Friday, 6 September 2019

Zimbabwe: The Grand Despot of Africa departs

Nothing to weep for
For a long time, I referred to Robert Mugabe whose demise has been announced by his family as the Grand Despot of Africa, entrenched as Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader, he never transformed from a liberation struggle fighter into a statesman. [BBC]
When he was kicked out of office by a coup in 2017, he had already overstayed his welcome, impoverished Zimbabwe, overseen pogroms against the Ndebele in Matabeleland before he set on white Zimbabweans, seizing lands which probably with better political skill and status could have improved the lot of the majority even as the farmers suffered some material loss.
The state of Zimbabwe is in today is the legacy of Robert Mugabe, gerontocrats still hold sway clueless about what needs to be done to turn the ship of state around.
A failed leadership
There is very little to celebrate about Robert Mugabe beyond leading Southern Rhodesia to the new Zimbabwe, the many who fell along the way as his insatiable quest of ultimate power with the vehicle of ZANU-PF kept Zimbabwe from rising from colonialism to great prosperity, just because one man and his cohort of henchmen had an entitlement to rule and any challenge to his throne was met with unmitigated violence.
Three decades into his rule, Robert Mugabe would still raise his fist like a guerrilla leader and rail against colonial powers that had long since left things in his care, his claims to the right of Zimbabweans to govern themselves arrogated solely to himself as he presided over a corrupt enterprise that led to his wife, Grace Mugabe being labelled The First Shopper of Africa as his fellow countrymen were left on the breadline.
Smith and Mugabe both bad
When I wrote a piece at the passing of Ian Smith, the last president of colonial-era Southern Rhodesia in 2007, I inferred that the only difference between Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe was their race, every other act, policy, idea and implementation was literally the same, they were evil men.
It is literally impossible to mourn Robert Mugabe who died at 95, I could easily have replaced their names in that piece, and it would have read the same.
In 2000, Ian Smith said, “We have never had such chaos and corruption in our country, what Zimbabweans are looking for is a bit of ordinary honesty and straightforwardness.” Sadly, not much has changed in 2019.
Another parable of the talents
He went on to say, “We had the highest standard of health and education and housing for our black people than any other country on the African continent; that was what Rhodesians did. I wonder if we shouldn't be given credit for doing that.” This is not to celebrate white oppression, but it was a foundation that could have been built upon to put Zimbabwe in the class of one of the most prosperous countries in Africa with its citizenry not having conditions in their country used against them when they seek to travel abroad.
Robert Mugabe was given a country of great potential and talent, and he took it like the servant who was given one talent in the parable Jesus told in the Bible and buried it in the ground of his atrocious abuse of power. History must not him judge better for the realities of his misdeeds.
As false eulogies sound all over Africa, we must never forget, “Zimbabwe will remember Mugabe for his unrepentant racist attitude and the killing of thousands of innocent people.” This was said of Ian Smith, it applies to Robert Mugabe too. The evil these men did cannot afford me the basic good of saying – Rest in peace.
Let the accounting begin.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Doing what I do for love

In my thoughts
Even as some wondered others did ponder as to what it was that brought a smile, a glow and a joy to my face. The unintended consequence of travel, a break away from the norm almost decided on a whim when I considered the possibility of regret if I did not act.
As the last year closed, there was so much going on, meetings, travel for work, consultations in hospitals and not a few until I made the decision I will stick with those who have a history in my care and wellbeing than sitting with a doctor who put me off, at first sight, his bedside manner as gruff as his look, my mind was made up.
In my mind
After the procedure, I could not fly for at least a fortnight, meanwhile, I had persuaded my nurses that I should switch back to the medication I was on since May 2010, this after submitting a 47-page diary of side effects and discomforts that were anything but adding to my quality of life.
Then, I was in Germany for business when I thought about the idea of visiting South Africa for Christmas through the New Year. I had been contemplating this for months, then I booked my tickets and flew out on Christmas Eve to Johannesburg.
In my deeds
I last had a summery Christmas in India at the Taj Mahal in 2011. Out at the clubs was where it happened, a sighting I won’t have dared ventured approached me with a greeting and the rest is becoming something of a whirlwind romance.
The song says everything and soon we’ll be together again.
In my world only you make me do, for love what I would not do. [Bobby Caldwell - What You Won't Do For Love Lyrics]

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The UK: Exercising a prerogative of protest at the prorogation of principle

This is trouble brewing
Amidst the other uncertainties that have occupied my time and space, it was a sense of powerlessness and numbness that caught me when I read that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had asked the Queen to suspend Parliament. [Channel 4]
This could easily have been a constitutional crisis, but the decision was purely political, a gambler’s last stance at a poker table to get #Brexit over the line where the power of persuasion, the force of argument, the exchange of ideas and robust debate had failed to bring Parliament over to the intentions, agenda and programme of Her Majesty’s Government.
A brigandage in Downing Street
The Prorogation of Parliament is rarely used in a high stakes drama like this, almost never in living memory except for peers of the super-septuagenarian set. It is in this case an act of malevolent Machiavellian statecraft that would have far-reaching consequences for the way the traditions of our parliamentary democracy can be gamed in the interest of ideology over national interest.
The Queen by terms has the prerogative power but is bound to act on the advice of her government and the Privy Council. Whilst she might offer advice, the monarchy has the solemn duty to be above the fray that it cannot interfere even of she as a person and sovereign of our nation has had the great fortitude of inviting 14 Prime Ministers to form a government since she was enthroned in 1952. Sir Winston Churchill was her first.
A disorderly mess
Our distorted, rancorous, and disorderly exit from Europe has left many carcases in its wake, we are on our third Prime Minister and for over three years, not one side of the people’s representation in Parliament has been able to claim a decisive victory in the quest for either exiting or remaining in Europe.
An advisory referendum, poorly implemented, badly fought and corruptly won has hamstrung the country and sucked oxygen out of any viable activity in the UK, yet, the creed stands strong in the hurtling down this precipice in a display of everything redolent of English bloody-mindedness.
Europe is not the problem
I do not believe that Europe has ever been the problem, it is the people we have sent to Europe that has left us with a raw deal. Where other nations sent their best, we found the eccentric, the rabble-rousers and fringe politicians to negotiate on our behalf, the likes of Nigel Farage whose penchant for insult, rudeness and cringe-worthy soundbite would never have with the best ideas in the world be able to win a consensus or an agreement in any committee.
He, as a member of the fisheries committee only attended 1 of 42 sittings, and he had to audacity to board a fishing boat throwing dead fish in the Thames to make the point about seizing back control of our waters.
We, as an electorate have ourselves to blame the most, those who came out to vote won over by questionable arguments, those who allowed apathy to rob them of a say in how they are governed has led to a representation of gamblers. David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, they all owe their rise to people gambling on their future or hoping their single vote can send a message, which is fine, but many messages can end up choosing the wrong representative and lead us down the road to an uncertain future as Brexit portends.
How Europe gives clout
Being in Europe still matters, the evidence of that is in how the Republic of Ireland with just 4.9 million against the almost 70 million of the UK has clout by reason of being backed by the heft of the EU-27, the UK stands alone looking in from the outside with an outsized view of her influence that was progressively lost after two World Wars.
All the trade deals we now want to negotiate after Brexit, we already have as part of the European Union, we are not going to get better deals than those that the EU has already won with hard bargaining, the numbers, the skill and the statesmanship. The UK in the hands of these peddlers of vacuous optimism who have the temerity to question our patriotism when we challenge their baseless assertions leaves one terrified of the future.
Not this cacophony of jesters
Yet, we are full of fight, the last has not been heard of this matter, for if at any time there was a leader of the calibre of Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee or Margaret Thatcher amongst this lot, there might have been a slight chance that they can pull off a successful Brexit, I doubt a hundred of them together can successfully manage a piss up in a brewery, they would likely piss away our future on the altar of privileges they have come to expect as their entitlement to rule without taking responsibility for any failings.
The Parliament is supposed to be sovereign. At this juncture, where the country faces a momentous decision as to our future, we have a Prime Minister who has no electoral mandate putting the mother of all Parliaments in the cooler to allow his government carry the country divided as it is through to a conclusion many of his cohort including himself have severally said to be anathema.
We already have the best deal
A no-deal Brexit is the worst-case scenario with no upside to it as the pound languishes at about 25% below its value before the Referendum, businesses are closing or moving to Mainland Europe, EU citizens who have made their home in this country are none the wiser of their status post-Brexit and the retired Brits out on the Mediterranean coasts of Europe and further afield in the Canaries have to contend with unnecessary geriatric anxiety.
For those who want to leave and those who wish to remain, we have a greater issue at stake, the reckless abuse of and usurpation of power by the executive in silencing the elected representatives of the people with the revising chamber for the presumed will of the people, which first was advisory, which was superseded by a general election, which should have had the full-throated agitations of the Parliament and having not won the argument, the government should have conceded defeat or sought another mandate.
We will fight this
This is a travesty and I believe there will be civil unrest for the fact that if taking back control was not to give it back to the sovereign Parliament, but for the executive to arrogate those powers to itself, our democracy is at an impasse and we need to revisit the fault lines of the separation of powers and how the Parliament should by rights be able to hold the executive to scrutiny and sanction for every action they take in the name of the people.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Not perturbed by mountains

A weight of waiting
I sit in the quandary of mind, far away a dear awaits the notice to act, together we wonder about the near and the far, unsure of what it might portend.
Yet, an agreement does persist that regardless of what we eventually learn, it would not stand in the way of what we have planned. In the waiting is some anxiety, it deigns to sap the reserves of hope and expectation.
We would not faint in the quest of what is happening between us, for the consideration is deep and the purpose is crystallising into something dreams are made of. Gems and treasure gain value in the labour expended, of time, of toil, of trial, of test, and of testament.
In that, there is assurance, that hurdles would be skipped, mountains will be scaled, obstacles will be overcome, difficulties will be solved, rivers will be swum, forded, boated or bridged and at the end will lay a prize that no one will be able to take away.
In our talk comes the comfort from turmoil and in our conversation is the calming of the nerves, we like iron sharpens iron, strengthen each other, supporting the waning to bring it to the thriving.
It is a little setback that gives way to great opportunities, in that, we are confident that love does conquer all.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Sexual Education and Parental Naivety

Unforgiveable parental naivety
This would naturally be a taboo topic, but thinking this afternoon, my mind wandered off to a distant past of my childhood where I concluded that by the age of 10, I knew a good deal about sex without having received any sex education, at least from a formal perspective.
This issue of parental naivety is still rife, the feeling that good sexual mores is acquired by some osmotic transference from a nondescript place. The way parents play with childhood innocence with the view of keeping their wards ignorant of the basics about sex can at best be criminal.
You have to wonder
For instance, the only time my sexual organs were examined by any parent was when I think I was 8, my father was checking if my balls had descended, I was however clueless about what he intended, it might well have been concerns about my development having been a pre-term baby.
Yet, unknown to either parent, I had already had my first sexual experience at 7 and was growing in the knowledge of it through those years. I remember going through a dictionary and looking up every word that began with sex-, which included sexagenarian, sextant, sexual and sexy. A form of titillation of the mind for my age.
Has any parent even wondered, what does my child at their age know about sex?
Enlightenment is protection
The truth is, my parents never discussed sex with me, the first time that subject came up was after our house-girl had been raped by our driver, the enquiry of who might have been responsible for her pregnancy asking if I was responsible. I was mortified, the thought just never crossed my mind, but the sad narrative here is that many parents get to talk about sex with their children the first time, usually after the consequences of bad, risky or unsafe sex have become impossible to ignore.
Just imagine if by the age of 5 I had been told, if anyone touched me in a funny place, I should scream and run to a responsible adult to report my ordeal. I doubt many parents broach that subject out of fear, ignorance, foreboding or hope that everything is fine, when things are not.
Teach or they’ll be taught
The truth is if you do not take on the onerous responsibility to teach your child about sex, sex abuse and the way paedophiles gain sexual favours of unwittingly innocent children, your child would get their lessons from people, places and circumstances you have no control of and you not hear a pip about it for years because the abuser would have put in threats and dares that would prevent your child from running straight over to you.
In the end, you as a parent would ultimately responsible for the ignorance is bliss approach to the sexual education of your child, whilst the poor child is already recruited as a pleasure unit of the abuser, terrified into silence and damaged for life.
You have to decide how you manage this subject, what you cannot do is pretend it is not important, moralise about bad influences and then down the line threaten hell, hell and brimstone on the child has not done what should have been done long before you found yourself caring for a mental illness, treating an incurable sexually transmitted disease or holding an unexpected grandchild.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Thought Picnic: On growing into being at ease with everything

Understanding me
With time I have grown to understand that I am a child of privilege, the privilege of my place of birth, the privilege of my early education, the privilege of having parents who exuded professional confidence in the choice of career and the progression it took in their professional lives, the privilege of not needing to belong when there was the pressure to belong, the privilege of knowing, understanding and accepting who I am, the privilege of having horizons only limited by my ability to dream or imagine.
In having this privilege, it does not mean I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, we were not a moneyed or rich class, but we had sufficiency and contentment, I saw in my parents a steady ambition without greed, a healthy bearing of self-respect, a commanding confidence in leadership, the ability to adapt to many situations and relate to people in different walks of life.
Fixing on the positive
It did not make my parents perfect, they had their numerous flaws, part of the privilege of my upbringing included appreciating value and discarding the dispensible; as a preacher once said, to have the sense of an old cow by eating the hay and leaving the baling wire.
Altogether, these examples have helped me adopt an outlook and mindset that allows me to thrive in many settings in which I have found myself. To accept the many privileges, I have without repudiation and guilt, recognising there are many not as fortunate as I have been and seeking ways to help others rise above the limitations imposed by the absence of privilege or opportunity to realise any of their potential.
Glad to help
Where I can, I provide means, hopefully, I can show some example, in some cases, I offer guidance and to some, I have been honoured with the opportunity to mentor. If I seek any reward, it is to see whoever I have engaged thrive and succeed, whether they better my achievements is usually up to their innate abilities and good fortune, I will celebrate and herald them, for it redounds to my joy.
In view of this, I am thinking of ways in which I have help people be first at ease with themselves and who they are without shame or self-deprecation, then be at ease with any place or situation they might find themselves to be able to express themselves clearly, with confidence, polish and assuredness.
Working on the foundations
Know that they can fit in, by merit, by ability and by achievement with every means to find opportunity, gain favour, have others see potential in them that can take them to new ground. Maybe there is a way to teach presence whilst understated, bearing, class and sophistication without putting on airs or having delusions of grandeur.
To find ways of being the best representative of yourself with simple adjustments and accoutrements, by so presenting the version of yourself without having to struggle to maintain the standards you have created for yourself in having principles, integrity and poise.
An identity crisis
In watching 'How to Break Into the Elite' on BBC Two last week, I realised how many having much academic achievement still found it difficult to access elite professional opportunities because whilst their qualifications might have taken to interviews, they rarely clinched the jobs due to other subjective elements of their person, personality, expression or conduct.
Their backgrounds, identity, schooling or absence of example of how to access these places then thrive in those environments appeared to dog their efforts and probably there is no finishing school that can properly inculcate the necessary mien and mores to give them a fighting chance. [BBC iPlayer]
Starting somewhere
The little touches matter, like the effortless knowledge of the basic social codes of appearance, language and comportment, these things appear to carry much significance in getting access, getting ahead and getting noticed. For some, it comes naturally, for others, they need to have a place where they observe, appreciate, learn and exercise how it opens doors of interest, engagement, recognition and help.
This is an area where I hope I can begin to give back in gratitude for the good fortune and privileges I have had.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

My keynote address to FEGO Class of 98

I was invited to give a keynote address to the Federal Government College Odogbolu, Class of 98 on the general topics of Alumni, Networking, Life and Purpose. After a few light jokes on how I was surreptitiously co-opted into this activity, I began my address.
This cohort of successful people are entering middle-age, in mid-career, raising families and would face challenges ahead, I suppose there was a view that I could share some of my life experiences to help them avoid mid-life crises and attend to healthy life choices.
It was an honour to meet the Class of 98 and I wish them Godspeed.
My lead-in
FEGO Class of 98, you graduated in the Silver Jubilee of the founding of your school, quite auspicious.
My history with Odogbolu is somewhat long and interesting. In January 1976, we were living in Kaduna when my parents had this crazy idea of sending me to a secondary school to be imbibed in Yoruba culture, close to where they were born, Ijesha-Ijebu.
Baptist Academy, Mayflower School, Odogbolu Grammar School, Remo Secondary School (RSS), I can’t remember the school I attended the common entrance examination for in Ibadan, but did I have a life of privilege? I flew in from Kaduna, there was someone to pick me up and take care of me for the duration of my visit.
I don’t know why I was not put forward to any of the unity schools even though I realise there were opportunities for those. I guess my primary school environment in Jos and Kaduna was a disadvantage to my getting integrated into Nigeria. The schools were international with a high percentage of Europeans, Chinese and Japanese, I wasn’t really growing into a Nigerian per se.
Odogbolu Grammar School and Remo Secondary School offered me admission, I took the latter because the former’s campus bordered on a graveyard, I had the strangest things happen to me at 10 and that was my decision.
Two years ago, my nephew was admitted at the Federal Government College Odogbolu (FEGO) at the age of 9, a year after, his brother with whom he shares the same birthday, but two years apart joined him. They are probably the youngest of their year group in the school; just as I was in primary school and then in secondary school.
I find it strange that I am giving an address to an alumni association because, whilst I made a few friends at RSS, my memories of the 5 years I spent there are not ones I cherish that much. We had to be street smart even as we were different because of our accents, we were bedwetters; then it was thought a weakness than something psychological, there was the occasional bully and the use of collective punishment was rife. Thankfully, the core of individuality, inquisitiveness and lack of fear for the person could not be beaten out of me.
Apart from on Facebook, I have no enduring friends from RSS Class of 81, I met up with old school mates from my primary school after 41 years in 2016, I still have friends from Lacostech, YabaTech where no one believed I was 16 when I was admitted and the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, where on my first day there I met up with a junior from secondary who was in his final year, whilst I was starting afresh.
Have your purpose
Considering the good fortune and opportunities I had from birth through secondary school, the 4 years after secondary school I was in two polytechnics and ended up with nothing, my third trial as something in travail and raw experience had widened my perspective to what I could achieve, I was no more haunted by my past or the fear for the future, I just determined that by 35, I would be able to stand with my peers unashamed of what I had done in my life. I began seeing good results already at 24.
Do something radical
In 2000, just after the Millennium bug issue, I was having problems getting a new job, I was attending interviews, getting good reviews but not getting any offers. A mentor advised me to chat to an occupational psychotherapist. He concluded I was suffering a mid-life crisis 10 years early. His advice, consider a career change, maybe go back to school, or even emigrate to another country.
I took the hint, started looking for opportunities in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, I got a job in the UK and, on a day, off, I flew out to the Netherlands for an interview, got that job and 13 years of life in Holland.
Have a plan, do things in the interim, but don’t lose your focus and don’t be distracted.
Embrace youthful aspirations
When I was about to buy an apartment in Amsterdam, the first thing I did was ask the estate agent to feel my hands, she said, they are soft. Indeed, I retorted, I don’t do DIY, I want a place I don’t need to do anything to and please complete the deal in 6 weeks. She did.
The couple I bought my home from was in their mid-70s, they had lived in Eindhoven for 25 years, they could easily have lived out the rest of their days there, but they bought an apartment in Amsterdam off the plan and came to live in Amsterdam for almost 4 years. During which time, she became the chairman of the homeowners association.
Then they considered, because of their age, they needed a place where they could have better care, they sold up in Amsterdam for a healthy profit and bought a riverside residential care apartment in Arnhem. I still always wish I can make decisions like that whatever age I am.
Then, I have an uncle, he was and still is the playful adult in my life, someone I can chat to about anything. I can be utterly irreverent, but always respectful. He was one of the foremost insurers in Nigeria, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Insurers and an examiner for the council.
In the space of a few years, he lost his car a couple of times to armed robbers, so he decided to move to the UK and is settled here. He called me one day and said he wanted to go back to school to study Petroleum Engineering. I asked if he was going for a master’s programme, he said he was applying for a bachelor’s degree.
Obviously, I thought he was too distinguished for that somewhat lowly pursuit, but he expressed such humility in his decision to pursue that endeavour.
He was already 60, he tells me, the course was one of the hardest he ever attended. He had failed many examinations in adolescent into adulthood that my father on returning from the UK, promised him £10 if he passed. That £10 debt is still a running debt in our conversations.
He stood out throughout the course, the older man, wise from a world of experience in C-suite jobs, students and faculty were always seeking his viewpoint on many things. At graduation, he had been gravely ill and was recuperating. The university arranged to pick him up from the hospital to attend his graduation. When his name was called along with citations, he got a standing ovation.
Such can never happen, if you are not ready to embrace your youth and youthful aspirations; do something new, assess yourself against your aspirations rather than against others, believe in yourself even if no other believes in you and never let your failures in life define you today or in your future.
Recently, on the radio I heard Isabelle Allende who was asked, “How do you fall in love at 76?” She answered, “Like 26, only with a little more urgency.”
Identity is a construct
I have a keen sense of my identity, I am an Englishman of Nigerian heritage. How I came to that idea of who I am was when I lived in the Netherlands. I had to answer the question of where I am originally from.
I was born in England, I grew up in England and Nigeria, then lived in the Netherlands for almost 13 years. Why am I not Nigerian? I was like everyone else until my accent betrayed me. To so many, I was the child born abroad, I wasn’t entirely accepted in Nigeria.
My mother tongue is English, but my mother’s tongue is Yoruba – I am proud to say even as an Aje-butter, I speak Yoruba to a very good standard, my Hausa, however, needs some work, I was in the North only until 1977.
Identity is a construct of influences, many good, some bad and a few you need to discard of completely. Accept who you are, don’t let anyone question the legitimate version of you.
On an Uber ride last week, the driver was telling me about his extraordinarily brilliant nephew who had excellent results for A-levels but could not make it through Oxbridge interviews to gain admission. I knew what the problem was, much had gone into academic achievement but very little into identity and personality development, the poor chap was cowed by the environment.
Community is good, but you also need to interact with the wider society, have a sense of confidence; completely different from arrogance, a healthy self-esteem; completely different from being an impostor, the ability to express yourself clearly; completely different from being loud and vulgar.
When I returned to the UK from Nigeria in 1990, I already had a good sense of who I was, my blackness was always part of me, anyone who had an issue with it, it was their problem, not mine. I also had a good sense of history. So, when someone trying to offensively racist said to me, 100 years ago I would have shot you, I was immediately able to respond, 200 years ago, I would have eaten you.
Be a sleeping dog, but be ready to bite when kicked, probably take the leg off, if you must.
Let the best influences of culture, of beliefs, of location, of friendships, of communication, of reading, and of learning define who you are in personality, in expression, in empathy, in humanity and in the pursuit of happiness.
Your health is wealth
10 years ago, what appeared to be athletes’ foot had become painful and was beginning to weep. At the back of my mind, I thought it was serious but was willing it away. A residual element of my religious upbringing was interfering with my sense of reasoning. Things about faith, miracles and so on.
Then, I decided to visit my GP, she had one look at the sole of my foot and said, ‘this looks serious, I need to refer you.’ The first reference 2 days later led to another 4 days later because of the intervening weekend.
The professor came to examine me and said, you can’t go home, we have a bed for you upstairs. That is how my treatment for cancer started. I did not realise how serious it was until the 8th day in the hospital when the professor came around to tell me. “We can treat this, but it depends on how your body can take the treatment; if you can, you’ll be fine, else you probably have 5 weeks.” 5 weeks!
I was 18 days in hospital and then 5 months of gruelling chemotherapy, sometimes, I couldn’t keep my food down for days.
Because of cancer, I lost everything, status, wealth, my home of 10 and a half years, prospects, but I did not lose hope and definitely not the will to live.
Part of my life education had been the ability to let go of things, not let things have a hold on me and because of that, I have been able to go on to new things, do new things, think new things, achieve new things and prosper in life, despite old things of the past, because they pass and in the process, you are given a better story. In the process of letting go, I realised that an open hand is one that is ready to receive.
Consider your health, go for scheduled and regular check-ups, I have a better idea of my health situation than my medical notes can provide. I have been fortunate to be treated as an intelligent patient even though with hindsight I have been foolish.
One identity construct that has helped me get the best outcomes for my health and treatment was my telling two professors of medicine, “It is my body first before it is your guinea-pig.”
They listened and backed down on the intrusive course of discomfort they had planned to take.
These are some key points from my address.
·         Don’t be afraid of failure, be afraid of never trying.
o    I have failed at many things; the lessons have become part of my world of experience.
o    I say, do it, rather than regret not doing it at all.
·         An opportunity once lost can be regained after a temporary setback.
o    I have had many setbacks, but never entirely lost opportunities.
·         Accept your vulnerabilities, they are part of your humanity.
o    I needed therapy and when I went for therapy, it helped me and enriched the therapist too.
·         Embrace change and be prepared for it in every area of your life, because if you hate change, you’ll hate irrelevance even more.
o    I have not survived 31 years in IT being stagnant, I have had to continually adapt and improve. I have been a self-employed contractor since 1995.
·         Learn to rest, learn to play, find time for yourself and do new things.
o    And suddenly, I found this liking for classical music, travel calms me down. I love quirky things.
·         The greatest thing you can pass down is example; an example of contentment which isn’t the lack of ambition, an example of resilience that you never fold in adversity, an example of empathy - walking a long hard mile in the shoes of another before you dare assume you know better.
o    I would probably not inherit much from my parents, but these are things that have stood the test of time.
·         Everyone has a story, you can tell yours too.
o    In the ordinariness of our lives, when you begin to count your blessings, you realise how extraordinary your life has been.
In closing
In speaking to this alumni association gathering, it is 21 years since you left FEGO. I hope it is more than the fact that you attended school together that has brought you here. I hope there is a friendliness that goes beyond acquaintance, a love that is deeper than mere concern, an engagement that ensures that no one of you falls to the ground, a brotherliness/sisterliness that means each one of you has another to whom you can go to for advice, direction and even admonition.
Yes, you can gather to laugh and play, but there must be times when you would have spoken the truth so frankly and without equivocation, we all need some tough talk along with the support to see it through. We cannot afford to be ashamed amongst true friends.
FEGO Class of 1998 – I commend you, live well, live strong, live long and live happily.
Thank you.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Boris Johnson: I do not believe this Moses can part the #Brexit Red Sea

The man – Boris Johnson
By the force of sheer ambition and ingrained public-school entitlement, Boris Johnson is on the cusp of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He must be congratulated for this achievement, but it is at an inauspicious time.
Boris Johnson has both a record and form, his history is littered with gaffes and buffoonery, the tack of playing the court jester whilst executing the dastardly, he does not have the best references from many of those he worked for, but we are where we are now.
I was distressed but not full of despair when it was announced that he had been elected the leader of the Tory Party, the position was his to lose, for he does offer some sort of star power and to those easily distracted, you could be fooled for how Machiavellian he could be.
We need more than hope
Listening to his victory speech yesterday, I could notice no hint of sincerity in what he said apart from fulfilling the righteousness of seemingly saying the right things. We are as a country and conglomerate of nations facing crossroads of what future is ahead of us, we all, knowing how this country has stagnated since the Brexit vote of June 2016.
We all need a dose of optimism, but it cannot be realised by ignoring the stark realities this all portends. I would be the first to tell you that when I finally accepted I had cancer, just under 10 years ago, I knew I would survive it, but I still had to face the reality ahead of me, I didn’t even know that treatment I would get would work.
It was 5 gruelling months of chemotherapy, 4 types of pain medication, enough to quieten the pain, yet with that little bit of pain that proved I was still alive. Optimism and hope alone was not enough, as my consultant said to me if I did not respond well to the treatment, I had just 5 weeks to live.
What kind of Moses is he?
For all the optimism and hope that Boris Johnson suggests we need to get Brexit realised, there are some tough obstacles ahead about negotiating deals and assuring a future for this country and its people. We cannot just proceed on jingoism, bluster, rhetoric and gallons of intoxicating hope towards the sunlit uplands that are figments of an inebriated and overactive vivid imagination, there are jobs at risk, lives in the balance, futures in turmoil and other unintended consequences.
Leadership in the case of Brexit would be like us being brought like the Israelites of old to The Red Sea, the question is if indeed, the one who has brought thus far is the Moses with the rod to part the Red Sea or a charlatan about to drown the nation having convinced us we can swim like dolphins to the other side.
The UK is at its most combustible. And now it’s led by a man who plays with matches.” Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian today. [Guardian]
We will continue to oppose Brexit
I earnestly believe Brexit is not the right path for the UK at this time. Nations use the heft of bloc, trading, political, military and economic to exact deals and this has been the case for decades already. A good example is us calling on Europe to help police the Gulf shipping when the US apparently refused to help us out. Ireland has the heft of the EU-27 behind it and so commands much more clout in the EU negotiations than the UK can alone.
I will put my support behind parties that support revoking Article 50, we would not be a silent minority in terms of where our nation is going. We belong here and we patriotic, and if patriotism needs to be redefined, it is the love of the fatherland, it does not automatically include the love of the government, their agenda or policies, we all need to be persuaded and convinced and if we are not, we are no less citizens and have no less a say in how we are governed.
In the end, I can only wish Boris Johnson a successful premiership, he will be opposed for as long as we can muster the support to do so if we believe he is taking us for a ride. There is a time to know when a course leads to perdition and someone should take that decision to turn back from ruin.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Just for the asking

We have been put to the test,
At the drawbridges of Fortress West,
Where a gatekeeper says lest,
The invited returns not to their nest,
They cannot, for now, be a guest,
For reasons that we must contest,
And quite vehemently protest,
Though our means are modest,
Our aims are completely honest,
Once more we find we must wrest,
To show our very best,
Against policies that do suggest,
We can’t be better than the rest,
On this, we are really pressed,
As it must well be stressed,
That what was then professed,
And would like to be redressed
At the point that it’s again addressed,
Is the leave granted to the quest,
To enter freely unsuppressed,
To be trusted wholly as possessed,
Of good character duly manifest,
To act as agreed and expressed,
And depart without arrest,
When due as one did truly attest,
We stand the readiest,
To leave you all impressed,
It is just a simple request,
A visit as if you haven’t guessed.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Thought Picnic: The changing dynamic of familial allegiances

Beyond the conventional
There comes a time when you can no more think for just one, even though for such a long time, anytime I have been asked about my family, I have answered, I have a large family of one.
One person can be a family, just as a family can be traditional, extended or unconventional, and I have been in all of those to different degrees with experiences and influences that are extensive.
That one has not followed the convention of the traditional family setting does not mean that the individual does not have responsibilities and obligations to keep their own concept of the family unit intact, safe, provided for and secure. There is sometimes that misconception that the absence of dependants means the commitment of means and resources to demands and requirements of others following the traditional family concept.
Assumptions taking liberties
Obviously, in terms of numbers, there is probably more to distribute towards achieving much for the comfort and liberties of the singular, but it cannot be imposed as a duty, just because the person for reason of circumstance, opportunity or fate has not conformed to the heteronormative mindset.
The contemporary family unit now respects no conventions, what is adopted is what is found suitable for the individual or partners in that construct. The composition is fluid as well as committed and decisions that concern that unit then must take all parties into consideration, for partners and dependants alike.
The extended family becomes peripheral to that family unit, their requirements and demands, secondary to the focus needed to maintain family unit cohesion.
Setting your family goals
This can become a source of conflict, if certain do feel ignored or left behind, it might occasion emotional blackmail and put to test the matter of allegiances.
You can love and care for your blood relatives, but in the matter of spousal relationships and the development of those into your own family unit, there should be no question as to with whom loyalties lie, where faithfulness matters and to whom the greater devotion must be found.
It could be a tough course to navigate, but the person with whom you choose to spend life together on matters of the heart and things that evolve from therein must know that they come first and above in the scheme of things.
When you’re in this together
In the evolving commitment within relationships, you begin to affirm a few things, like, we’re in the love together, we grow interdependent of each other, decisions require the consideration of the partner, and for the elimination of any doubt, what each person does is done with the mind that affects both in the relationship and consequently, all around that relationship.
That is the confidence those in that family unit need to have, that progress is a lock-step activity of persuasion and conviction, communication and information, assurance and endurance, and, encouragement and affirmation. Whether it be a large family of one or any other viable construct of relationships that matter to the people involved.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Thought Picnic: Living a storied life

For the quiet around
Even without hearing a sound, there can be a lot of noise, deafening and debilitating noise, banging on your eardrums from the inside of your head.
They say the battle is mostly won in the mind, but how do you acquire the silence and quietude to concentrate on resolving the issues that give you much discomfiture?
I find my comfort in many things, the times when the turmoil proves too upsetting, I would probably just go to sleep. It keeps the thoughts from getting overwhelmed with imponderables and the implausible, hours later in wakefulness, the mind has settled into some resolution and purpose, it is a strange journey to acceptance that I have travelled many times before.
Not for a thing
Worry is an illness that can infect all organs of the body and make you terribly ill. The residue of religion left in me is the insight into how worry can change nothing. If nothing can be changed for the situation, you’re in, why bother expending energy in ruminating over the wastelands about you?
This is where other aspects of the residue come to play, for many stories from the Book have the narrative of coming to pass, rarely ever coming to stay. Nothing stagnates to the point of having no movement of time. Time rarely stands still, things might seem long in passing, but never immovably stopped that all the laws of nature are upturned. This too shall pass, and it will pass into the realm of stories told in the future as if it mattered not at all.
Talk to thy self
Beyond that, I speak to myself, loudly in my Anglicised name, I tell myself, it would come out right, I expect things to turn, I prepare for the future ahead that I cannot see, but know that life creates stories that you are given to help others see beyond their walls, their clouds, their chains, their gates, their inadequacies and anything that makes you think any less of who you can be.
I have a vision of the possible, the possible that walks through the impossible, usually not as miracles, but as the gift of fortune and fortitude with a mind set to rise and be lifted above the fray. Then, because I found it when I was in the Pentecostal movement, I still speak in tongues, it might be gibberish, incantations, prayers or commands that turn nature on its head like the parting of the seas, that is my teaspoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way.
I can find my peace in storms that rage so violently that the hearts of some men fail, I have stood in the whirlwinds that swirl the dross and dust off me to leave me feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenge. There is a life to live, live it well, for from the very first day, it was a struggle to thrive and a blessing, it remains each day, what I am thankful for, a life so ordinary, yet made extraordinary by the stories I have been given to tell.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Looking like I do, happily

Of weight and form
For a man my age, I am pretty much comfortable in my own skin, in my identity and generally in the way I express myself. Yet, I do suffer from middle-aged angst about my body, I obsess about my weight even though my doctors would prefer I maintain the weight I have considering I lost 25% of my body weight when I had cancer 10 years ago.
I probably would be happier with myself if I lost a few kilograms. That, along with middle-aged spread that can plague you if you are not committed to an exercise and fitness regime. A gym membership languishes with monthly extractions from my account, the gym in my apartment block has not seen a visit in aeons and the swimming pool that gives my the yearning to learn to swim, leaves me with the best of intentions, good intentions, but intentions do not keep you fit.
FaceApp on WhatsApp
Then with the fantasy of desire and probably the means to acquire, I was visited with a remodelling of my face, a full beard that is attractive to someone but a complete irritation to me. Five days after shaving, every pore of the nascent beard growth is itching stimulus receptacle asking a tug, a pull or a scratch, it is only assuaged with a shave, a good clean close shave with 2 days for my skin to heal.
What I could be in the imagination of FaceApp and none look the least attractive to me.

It drives me to distraction; I would rather I had no beard as I did not even start growing one that responded to shaving until I was in my 30s.
There is much else I could change, male pattern baldness with a dusty brown Caucasian wig as bangs. I know of no other male in my immediate family that has this condition, but when I saw that I was losing the hair, I did not agonise about it, I took it all off especially after watching a film of people with a snake oil remedy for hair growth inject people with hair loss issues with a serum that grew their hair at unbelievable speeds, until it became clear that they were being used as hosts for aggressive follicular snakes. [Body Bags – Wikipedia]
All the makeup MAC can make
Maybe there are things I would have liked to change, my teeth, the front two which I lost in a childhood wheelbarrow game and the stories that follow. It is somewhat unsightly, but I am not that self-conscious about these things, I have faced more life-threatening situations than the absence of a complete set of fitted mandibles and maxilla. I could tamper with my nose and fiddle with my ears, but I would no more be who I am after all that.
Then I think of the girl with her boyfriend in the video of TLC’s Unpretty, he was not happy with her as a person, he wanted her to have bigger boobs and persuaded her enough to feel so inadequate that she contemplated cosmetic surgery until it dawned on her that she was just good as she was.
I don’t feel unpretty
The battles we fight in our heads where people who are naturally beautiful get to the point of thinking something is so wrong with their looks that after rounds of plastic surgery, they become grotesque caricatures of their former selves and bizarrely contented with the butchery of their bodies.
I pray I never have to suffer that level of psychological discontent leading to the physiological hacking away of my natural features. I have lost a few teeth, had a crown or two inserted, but for everything else, I am blessed with much more than I have ever been grateful for. No, I don’t feel unpretty, I love my body, I could do much more to be fitter.

Monday, 1 July 2019

A survivor does not owe you a convincing story

A sex story
In the main, I have kept my counsel on a developing story in Nigeria because the commentary covers the spectrum from the totally agreeable to the utterly reprehensible, so much so that one engagement can leave you mired in the completely incomprehensible.
She was twice his age when she called him into the toilet, closed the door and crouched down, then she pulled down his shorts and handled his member, brought him down, centred him to her exposed self and asked him to move in on her. That is all he can remember of that event. Like so many crazily eerie moments that litter over half a century of life, this one still plays back like a slow-motion replay in the inner recesses of the mind.
That was the only instance with her, probably she decided she should look for someone else, but in that seemingly insignificant moment, the seeds of an outrageous scandal had been sown whilst at the same time the treasure of innocence had been plundered by an act of senselessness that you probably would not impute on either party.
Other sex stories
However, beyond that day, there were other instances where those presumably entrusted with the care of minors whilst the parents pursued their careers in the confidence that their wards were safe completely unaware that were being fast-tracked into irresponsible adulthood for the personal pleasure of their male servants.
You wonder why the kids said nothing to those they trusted then because trust by proxy now went to through the servants, not that the parents were too busy to engage the children, the parents just naively thought everything was fine on the home front and by inference, fine with the children.
When eventually, a report of one of the servants interfering with the kids got to the notice of the parents, they did all the motions, a hospital visit and a sacking of the servant without involving the police, it would have been too scandalous for such a respectable family. This was three years after that other episode, they had moved to another city by now.
Can’t forget sex
Little did they know that the report came at the instigation of another child, who found that they could easily confide in another child than go to their parents. Without the prompting of the other child, nothing would have happened, and the abuse would probably have continued. The parents were completely caught up in the trauma of the event, that first, they did not bother to inquire whether others might have been abused, when one other was previously the plaything of that abuser.
I guess they thought with time childhood memories would be erased and forgotten, if only. If one were to add to this a greater indictment, it is after the servant was sacked the kids were told to watch out for his return, no adult with them as they were terrified of what might happen next, all they had for safety was the instruction to scream, a boy of 10 being the eldest against the servant, 29 years old.
The scars of child sexual abuse run deep and only a few survivors of such events go on to live in healthy relationships with a complete blank on the past. Sexual innocence once lost can never be replaced, but there is a lot parents can do in caring, in nurturing, in showing unusual affection and doing everything to regain the trust and confidence of their children being readily able to report any violation of their bodies.
Earn sex trust
Whilst some parents might find this strange, the trust a child can have in their parents to report sexual abuse has to be earned, earned beyond the standard of just being a parent and expecting every child to worship you from the day they were born. Parental provision is a responsibility on the shoulders of the parent, the child does not have to be thankful for that, but the child would be more exceedingly thankful for the opportunity to open their hearts to their parents long before the problems come.
Yet, what parents concentrate on is ensuring they are respected and obeyed at the cost of everything else. They lament about being disrespected, get out the whip to lash out at every opportunity, make all physical and economical provision and have no concept of emotional engagement, then later in life think the child owes them everything.
That was lost on the day the child lost their sexual innocence when all the parents did was ignore, scold, treat the child as a commodity and leave to chance the healing of time. In most cases, the child never forgot, today becomes a day of reckoning.
Unconvincing sex stories
This is a story told, personal and raw, there was a conversation where the legalism of a child became a matter of dispute, and though recent events need attention, past events are no less significant because the seeds sown then mature in the person affected from that time, they have just learnt to cope better with the hurt.
I wrote this because within the commentary that followed the developing story on Facebook, someone said everything that matters to every victim, every victim of child sexual abuse whether you hear that story immediately after the abuse or decades after that it all seems incredible, implausible or even unbelievable, “A survivor does not owe you a convincing story.” 
To that, I would say, neither does a victim owe you a convincing story. There are liars and blackmailers out there, but to allow those few to determine your view every other story is a grave injustice and too many of these stories cannot be tested to its limits in court, you only need a good lawyer to get a murderer off the charge. What two sides of a story you are not convinced of that would allow you side with the perpetrator against the victim, victimising them a second time, because the victim can't tell you a convincing story?
There are many stories left untold because the victim and survivor is left second-guessing themselves unsure of whether they would be believed about what was done to them, be it child sexual abuse or rape, they are heinous crimes against the person, to which there are rarely any corroborating witnesses. The victims internalise their trauma and their fate, there is courage in keeping silent and there is unusual courage in speaking out.
Tell your story
The many victims of child sexual abuse I have watched being told to shut up, they have a story they cannot tell about what happened to them, because they cannot make their story dramatic enough, fantastic enough, or convincing enough to the majority who think child sexual abuse or rape must follow a rational course of action by the perpetrator.
One can almost say a murder scene almost definitely yields more forensic evidence than a child sexual abuse or rape event, why that is the case when the victim is a witness to their own violation continues to baffle me.
In that story is a boy, an aunt, a sister, many houseboys, some distant relations and no strangers, all before he was 11.