Sunday 31 December 2017

In 2018, begin to write a better story of your life

Bidding 2017 a farewell
As we countdown the final hours of the year 2017, I have wondered about writing the obligatory year in review blog, but I seem to have covered most of that in my blog 10 days ago which marked my birthday.
It would appear I have not been as prolific in blogging this year and it has not been for the want of people, events, attitudes, ideas and subjects to write about, I guess I have been preoccupied with other issues and by that left this medium untended for long periods of time.
Whilst recognising that, I am making no resolutions or promises about blogging, though I hope to maintain the blog better in the fifteenth year of my writing and to celebrate that day, I hope to invite people to write for my blog in commemoration.
For all the turbulence 2017 presented me, I am grateful for all the opportunities that came my way and for the difficulties whilst tough simply pass on with the passage of time, toughening me up and giving me new stories to write about.
2018 may present new challenges and well as amazing opportunities, I am hopeful and expectant of wonderful and beautiful things to come in my personal and professional life.
To all my friends, acquaintances, readers and detractors, I wish you a wonderful and prosperous New Year, full of your wildest dreams coming true beyond anything you could have ever imagined or expected and in that, I hope you will come to tell your hair-raising stories to the world.
We are all story people, in 2018, begin to write a better story of your life.
Happy New Year!

Monday 25 December 2017

Making merry this Christmas in church

The questions remain
I am not as religious as I used to be, many questions and challenges from my somewhat rational mind continue to come up against things that were once taken for granted but now need to be explained.
That, we can discuss at another time, I realise I have been to many churches governed by all sorts of interpretations that become the doctrines and tenets of association and fellowship. Some assemblies have been welcoming and others quite hostile. I have concluded that the modern-day leaders of the synagogues are the people who set the tone for how great the reception is for newcomers and those who decide to stay.
The many shapes of God
In one setting, God was an Old Testament deity, fierce and unearthly, ready to exact a terrible revenge for human infractions, in others it was the eschatology of the end-times filling with fear and foreboding about falling short on every account. Then the rituals that were no different from what would obtain at a shamanist, waters and baths, Psalms read until they had no more meaning than incantations to a deaf-blind and mute god.
There was love and well as carping shown from the same congregation consumed with the quest for dominion and leadership above all else, none of which suited my temperament.
All is safe here
I find my comfort within the Church of England, traditional Anglicanism with all its inclusiveness, though that cannot be said of the African side of this movement of people. The simple message of Christly love and the acceptance of others is still a tough message to accommodate by some who make up the clergy, they rail with abominable vitriol, you shudder.
In Manchester, I find the time to attend the Sung Eucharist, I am a confirmed Anglican of over 36 years, the solemnity and quiet is endearing, the individuality of purpose of worship in a congregation of like-minded people from all nations is beautiful to participate in.
To many, church still matters
For the Christmas Midnight Mass on the night into Christmas Day from Christmas Eve, the church was literally full, the choir in full song and there were times they sang in Latin and I did not even pretend to keep up. I guess I still take communion differently especially in the Winter, I would not drink from the cup but dip the bread in the wine.
This morning for the Christmas Day Sung Eucharist, we had the Bishop of Manchester as the president and it was quite humbling to see him shod with sandals. I was in a moment transported to a Christmas morning in Bethlehem. The incense of the night before, the spirituality of the morning after made for a rewarding time of worship.
May the joy of Christmas be with you and your kin. Merry Christmas.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Loving 52 and the stories that tell themselves

My miraculous existence
It is almost stranger than fiction that today marks my 52nd birthday and this is for many reasons. It is my ninth birthday after cancer and I am still scarily within the timeframe of studies that suggest a precarious survival rate after the condition in which I was diagnosed.
Yet, I feel blessed that each year that I celebrate a birthday is one in which I can only be full of thankfulness and gratitude. Each birthday is for me very important, I mark each of them since 2009 as it would be my last, well aware of my vulnerabilities and still amazed by the grace, the favour and the resilience of the human body to recover where medicine seems to have reached the limits of its favourable interventions.
Emotional upheavals of thrills
It has been a long exhausting year which started with the lovingly sympathetic sharing of my story by my good friend Funmi Iyanda in forAkin on Bravery, Honesty and Thriving, a few days after, the love I thought I had was not ready for my love, it hurt.
Just imagine meeting your sister after 27 years, at The Terminal in Frankfurt, it has been a roller-coaster of emotional upheavals from the marriage of one sister, to the death of our baby sister to the rendezvous with my second sister.
In March, I made a radical career decision, one morning, I walked out of a job I had been doing for three years because I had endured enough of a new manager who over the 6 months of my reporting to him reduced me to nothing through disrespect, discourtesy and worse. He apparently did not last another 6 months after me, I neither applaud nor deride him.
Away but not astray
Since then, I have spent weeks away from home for work flung out to corners all around the United Kingdom, getting involved in challenging projects and meeting interesting people. I could not have planned how the year turned around for me that the greatest recommendation and support for the role I started in November came from one of the colleagues most affected by my departure in March.
I pinch myself at times wondering if any of it is real, considering August was a month where I literally had nothing and there was the sure and the steady rock of a friend like no other who kept me believing in tomorrow and myself. Kola Akinola, this is for you.
I am happy and thankful
In August too, my father found my story, his initial reaction was negative, then after an exchange of some long memories, there was reconciliation and acceptance, he remains one of the most reasonable people I have known in all my life. I have a mother too, that is all I can say for now.
To a point, I am very happy, I could be happier with someone to love and to share moments and experiences with, I need a man.
As I celebrate the number of years as there are full weeks in a year, even in my relapsed religious faith, I am thankful to God, grateful for friends, appreciative of moments, awed by experiences and looking forward to the opportunity to write again of another year of stories worth telling.
Thank you all for being here, being there and being near.

Friday 15 December 2017

Opinion: Caught between the hijab and the Bar

Where religion should belong
Readers of my blog would be well aware of my many writings about religious expression and even more stridently of the need to send religion back to where it belongs from its intrusive and overbearing cacophonous disturbance in the public spaces to the private contemplation of the individual, to the heart and the conscience of the adherent and to the sequestration of the temples where people of similar beliefs can fellowship without encumbrance.
I feel strongly about the need for the separation of the state and religion, that it is our humanity in the expression of kindness, understanding, empathy and compassion that should reflect the consequence of having adopted any belief system as a religion.
Understanding constitutional protections
In many countries, the constitution protects religious expression and rarely dictates how adherents should choose to practice their religion, it, however, does not give untrammelled licence to any adherent to foist their belief system on another, even if the religion so adjures its adherents to proselytise and win converts.
My concern about religious expression in the public space is deep, the reason being when tenet is taken out of the ambit of society and given to a figure representing a deity, that construct makes the tenet unquestionable, unchallengeable and unaccountable. To the extent that the adherent might believe that their interpretation of their perspective of their deity figure is subject to no temporal scrutiny with the danger that zealotry leads to extremism and worse.
Why civil law must reign supreme
As I have said before, even between adherents of the same belief system, they cannot believe to the same intensity, be persuaded to the same duty of devotion and be equally compelled to act on unction without the prism of reason. It is important that this difference in religious perspectives is accounted for in civil society and also as long as we do not live in a theocracy, civil law must reign supreme in the public space.
It is with these foregoing arguments made that I categorically state that I have no sympathy for the principal whose call to the Nigerian Bar was deferred because she chose a form of religious dress over the formal and formally prescribed dress code for the ceremony of being called to the bar.
The Samaritan’s example was hardly religious
I do not believe that the choice of apparel is necessarily the deepest expression of religion or that it overrides our core humanity which when laid bare is nothing about beliefs but that we are just human. This is the standard set by the Samaritan who saw a fellow human being in distress having been robbed, beaten and wounded by the wayside.
The Samaritan made no enquiry of the victim’s beliefs before he tended to the victim and took the victim to an inn to be cared for, paying in advance for the treatment of the stranger. It was after the story was told that the Samaritan became the Good Samaritan until then he was just an ordinary, if not bloody Samaritan.
Fighting a cause rightly
Now, the principal on the matter of being called to the Nigerian Bar had opportunity and privilege that could have been better deployed, managed towards a reasonable goal, but we must look at the landscape in question.
The Body of Benches is the association legally constituted to call qualified people to the Bar, it is their sole responsibility and it is in no way delegated. They make the rules and have both the power to honour, to sanction and to discipline those to whom they have granted to become Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
There are a set of requirements in terms of qualifications and presentation that need to be met to be called to the Bar and in the ensuing ceremony, there are standards required of those so called to meet and respect. In those standards are explicitly listed dress codes that are formal, austere and broadly secular in nature. Being called to the Bar is no opportunity for conspicuous self-expression when formality and uniformity is the code.
Obviously, if any part of the code needs to be challenged, there are means by which the people concerned can bring their considerations to the organisation to which they are affiliated and through persuasion and discourse come to some agreement as to whether a change is necessary, or things should remain as they are.
Use your brains, not your brawn
In my view, the principal is schooled in the art of legal advocacy and persuasion, that skill could have been brought to bear on the matter of altering the dress code to accommodate different inclination from the norm, what an organisation like the Body of Benchers must not entertain is the precedence of people having licence without consequence to bend or break the rules because they feel so persuaded.
It would be uncharitable to opine that the principal is suddenly the most devoted of her belief system who has now received such compellingly new revelation that serves as a compulsory requirement for the Body of Benchers to supinely bow to, but that is the elephant in the room, the situation where someone has decided to challenge order with their interpretation of an unrelated belief system.
A perspective of equality before the law
If the Body of Benchers were to submit to this kind of expression without legal argument properly presented in a learned rather than in an activist zealot manner, it would create a recipe for chaos with no inclinations of what new demands might be chanced by others to put before the Body of Benchers.
Equality before the law has to mean something, just as the respect of the rules promotes that same equality. Once religious apparel is excused, what is to say the principal would not subject clients to extraneous hurdles of zealotry before representation?
There are many arguments to be made for and against this subject, a lawyer by training should make the right argument with case law, the principal was called to the Bar, but called to incite religious animus and be found at the front of a mob.
No one is stopping the principal from choosing what to wear, but when there is a dress code, that is the dress code.

Friday 8 December 2017

14 years, a blogger

In 2017, I have not been as prolific a blogger as I had hoped to be, and it is not for the lack of stories or opinions to write about.
The year has been eventful as I was caught up in the maelstrom of circumstances sometimes beyond my control and definitely beyond what I was ready to endure that I took some rather decisive steps about where my career was headed.
I suffered for that principled stance, but I would not have a story uniquely mine if I have not throughout my life launched myself from the platform of comfortable certainty in the uncharted space of uncertainty about many things including whether I had enough to see through the day, talk less of the next.
Yet, this is a milestone I must celebrate, the 14th year of my blog and this would be my 2,846th blog, I would not beat myself up for not having written more than this, I am just glad and full of gratitude for the times that have filled me with new purpose. When I started this blog in a hotel in Berlin, I would have never thought it would still be active, this long after.
I constantly think of living and of dying, each having some sort of purpose with renewal being the recurring theme like the need to breathe to stay alive. I look forward to celebrating more years of writing and hopefully doing more with what I believe is the gift of expression.
I hope I can invite you, the readers of my blog to contribute blogs towards the 15th anniversary. Thank you for being there and being near.

Friday 1 December 2017

World AIDS Day 2017

It’s strange, I’m in a different place,
As if I had run a really hard race,
In all the sweat and toil, I found grace,
No plans I made could ever retrace,
The steps that brought me to this place.
In the days and times of great pain,
Before my eyes, it laid so plain,
That the things I had worked hard to gain,
Were nothing if this scourge left me slain,
I learnt many lessons on the power of pain.
We who live as it courses through our veins,
And stand as beacons to hope that reigns,
With our HIV we run knowledge campaigns,
That AIDS and stigma won’t keep us in chains,
To know for sure, do take a prick to the veins.
With condoms maybe you’re protected,
Without it, know the risk of getting infected,
I take my ARVs as the doctor intended,
By PrEP or that, we know life is extended,
On being undetectable, we’re all protected.
The story that weaves a curtain of loss,
It was a death sentence not giving a toss,
Our knowns and holds beyond it cross,
Every World AIDS Day is not a gloss,
But one to give meaning and purpose to our loss.