violently like foam.
Bottled up in him,
Are conflicts playing like a film,
From decades left unspoken,
Pages of resentment in a huge ream.
He seeks to withdraw still,
From that adored to nil,
So much left broken,
There is none to tranquil.
If only there was to share,
Where talk might the burden spare,
Maybe he’ll be better prepared,
For his greatest fear.
Wasted and exhausted,
Not helped but bested,
By things beyond grasp,
It is being tested.

Monday 2 November 2015

Thought Picnic: A burden of family

It hurts
The story of a family begins with a sense of regret and sadness, there is no fairy tale in this, but one of grieving loss and befuddlement that one might wonder if any blood ties exist beyond some introduction and accident of affiliation.
The silence of the man is no sign of muteness, nor is it ignorance of the situation that has now come to a head.
It is unfortunate that on matters of family, reticence and deference prevents the kind of frank discussions of truth and fact, they muddle along with tolerance and allowance, feigning forgiveness and letting things go where they should had a true expression of feelings.
It infuriates
He has condoned enough bad behaviour from his family, secrecy and subterfuge, dealing in their own conceit as if they know best, they act without consideration of others distressing many others who matter.
They have a critical situation which should have brought everyone together with a singular purpose and objective, yet there is parental disharmony and siblings are in conflict bickering and railing, whilst the youngest, adult but childish and irresponsible agonises with a condition of desperation.
How in the midst of all this, the patriarch having experienced unwarranted abuse brought on by health deficient psychosis was not informed of the diagnosis or prognosis for almost six months leaves one beyond flabbergasted, it is an atrocity of the most contemptible kind that should never be overlooked.
It rankles
Bedevilled as they are by unfounded religious paranoid inflicted on all from the womb by one who has literally never held praise for the one who sired her children, this relationship between them which has gone sour since when memory could serve anyone who mattered has impacted everyone so negatively, there is no model or role in what they seemed to represent apart from being parents.
From afar, one watches with exasperation totally exhausted and at the point where indifference is the best emotion for the untenable. He heard appeals from the patriarch alright, but until everyone faces up to the facts, the worst might well happen and by that time it would be too late.
It stupefies
The primary subject of this situation has been mollycoddled to the point of being utterly spoilt, where discipline is required, everyone but the first and the third is making excuses.
It is not even clear if the lady has any idea of what her condition is, how serious it is or how life-threatening it is that those who are assuming somewhat misguided responsibility are running helter-skelter to retrieve an avoidable situation.
Now, he who has once faced death with just weeks to live years ago knows the seriousness of personal responsibility first before contracting others to help. That people can learn from foolishness is a great thing, but the redemption from stupidity may not necessarily teach the essential lessons.
It’s her battle first
The fight starts with the person most affected, if they will not fight, the battles of others will most likely come to naught, and with it will also be a greater sense of betrayal and anguish at some much being done for so little.
It is a matter of fact situation that is unlikely to be appreciated, yet if there is no one to speak the truth, the lie everyone is living in the face of startling facts will raise false hopes to high that the misery will be unbearable.
He’s done
He will do nothing because for now, desperate as things are, there is nothing to be done when if things continue like this.
If those who have proximity and accessibility cannot be fully engaged in equanimity, there is no point looking beyond that circle for input. Unity is purposeful, disunity is cross-purposes and disarray, one that he will not be a party of.
He has condoned enough bad behaviour from his family, without a change of heart, he has no heart for this or anything else. Maybe it is time to disown this burden of a family, sad as that conclusion might seem. Things have come to a head and there is only so much emotion one can expend on a reprehensible situation, regardless of who is involved.