Wednesday 21 December 2016

My 51st amongst friends

The big breaks
This has been a year of blessing and strangeness, of sadness and reflection, where the existential became a consuming concern about purpose and direction.
At the beginning of the year, I was finally able to convince my third medical team in as many years that owing to my appreciation and understanding of my own mortality, the time for vacillating and procrastinating the need for a therapeutic intervention on a condition my doctors were getting complacent about.
This was at a time when the job I had held for over two years was coming to an end and the decisions about a new project had not been finalised. Within a month of leaving that role, I was invited back and the treatment started to, the course was successful.
Finding peace
However, in October I first made peace with one sister and then bid another to rest in peace, a numbing experience that brought thoughts and fears to the fore.
Yet, in all like I always come to reflect every year today, I am blessed abundantly, 7 years beyond cancer that almost took my life, humbled by the opportunities to share my story and usually upset by the memories that have brought estrangement into the midst of other familial relationships.
I am sustained by friends and lovers, wishes and prayers, good thoughts and great advice, renewed friendships and rewards of the pursuit of happiness. I am happy, I am lucky, I am fortunate, I am me.
On my 51st birthday which I would spend with close friends, I know amongst them, there is no one to deride me.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Adieu D-Shash! (Deji Sasegbon)

Shocking news
As I was returning from work when I had a quick look at my Facebook Lite+ app to check for messages and one message stood out registering shock.
One year out of school after being given what became the opportunity of a lifetime to work in a computer firm (IT Systems) by Felix Ogun, I decided to go into a sort of consultancy, the first job involved performing an extensive mailmerge activity and teaching an aging Professor Aluko who had just recovered from a stroke how to use computers.
The first meetings
Whilst I worked at 203 Ikorodu Road, Obanikoro, IT Systems occupied the ground floor and upstairs on the first-floor offices of Deji Sasegbon & Co. and his legal publishing outfit, DSc Publications Ltd.
During my tenure at IT Systems, there were occasions when they had some computer problem upstairs and anyone of us engineers was called up to help resolve the problem. I would go up, fix the problem and leave, but Deji Sasegbon would never let me step out of the office without offering a very generous tip.
My big break
When I left IT Systems, there was a meeting where Deji Sasegbon, known as D-Shash to all, invited me to do some work for him. He plainly recognised that I had a useful skill and did not push for offering full employment because he felt there will be others needing my expertise. He gave me a confidence that has become the hallmark of over 20 years of being a self-employed IT Consultant in both the UK and the Netherlands.
The deal was to spend a few days a week at the office supporting the staff, teaching some selected personnel, fixing IT problems and running a number of desktop publishing projects. In the process, I handed the concept for the first publication of the Company and Allied Matters Decree compendium in 4 volumes and the Legal Desk Book 1991, which was a desk diary for 1991, an opportunity to exhibit some artistic flair.
The whizz-kid
The remuneration was a monthly retainer and my fare for a one-way ticket to the UK, whenever I was ready to leave Nigeria for the UK. This consultancy was a big break, it exposed me to new clientele, with my gaining the reputation for being the desktop publishing whizz-kid that could change cumbersome traditional printing processes with the point and click of a mouse.
My tool was Xerox Ventura Publisher and the Professional edition, I ultimately had 5 different consultancy jobs and part ownership of a printing press which opened the first opportunity in years to visit the UK again.
Deji Sasegbon was like a big brother, a mentor, a friend, a man of great privilege with no airs about him. His office was open, he was accessible, we were on first name terms and there were no hierarchies in that working environment. He just exuded charm.
I last met up with Deji, in 1991 when he came on a visit to the UK, for my first job, he generously offered a reference with effusive praise for my skills and expertise. He was more than a kind-hearted man.
I guess I last spoke to him some 10 years ago, I called the number to his office and he picked up the phone, soft-spoken and affable as ever, despite his great successes and achievements, he was effortlessly simple and whilst bearing amazing gravitas.
I did not know he had been ill for a couple of years and he passed on, just 5 days ago. There is much I owe to D-Shash, opportunity, mentoring, simplicity, confidence and a drive that does not have to appear as if you were driven.
Thank you, D-Shash for everything, may your gentle soul rest in peace. Adieu!

Thought Picnic: Facing the stereotypes of being black and dealing drugs

We will not shrink
Generally, one is rarely inspired to write about this topic, but there comes a time when something does need to be said, and my blog is a forum for such when it matters.
As a minority of many facets in living and thankfully thriving within a majority of diversity, the greatest triumph of the person is to be comfortable in one’s own skin when met with the various indignities that are doled out by the ignorant and those who should know better either at work or at play.
The indignities are many
The fine line between being patronised and being belittled in the corny device of faint praise or acknowledgement is constantly being crossed and with great restraint and the discipline that comes with rearing and bearing, one would bat off, ignore or challenge the infraction to ensure that such unhealthy encounters do not become the norm.
Earlier this evening, I was met with such an encounter from a stranger who no doubt had grown his knowledge of people like me from some odious script or noxious experience that I cannot care to be concerned about.
It is without doubt that one along with many like me; and I mean black men, in this case, have suffered such indignities and disrespect that demands a response in rage, but elicits the riposte of a polite put down, if a monosyllabic retort will not do the job as efficiently as one would desire.
Nonsensical stereotyping
By enquiry, I received a message with the subject heading, ‘Busy?’, the body of the letter read thus;
Hi, weird question. I really wanna get some weed tonight. Can you help me babe? Xx
Let us not belabour ourselves with the many issues with address and import, the context was layered on like a slice of toast so heavily buttered, its falling from any height would create an oily splatter and there could only be one response and I quote it below:
Just because I am a black man does not mean I do drugs, deal drugs or know a dealer.
I am a highly placed professional and I have had enough of this nonsensical stereotyping from the drug-addled lot that have no gumption beyond seeking the pleasure of illicit highs.
I have seriously restrained myself from the needed use of an expletive to tell you off totally.
Just too many times already
Now, you may ask, what would elicit this kind of response and the answer is in a long history of encounters of a similar kind. A stranger sidles up to me in some public place or writes to me in some social forum and for some reason or the other which I dare say can only be borne of some stereotype or the atrocity racial profiling, asks if I have drugs or know a drug dealer.
The misfortune if that is what one could generously call it is my life and many others I know are not true to that stereotype or that profile. We have through many determined and fortunate turns in life lived and enjoyed privileges that is the substance of the dreams of others. Not that we have to wear such luck around our necks and rattle those blessings with the aplomb of the arriviste; understated remains the quiet class of discretion.
It must stop
However, after a holiday in Spain, where for almost the umpteenth time, one was unwittingly besmirched with the odium of trading in illicit and illegal substances, the usual silence now demands a more forceful response.
Yes, we are black, no we do not use drugs, we do not have drug dealers as friends and honestly, stop asking a black person anywhere whether they can acquire drugs for you. The simple inquiry for your inordinate pleasure is to the other person, a badly served slight and insult, we would overlook such abuse no more.

Thursday 8 December 2016

I have been blogging for 13 years

The same story told again
Thirteen years ago, I wrote my very first blog from a hotel room in Berlin. It was not my first foray into writing, though throughout my primary school days, I was much more of a reader and talker than I was a writer.
In secondary school, in my third year, a junior friend came to me about establishing a press club, we started it together and then, I somewhat got bored and left. My friend later became a journalist.
However, I had already started writing anonymous letters to the school authorities about atrocities committed in the boarding house, in most cases, I revealed my identity, but the culprits were dealt with. I did however, get caught once because my unique style of writing betrayed me to some rascally seniors who I had called punks because of their behaviour.
The salvation in expression
For some reason, I was threatened but never beaten up, I guess they realised I had a superior manner of stating my case in writing that they would get away with nothing. Yes, my writing at play and at work has gotten me out of sticky situations, for well over a generation.
Later, after secondary school, I wrote under the pen name of ‘Who Else’ using a marker pen on A2 sheets and nailed my script to boards at the entrance of the dining room, but after that for years, I never really found an outlet for expression until the medium of blogging became one.
In some years, I have been prolific and in others quite lazy, it saddens me that 2016 might become one of the years in which I wrote less than a hundred blogs. It is not for the want of having something to say, I guess I have been lethargic, restless and bereaved, but the spirit has always been there.
More outlets for thoughts
The blog has not been my only channel of expression, I have Twitter and Facebook forums where the snippet or the comment can just be as profound as the treatise.
My first blog, A cliché too many - Introduction! did broadly set out my aims and goals for blogging, I do not think I have deviated much from that apart from being probably less of a libertarian than I once was, certain elements of personal experience and affliction can teach you some very human lessons.
One is the need to communicate, that is important; because you have to take cognisance of your audience; the other is the need to express the richness of the language.
I celebrate, nevertheless
I doubt if I would be able to repeat the feat of having 35 people write a blog to be published on my blog when I celebrated a decade of blogging, #YourBlogOnMyBlog - A Decade Blogs Backstory.
Every anniversary, I seem to have a commemorative story which is hardly dissimilar to the one I wrote the year before, what I lack in originality for this day, I hope I make up for in still being here when many have come and gone.
I will probably have to call out all those who abandoned their blogs after a period of creative output I do not believe has deserted those fantastic writers, you know who you are.
I hope for and look forward to many more opportunities to celebrate this day, even as I grow more aware of my many human limitations.
Thank you!
Thank you to all of you who have visited my blog, enjoyed my posts, left comments and encouraged me through the pleasant and tough times, I am full of gratitude and thankfulness. May the stories in our blogs of life and experience never cease to interest, arrest, protest and address matters that matter to the one and the many.
I say again, everyone has a story and so has a blog in them, getting writing your story in your own style and voice.
My anniversary blogs

Saturday 3 December 2016

Thought Picnic: We must restore faith in our humanity

A calling unplanned
Sometimes, a holiday means not needing to get to bed early and in locations where there is much safety and security, it could mean staying out until the very early hours of the morning.
Normally, I would get a taxi-cab back from the town centre to my hotel which is just about 1km away, but between laziness and tiredness, the ride is a respite from a night of excessive wakefulness.
This time, with the wind blowing with the gusts of an easy gale, I started my walk back to my hotel, when I heard someone coughing and spitting. He was on the ground, whether having fallen or seeking a cosy respite, the setting did not look right.
Reached and helped
I walked round to him and asked if he was OK, he said he wasn’t. So, I reached out my hand to help him up, which he took and it became apparent that he was quite unsteady on his feet. I cannot say why this was the case and in his vulnerable state, it was no time to be judgemental.
Then I asked where he needed to get to and whether he would be able to make it there. His hotel was just a few hundred metres away, and I knew he would not successfully walk that distance which would have involved crossing two roads. I offered to hold him in a side embrace to get him to his hotel, and he obliged.
He might have been physically worse for wear, but his mental faculties were fully engaged, he was thankful for my help, very appreciative of my concern and he asked for my name as we walked to his hotel. I had decided I was going to deliver him to his hotel reception before turning back.
A dearth of kindness?
The conversation that ensued suggested he never expected even the basest forms of human kindness as I tried to assure him that there are many helpful people out there. We got to his hotel, had to go down the stairs for the reception, all the while I held onto him.
I delivered him to reception, ensured he was aware of where he had to go, at which point, he became profusely thankful, hugged me tight, he was prayerfully gracious and then he went to his room.
On reflection, I wondered if he had had an epileptic episode leading to his fall and the unsteadiness that did not seem to be from alcohol or substance abuse, then it would not have mattered, either way, I would have offered to help.
Let us do and expect to done to
Then again, the thought that people in vulnerable situations rarely have expectations of assistance until they somewhat pick themselves up off the ground bothered me greatly. We surely cannot all have lost faith in humanity not to expect another fellow human being to be of help to those in any kind of distress.
Our little conversation seemed to suggest this was not the first time nobody came to his aid that my help was almost as shocking as it was surprisingly unexpected at a strange hour from a complete stranger.
I did nothing close to the highly commendable humanity of the Good Samaritan, but if a heart beats in our chest cavity, there is nothing to prevent us reaching out to help, just because we are human first and to help reinforce the bonds of our common humanity.
My hope is he is well and maybe, I helped an angel too. Every little stretching out of the hand is a little more done to restore faith in our humanity.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Thought Picnic: Broken trusts and broken relationships

As I reflect
The need to cultivate relationships is undeniable, especially those that pertain to family and friends. Estrangement is a difficult place to be, but the causes of such are rarely in the immediate present, a whole series of events culminate in whatever is left of that relationship when reviewed in the present.
The older I have grown, the more I have analysed situations and developments in my many relationships to understand better why the relationships remain strong or begin to fade into insignificance.
There are positives in my upbringing, many that I have written about and invariably, there are negatives too. I write about them first because it offers a form of catharsis and then in the expectation that readers might be aware of the issues we rarely discuss but end up living through in unresolved conflict and pain. The hope is that for those who still have levers they can pull, there is some opportunity for change for the better.
Trusting confidences
Earlier today, I reflected on the fact that I never really trust my parents with my confidences, I was for a while an only child because my siblings came along and whilst I could be talkative, I was always a closed book of sorts.
There is so much of my life that my parents are completely oblivious about, we probably will not talk enough to get to the point of my issues.
They are at an age where their entitlements and their demands are paramount if we are not being emotionally blackmailed, we are threatened with being disowned, some of us are amused at this febrile abuse of authority that they once wielded untrammelled.
Trusting safety
It goes without saying that being unable to trust them with my confidences has meant that have also not been trusted with my safety. 
In many ways, they were protective and they offered a haven from many situations, but the most critical one involved my childhood sexual abuse. People my parents trusted took advantage and took sexual favours, it is unlikely that they are aware of how serious this was.
Trusting vulnerabilities
The ultimate area of trust my parents were never granted was they were never trusted with my vulnerabilities. Probably, because they never understood what I was going through or did not have the presence of mind or inclination to determine whether there were problems.
From illness, through bad behaviour and depression in my teens then unto my battle with cancer in 2009 along with other health concerns, I realise there was no foundation on which to affect a better parent-child relationship. In finding others to trust with confidences, safety, and vulnerabilities, the thinnest umbilical cord remains and that itself is under unbearable strain.
Trust is a mutually beneficial standard for developing relationships and yet, generation after generation we repeat the mistakes of the past with very few lessons learnt.
Maybe, just maybe
My blog now offers a place to reflect on my victories and afflictions, going as far back as my vivid memories will carry me, along with the recognition of a life-changing condition diagnosed over 14 years ago, for which we hope that trust with allow people talk more about their lives, their challenges, their hopes and their fears without the threat of ostracism or the threat of facing stigmatisation.
Happy World AIDS Day!

Saturday 26 November 2016

Thought Picnic: Don't mistake a troubled child for a bad one

Not a conversation
By happenstance, I was recently privy to a conversation and that is in the broadest terms between an uncle (Julius) and his nephew (Fabier) on the nephew’s birthday. There was probably a case of me eavesdropping, but it provided the opportunity for some reflection.
The first part of the conversation which we agreed in the end, was not a conversation covered the general issues of the vociferous against the tongue-tied. Julius in what looked like a conversation asked seemingly leading questions and Fabier in cantankerous mode answered in striking monosyllables in either the negative or affirmative.
A stifled freedom to talk
Now, I have experienced that with my niece times before where my labour of attempting to get her to string a 5-word sentence together at the minimum was literally ineffective. The fact is, these nieces and nephews are neither that shy or tongue-tied, we just have not developed the setting for a free-flowing interaction and communication that comes with the freedom of our younger relations to express themselves without fear or inhibition.
I find the need to work on this relationship building activity the more because there are critical elements of the childhood development experience that we might miss which could have lasting consequences on the life and outlook of the child.
I say this because, the questions veered into areas of Fabier’s school, how he was enjoying classes if he was making friends and whether he was settling in fine, all which Fabier suggested in his monosyllabic answers was alright.
Fabier is a bad boy
Fabier passed his phone back to his mother (Mary), and there Mary regaled to Julius her brother how Fabier was really not fitting in at school, his personal hygiene levels had declined to the point of concern and excoriation, the report gave Julius the leverage to demand a change in attitude from Fabier or else Fabier would lose the promised presents and possibly some goodwill of his uncle.
The long and short of the second exchange where Fabier literally said nothing and Julius said everything was Fabier had been, a really bad boy.
The telling off of Fabier would have been pleasing to Mary, but I do not think in my heart of hearts that it helped Fabier one bit.
I was Fabier again
That second conversation between Julius and Fabier was a replay of a similar conversation I had with many elderly relations of mine 40 years ago when I was sent to a secondary boarding school half a country away from my parents in the hope of my parents that I would be toughened up and will learn more of our culture, language, and traditions.
My first term was hellish, I was consistently bed-wetting, I took no baths seeing that we had to fetch water from a forbidden grotto in the forest just before dawn, my night was disturbed by apparitions and ghosts that had me reciting Psalm 23 hundreds of times in the night. My life was a nightmare and it was a nightmare to my fellow schoolmates.
I know that of all the real help I needed, I got nothing, there were mental, psychological and emotional issues at play that received no professional help, I was supposed to be like others, stoic, responsible, able and applied to the duty to which I was called, to excel at school.
Not one solution worked
The solutions proffered included animist rituals, spiritualist entreaties, amulets, and shamanist cuts into which concoctions of varying potency were applied, none of which addressed a fundamental issue.
A child who had suffered emotional trauma some months before who had already for the first time spend 5 months away from the structured environment of home where again the matter of child sexual abuse by the servants never got addressed, was now flung to the winds for fend for himself and you expect him to perform to expectation?
A child does not bed wet just as an act of rebellious vandalism, there are fundamental psychological issues at play, using shame, disgrace, deprivation of comforts or corporal punishment, as weapons of dissuasion might appear to work in the immediate term, but it also internalises unresolved issues.
Can we try something else?
In most cases, what a child needs is understanding leading to encouragement to express themselves freely of their fears and their hopes, not the full weight of adult imposition exacting punishment and price to force them to do our bidding.
Children are in and of themselves free and independent moral agents, they are no mules. They are can be positively moulded with affirmation and approbation over criticism, comparison and condemnation.
Whilst in the face of the labours of parenthood, parents might not seem to have time to attend to the emotional needs of a child, those are probably the most critical needs of a child above anything else and it rarely gets addressed.
In the quest to make our children fear and respect us, we have lots an essential channel of communication that sometime in the adulthood of that child would be an unrelenting indictment of the kind of parenthood they endured.
Some parents wonder why their children are estranged and a lot of it points to the things they considered insignificant, in mistaking a troubled child for a bad one.
Are you the playful adult?
It goes without saying that a child needs at least one playful adult in their relationships, one whom they can trust, in whom they can confide, with whom they can find the freedom to be themselves and know that they are not only being listened to, they are being understood, encouraged, given advice and helped along in the most difficult times.
40 years ago, I was not a bad boy, I was a troubled child who needed more help than anyone was able or ready to appreciate or understand, and today too, Fabier is NOT a bad boy, yet, he has been cast as a recalcitrant and irresponsible boy, we as uncles, aunts, parents and guardians repeating the mistakes of generations past where the child was only to be seen but never heard.
Stop the generational abuse
I cried rivers of tears for Fabier as that ‘conversation’ developed, he was not going to get the present promised him if he did not change and his mother was going to report the progress on his conduct for further action to be taken.
Let’s stop the generational abuse pretending to child rearing and upbringing already and humble ourselves to stoop to the eye level of the child, offer a hug, offer comfort, offer assurance, offer to understand, and offer a listening ear, the time for standing over and talking down to the 'miscreant' is over.
We had tough parents, it does not excuse us being tougher obdurate parents, guardians, uncles, aunts or older relations too.
Give the child the chance to glow and blossom, this will only come with giving them full personhood and respect for their individuality, views, and circumstances.
Postscript: I asked the permission of Julius to write this blog, we had a discussion on this matter and he agreed that there were valid issues to discuss.

Monday 14 November 2016

Opinion: Education still remains the safeguard of democracy

The worst form of government
Observing things in our world today and how democracy has yielded interesting dividends and results, you begin to wonder whether choice and consequence are properly informed deliberations of the people who exercise the privilege to choose who presides over their affairs.
Winston S. Churchill did say, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” This would suggest there is no better means of choosing a government except through democracy.
The safeguard of democracy
Yet, a quote I came upon this morning through the post of a tweet which had the picture of a London Underground notice board with an inscription encapsulated in one thought what I have been trying to say for months.
Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt was a contemporary of Winston S. Churchill and in the quotes above they seemed to grasp both the inadequacies and the consequences of democratic choice.
The absence of immediate feedback
Unfortunately, when a voter enters the privacy and sanctity of the ballot box to place a tick or a cross against the name of a person, a party or a plebiscite option, there is no immediate feedback as to the consequence of that choice. The kind of feedback you will get from sticking your finger in a live electric socket would by terms be the necessary democratic component for those who have not bothered to safeguard their democratic choice through education.
The knowledge that sticking one’s finger in a live electric socket would cause an electric shock leading to possible death through electrocution can be one gained from personal experience, the experience of others or facts about what electricity can do. That becomes the applied wisdom that prevents us doing harm to ourselves and what compels us to inform others of the impending harm to others who might not be aware of the dangers of playing with electricity.
The new anti-intellectualism
Yet, in the recent rancorous #Brexit debate of 2016, we had the then Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, of all people say that, “I think people in this country, have had enough of experts.” In a nutshell, Mr. Gove had defined the strain of anti-intellectualism that feeds the populist mantra of politicians who were once confined to the fringes who have now taken the spoils of democracy and won at the polls.
With some of the recent democratic results, it is amazing how many have eschewed education, logic, truth and facts in making their choices. We have adopted the better of the worst form of government and made choices that appear to have not been done wisely, or where we have fully convinced ourselves that we are wise, it does not appear to be wisdom based on fact, truth or evidence.
The rhetoric has won us over and like someone hypnotised or mesmerised, we have confidently and collectively stuck our fingers in a live electric socket, the consequence of which would be lasting.
The dangers we face
We must, in the end, respect the majority decision of the electorate, but we must not ignore that in some cases where life and livelihood depend on these choices, the wisdom of fools in the setting of a rampaging mob on the move, has won the day.
It goes without saying that democracy is the worst form of government and it will get no better with anti-intellectualism, misinformation, propaganda, rhetoric and outright lies captivation our ability to reason with the reasonable and exercise all the virtues of reasonableness in the voting booth.

Monday 24 October 2016

Thought Picnic: Challenging disabling traditions

Cutting loose
Tradition is a disabler, that makes deference remove the need for reference, and projects the need for respect over the necessity for retrospect.
The truth is lost in the sophistry of saving face such that the irritable elements of our culture entrenches entitlement without demanding responsibility.
Yet, there is no school of tradition or a college of culture, we are supposed to glean all the intricacies of norms, mores and comportment by osmosis, from observation or just the fact that we have forebears that held beliefs that we never were educated to imbibe, but must conform to.
Taboos exist that have no basis in fact, science or truth, apart from a list of don’ts, musts and commands. No matter how well-educated we are, we are never to challenge or question these age-old mysteries or we risk the wrath of some vague, superstitious and terrible outcome, the dread of which keeps us in line.
Excusing things
Caught between these conflicting demands of subservience and independence, we are rarely near where we can emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery and bondage of practising the worst of these subcultures over the beneficial parts.
From where the elder caught lying is given the bye and excuse that they can never lie to where certain reprehensible deeds are never discussed where the discussion in these times would definitely lead to a better resolution of issues.
We are constantly emotionally blackmailed by those who repeatedly find ways to enfeeble bold expression with required gratitude for what essentially is both their duty and responsibility. An aversion to these debilitating subcultures sets you up for being an outcast.
Self-preservation is key
The question then becomes; would we always subsume education and enlightenment to keep the cultural peace and barely get along under the false pretence that all is well?
It is without any doubt that many of these unresolved conflicts in relationships that tax the soul to the point of occasioning mental illness are the sources of stress, hypertension and worse.
Disengagement is a self-preservation ploy, little understood, but critical to personal wellbeing. The way we rationalise our actions and reactions are selfish modes of keeping ahead of the maelstrom of encumbering and damaging societal requirements.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Thought Picnic: Alone and thoughtful of the week passing

Collecting my thoughts
Alone at home with the opportunity to collect my thoughts at the end of a terrible week of sorrowful news, my therapy begins here.
Entrenched in our bunkers of grief at the passing of a sister survived by aging parents and much older siblings everyone is ensconced somewhere on the spectrum of the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief.
I cannot speak in any clarity of the reaction of others, but on receiving the news on Tuesday, I was quite shocked but not surprised. I understood to some extent the graveness of the diagnosis having had some doctor friends of mine independently assess the situation and offer a general prognosis.
In miracles of medicine
In view of that, I was already preparing myself for an eventuality against the hopes and anticipations of others who’s only fading desire was for a miracle. I do believe in miracles, miracles of human ingenuity that has come through amazing advances in knowledge and technology.
Human physiology, however, reacts in different ways to thought processing and medicine, the outcomes then determine by reason of speed and progress whether something miraculous has happened or not.
Respite and relapse are not miracles, remission might look miraculous, but we do have to look elsewhere for the underpinning elements of our unresearched assumptions of the miraculous. I have read of miracles, but I have seen no evidence of any from a conclusively scientific point of view.
Believing in human ingenuity
When I faced the prospect of a terminal prognosis from cancer some 7 years ago, I know when I stopped hoping for a miracle and went for the understanding and knowledge of medicine. They knew what the ailment was, knew how to treat it, but had a simple caveat, it all depended on how I could withstand the treatment, failing which, I would be dead in 5 weeks.
I survived and there is no doubt that medicine played a major part in that, but my ability to withstand the onslaught of chemotherapy was strengthened by my Christian faith. The end of the matter was that it took a considerably lesser time for the cancer lesions to heal and my doctors and nurses termed that miraculous. I accept that with much gratitude and thankfulness.
Failings of Nigerian healthcare systems
We had no such choices in the medical institutions in Nigeria, the sometime foremost teaching hospital could not conclusively determine the ailment and as they charged inordinate sums of money never did have the means or equipment to start any of the ameliorating treatments necessary whilst we sought a better medical opinion of the real situation.
On knowing what the situation was, there were different forces at play, from the desperate and imposing to the rational and pragmatic, within that dynamic more confusion took hold over the need to coalesce and communicate. Browbeaten by a system that demanded trust without question, there were splits in decision-making and consequently, division leading to rancour.
On choices, outcomes, and reactions
The principal in the matter rarely had a say in whatever outcomes were proposed even though she had in no uncertain terms clearly indicated what her choices were. I probably was too understanding about what she was adamant of and accepting of that viewpoint that she was no more fighting and so I did not press an alternative or find the need to persuade otherwise.
Beneath the whole thing, I was very angry and very sad, angry that so much could have been better managed long before it became critical, angrier that the more primitive of passions ruled over the rational mind in the many syncretic rituals that were supposed to have put this whole matter at bay decades ago.
I was apoplectic with rage at the absence of the support for the discipline necessary to help the infirm. There is no doubt that I was both cross and angry with the matriarch, her influence over many issues made it literally impossible to pursue a rational line of thinking and ideas. I was sad, that the end was nigh.
For her honour and memory
Yet, in the aftermath of all this, I am supposed to let bygones be bygones and seek some sort of resolution towards reconciliation. It is going to be difficult, yet, we must hope that something good would come out of this, in honour of the dearly departed and hopefully as a sign of respect and tribute to her short but eventful life.
It is still very raw, and whilst I am well past denial, I am still deep in anger and feeling somewhat depressed, I cannot yet see the light at the end of the tunnel called acceptance. The dead never need worry about these things anymore, the living, however, have a duty to ensure that the dead are not forgotten in the swirl of our petty differences.

Friday 21 October 2016

Thought Picnic: A dreamy page of a family saga

On watchful note
There is a picture seared in our minds of domination, terror, and servitude, demonstrated in their control and discipline of others that filled us with fear and trembling.
Those images came into my slumber that ran like a film cast into my childhood ready to replay with a horror that had exemplified what we had become in relation to how we were reared.
An offence there, and error here and they as prosecutor, judge and jury had passed judgement to carry out a nondescript and arbitrary sentence with the whetted appetite of an executioner in his prime.
From the recesses
In the other room, the altercation had begun with some I thought were mine, a pummelling with the rod, to inflict and to humiliate, consuming us with a feeling that our turn would soon come.
It did come to the first three of us, as we were stirred from slumber by the typical monologue of the patriarchy as he like a director of a filmset began to sketch out his thoughts and his intentions, a louvered contraption was constructed before our eyes before suddenly two rods were extracted, the rods that looked wickedly brutal beyond the ones that were once not spared in their quest not to spoil the child.
We were offered choices, hands, backs or any other place, and we were to expect the very minimum of 10 each. Was I going to allow this unjust collective punishment to happen?
My eyes saved
Ten each, so we were to moderate our squeals of pain so that she who was already dealing with the others will not think she was being outplayed in the sadomasochistic stakes that they had perfected in a double-act on me many years before where all he said when he ceded control to her was, “Mind his eyes.” That was how I remembered their depth of love, in the care of my eyes, but maybe in another story, the needed care for my eyes was never given.
My mind in flux, about to plead innocence and extricate myself from the terror to be unleashed on an undecided part of my anatomy, the third laid out her hand and received a violent lash, the piercing sound of agony jolted me back into the present.
Not tonight
There was not going to be a struggle when he headbutted me that I fell backwards, I calmly told him, “Not tonight, you can go to your room now.” I took his accoutrements of torture off him and he went away.
That was where it ended and where it should end. Sadly, our meetings are still of monologues and entitlements, the inability to impose upon as before has seethed into grudges engendering estrangement. Amid our grief, we have ensconced ourselves in our bunkers whilst everyone wonders if we’ve gone bonkers. The unspoken truth is no one does dysfunction the way we do it, without class, without care, without concern and almost without consequence.
Let’s flip another page in this saga called family.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Oluwafeyikewa - Our Little Mummy

I am numb in ways I cannot express,
Like a part of me has gone under duress,
A part that had affinity and extremity,
Now swirling the midst of eternity.

Feyike: 04-Nov-1982 – 18-Oct-2016

Saturday 15 October 2016

Nigeria: The aftermath of "She Belongs In My Kitchen"

Politics takes in the family
Politics is a very engaging business for both the individual and their immediate family. It is almost impossible to divorce the immediate family from the effects and consequences of an individual entering politics.
The politician will almost definitely have a public life, it is usually unlikely except in a scandal for anyone to see into the home life and how the dynamic in that setting dictates, controls or affects how a politician operates.
However, we have gotten used to seeing the politician’s spouse espouse causes dear to their hearts on the one hand and sometimes to soften the hard politician’s stance to the wider world.
In many places, politicians do not seek public office without the consent and support of spouse and family, it is hopefully in recognition of the reality that seeking office does cause some sort of upheaval in their close-knit setup. Some have on the advice of their families withdrawn from politics to cater to their immediate family and renew bonds.
A politician’s wife with views
In Nigeria, we have had our share of the politician’s spouse, some uppity, some intrusive, some menacing and an atrocious assault on our democratic values, arrogating to themselves power to the status of their spouses and abusing their position peddling influence with reckless abandon, yet, this does not apply to all spouses, many who go by the moniker of ‘first lady’, to decline to licence for titles less commendable.
It is in view of this that one can understand when Aisha Buhari the spouse of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave an interview to the BBC. She expressed concern about how the political maelstrom around her husband manned by people they neither knew nor could trust was making her husband’s political agenda ineffective.
To which end, she suggested that if things continued in this manner, she will not support if her husband chooses to contest, a re-election quest. [Aisha Buhari – BBC]
On a global stage
In the Nigerian society, these are strong views, yet, in my first comment about this, I suggested it appeared pillow talk was no more effective to bringing an obdurate man to understand concerns the family had, that the media might well be acquainted with that frustration.
Yesterday, as the news media took its soundbites from Aisha Buhari’s forcefully independent opinions Muhammadu Buhari was on a state visit to Germany. He could not have been oblivious of his spouse’s interview and I would have expected that his media team and advisers would have intimated that the world press in Germany might well broach the subject.
If Muhammadu Buhari were visiting Germany for a purpose, it would have been incumbent on them not to let any other issue overshadow that purpose and be on the trajectory to a successful state visit with the world press concentrating on that. They fell at the first hurdle.
The joke in the other room
With Muhammadu Buhari standing beside the foremost female politician in the world, Angela Merkel, he was asked about his wife’s views in that BBC interview. Given a global stage, President Buhari mustered all the patriarchy and chauvinism he could at the expense of wit, tact, diplomacy or even common-sense and let rip an anachronistic embarrassment of verbiage.
I don't know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.” He said, amongst other things about his political struggles, his losses, his victory and his opponents. Angela Merkel, if we could have read her mind might have been thinking in German, “Warum habe ich stimme diesen Chauvinistenschwein zu treffen?” [Muhammadu Buhari – BBC]
A very sad analysis
For me, there are many angles from which to view Muhammadu Buhari’s comments, but I see a wider consequence of expressing such views on a global stage and it led me to ask a few questions on Twitter, because I already knew that the main takeaway from this Nigeria-Germany summit would be, “She belongs to my kitchen.”
The widest implication and consequence of Muhammadu Buhari’s comment can only be encapsulated in the next tweet.
The deeper ramifications
Nigeria has many girl-child disadvantages and challenges, we still have almost 200 Chibok Girls abducted by Boko Haram in captivity for over 2 years, girls are getting abducted, religiously converted and pressed into matrimony by paedophiles and there is no criminality imputed. [Premium Times]
The problem here is this septuagenarian in a changing world failed to lead and chose to follow patrimony and by his pronouncement that some have dismissed as a jocular retort, some men will decide there is no need to invest in their girls if the leader of the 7th most populous nation in the world believes the woman belongs in the kitchen, the living room, and the other room.
The attempt at a joke here was the use of ‘the other room’ instead of ‘bedroom’, but the ramifications are deeper than that and that is why there is no excuse that can excuse what Muhammadu Buhari said in Germany.
Our culture expects the elderly to be smart, wise, wily and tactful, let us not let fealty to the man obscure the grave errors of the man.
Let’s do better
Now, I am not advocating that there should be no gender roles in the home, but a home life is only part of the total makeup of both the man and the woman. A lot is lost in the wealth of nations when only the patriarchy can decide who has opinions and whether they can be expressed so independently in public.
We must emancipate ourselves beyond this and give equal opportunity to a fulfilled life of achievement to everyone regardless of status, gender, beliefs, culture, traditions and unfortunate anachronistic views expressed by visionless leaders.

Monday 10 October 2016

Thought Picnic: Playing the lottery of the commons

Irritating questioning
At a recreational place last weekend, when taking a break in the lounge, I got engaged in a conversation through an app as to my whereabouts and so on.
As it transpired, my inquisitor on learning of where I was, then enquired as to whether the place was busy and on my response was ambivalent about coming or not. In the process, the many questions included fickle stratifying elements on age, looks, interests and prospects, the whole exchange began to have an irritating quality to it.
Then I suggested that if everyone waited for a venue to have a perfect crowd to meet all requirements and considerations, no venue would have patrons. Essentially, everyone by their own agency has to decide to attend a place for it to become lively.
Our part in the commons
We are as individuals contributors and consumers of the buzz any venue generates, whether it then becomes an enjoyable experience is not one guaranteed. We anticipate and hope that the atmosphere would gel with us and from it might come memorable pleasures.
The common good that is a reason of a common purpose driven by an individual desire expects that we participate and engage without selfishly taking out of the system when we have contributed nothing.
For every venue, there is always a first arrival and there is the last, in between, there might be leavers, but for the duration in which the venue is actively receiving patrons, one can expect that the atmosphere would probably build up, climax and then begin to fade as people leave.
It is about people of which you are one
It takes people to give a place life, in a recreational centre, in a club, in a restaurant, at a concert, in a stadium, in a place of worship or anywhere people congregate out of free agency in the quest for an experience.
Yet, we find people who rely on the initiative of others to fulfil their narrow pursuit of happiness. This concept does not just apply to attending places, there is a common good in areas where people have the awareness of others, those who walk the pavements, their attention and eyes glued to their mobile phones oblivious of others inadvertently expect others to be cognisant of their presence. Now, if we all buried our heads in my devices, we would all be bumping into each other on the pavements.
Freedom and consideration
The same applies to those who litter the public spaces, if we all did that rather than use the refuse bins, our public spaces would not only be unsightly, but unusable too.
Your freedom, much as it is cherished and defended must not encroach on the freedom of others, your temple loudspeakers causing noise pollution towards non-adherents of your beliefs, but put upon by your devotion is antithetical to engendering a community spirit, just as those leaving places of entertainment must be aware of the neighbourhood not to cause an unnecessary disturbance.
In the quest for personal freedom and pleasure, our community relies on the consideration of the majority including ourselves to be aware of the other and act responsibly, without this, we exhibit anti-social tendencies and lead our societies towards chaos and disorder.
Get in to get something out
Part of what makes the ambience is what we bring to it in our presence and our engagement, though many have missed out on that experience because they expect a readymade joy ride and cannot convince themselves of the fact that participation is integral to the scheme of things.
It is like a lottery, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but one thing is for sure, you have to participate in the lottery for you to ever have the prospect of winning. If you are not playing, there is no chance of winning.
Get out and play, you might just find what you are looking for.