Saturday, 16 February 2019

Nigeria: Can we radically rethink our political machinery?

Resisting the laughable
I was not surprised when I heard on BBC Radio 4 in the very early hours of this morning that just 5 hours before the polls opened in Nigeria, they were postponed for a week. [BBC]
It would be convenient for me to write from the western comfort of my abode to rant and rave about the systemic dysfunction that bedevils Nigeria and runs counter to the words of Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa on the day of independence, when he said, “We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination.” [AkinBlog][Dawodu]
The courage of reality
In that assertion at the dawn of independent Nigeria, the claims and the want are no more the subject of debate, the conclusion is an everyday indictment of a nation that is full of potential and that is all we have, potential.
Yet, for all accusations by the main political parties that the postponement could presage the manipulation of the vote in favour of either, I must commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for having the courage to realise they were not ready and taking the difficult but necessary decision to postpone.
The pressure to carry on regardless would have been immense but having recognised that certain locations would be denied suffrage and appreciating the logistical problems of getting election materials to the various places that might have been sabotaged, this was the only reasonable option.
The saboteurs gaming the system
The problem with Nigeria is myriad, we have a rentier class of political jobbers who have no occupation apart from peddling influence, they suck the oxygen out of every other viable and productive sector of the economy, society and government, such that things can only work with their agreement.
Then, amongst them, because the remuneration within politics far exceeds that which can be acquired out of qualification, hard work or merit, they employ every means to disrupt and sabotage the electioneering process that represents the will of the people in order to entrench themselves in positions where they can control the commonwealth arrogating to themselves untrammelled fiat over the helpless masses who are best kept in the vassalage of only having begging bowls, living hand to mouth and driven by survival by the belly.
That is the failure of Nigeria that has resulted in postponing the elections for a week. There are people who have a vested selfish interest in what they can usurp to the detriment of others and without any scruples as to whether anyone gets hurt or killed in the process.
Rethinking our political machinery
Sometimes, I wonder what it is that can fix Nigeria in the state that it is, but we can start with one thing, slash the remuneration of the political class to just basic allowances for board, meals and transport. If they need additional income, they should earn it like everyone else.
Nigeria cannot afford a fulltime legislature, at the exorbitant cost at which it is run today, there is no reason to feather the beds of the legislators when ordinarily the middle classes on their earnings cannot afford the basic things without the temptation to malfeasance, corruption or fraud.
The legislature should have a term time with a clear agenda like a syllabus of activities and bills to debate, run with the efficiency of a principal of a secondary school, clearly with objectives and penalties for not producing results. An Office for Government Accountability having the independence to review and sanction the executive and the legislature when they fail in their responsibilities.
As a consequence of this
Taking the remuneration surplus out of politics would immediately divert the eyes of the heretofore political jobbers to other honeypots and troughs, whilst hopefully allowing Nigerians with a sense of altruism and commitment into politics. At least, they would not be politicking for the money but for the opportunity to serve.
Then, reduce all political terms to one term, none should seek re-election without having been succeeded once, within that, cascade the elections such that the executive branch is not elected in the same year as the legislative branch. This is radical, but I think it would go a long way to taking the leeches out of the decision-making framework of Nigeria.
There is still hope
There is a likelihood with this rethinking of Nigerian politics, we might come close to the what Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa dreamt was possible in Nigeria, “that our claims to responsible government are well-founded.”
In the meanwhile, I hope that when Nigerians do finally get the opportunity to elect their political leaders and representatives in a week, INEC would be ready, the people would have chosen wisely and their express will be presented in the validated results.
Long live Nigeria and God bless Nigeria.

Friday, 15 February 2019

In My Time

Songs that touch the heart
There are many songs that I have heard that touch a part of me that nothing else can. Sometimes, it is just the music, the easy listening that brings a calmness and restfulness to my spirit, I feel I want to play it back continuously until I fall into slumber.
Then, beyond the sound of the music, you look at the lyrics and find such meaning that you can completely relate to as if the words taken out of your life and published to the strains of music that take your thoughts to another place.
All that I know now has to go
Recently, I found a life experience I never thought I would ever have again, I have a long history of relationships, some good, some bad and the others are forgettable. Some of my past loves are still friends and I cherish their friendships, but there would be no rekindling of what we once felt for each other, that has gone.
How again I realise experience limited my ability to move on and find new love, I built crenellations around my heart for it had been hurt and broken too many times, I did not want to hurt anymore. I was protecting myself from heartbreak and by that not opening my heart to those who might have been more caring and careful, considering and considerate, in love and loving, I was exhausted.
I let my heart be touched
Even with that, I thought I was on guard by default, then someone came and in a short embrace, my heart settled, a calmness enveloped me, I felt peaceful and drawn to this person in ways impossible to resist. There was no conflict between my head and my heart, both were telling me, there is much in this than you could ever imagine. Go with the flow, dare to ask and fear for nothing about what might happen.
I followed my deepest premonitions like I was walking through caves towards a welcoming light and comfort, I was being led into love unbeknownst, I was in love before it dawned on me that this was happening to me. I accepted there was no escape from this feeling. Crazy as it seemed, it was real, it was true, and it was growing in strength, in meaning and in prospect.
I let my heart be touched, I let my mind be caught, I let my life be changed, I let my love be shared and the past has become its own story because the present is a miracle of dreams that come true for the very few. In that, I have been blessed, for after all I have been through, in my time, I have found love – it is a wonderful thing.
This song touched me deeply
You know, I'm no beginner
My heart's been to the wall
I'm a tried and true romantic
Who's seen and done it all
And when you walked into my life
Suddenly I knew
All the love I had inside
Was leading me to you
In my time
I've lived and loved so much
Through each high and low
I let my heart be touched
In my time
There isn't much I've missed
I've seen love come and go, but heaven knows
I've never loved like this in my time
After all that I've been through
I'm in love with you
I've won some and I've lost some
But us dreamers don't complain
We keep reaching out for passion
No matter what the pain
When I looked into your eyes
It all fell into place
I found, what I was searching for
Shining in your face
In my time
I've lived and loved so much
Through each high and low
I let my heart be touched
In my time
There isn't much I've missed
I've seen love come and go, but heaven knows
I've never loved like this in my time
After all that I've been through
I'm in love with you
In my time
I've lived and loved so much
Through each high and low
I let my heart be touched
In my time
There isn't much I've missed
I've seen love come and go, but heaven knows
I've never loved like this in my time
After all that I've been through
I'm in love with you
In My Time lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Thursday, 14 February 2019

To My Funny Valentine

When the time lags
What the passage of time is, long and enduring like tomorrow would never come and then in its passage, the speed at which history takes hold is amazing if not unfathomable.
I once lamented where my funny valentine was having just lost one who I so desired to take that place, it was painful knowing the person had passed away just exactly 4 months before.
Three years later, I wrote about the quest for love and companionship that had so eluded my grasp in many ways I could not understand. Much about love unrequited or the knowledge of what one did not want beclouding what might have been available. In the background, grief still held one back from exploring opportunities, I guess I never found one to lead me into love again.
When the time comes
We arrive at another Valentine’s Day with a different story as a journey that appeared to start 9 years before, now has the hold of something meaningfully amazing, for I have found my funny valentine and in him the words of the song brings a reality that I could not even dare to dream when the last season passed without event.
In paraphrasing an excerpt of the lyrics to the contemporaneous, we find the truth to something that transcends everything, for love conquers all.
My funny valentine, now I know where you are – Sweet comic valentine, so would I like to laugh to the sound of your voice – You make me smile with my heart, such joy you bring.
Your looks are laughable, who cares you are the best – Unphotographable, but I see you every day so perfect – Yet you’re my favourite work of art, and nothing can compare to what I adore.
A play on the lyrics of My Funny Valentine
Dedicated to my funny valentine, you know who you are.
Thank you!

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Opinion: Resurrect your dead blogs

Dead blogs as Internet zombies
Sometimes I go checking on blogs I once read fervently and notice there has not been a newly written blog for years. It makes me wonder about when blogging seemed to be a trend and once the novelty wore off the interest in blogging died.
More so, I visit corporate and establishment websites with links to blogs that were enthusiastically written for a while and have had no recently new content. Now, apart from my personal blog that I have consistently contributed to for 15 years, I do have a professional blog that has had no new content for almost 5 years.
We all have stories to tell
The question then becomes, have we all run out of stories to write about? On a personal level, there is always an idea, an event, a circumstance or a personality engaging enough to write about along with having a perspective of things that can become a blog.
My view has always been, we are story people, we all have stories that can only be best told in our own voice, written in our own style and related uniquely from our own perspective. A blog is who you are, what you see, how you feel and the way you are affected or unaffected by that or other situations.
Blogging is easy, honestly
That means, there can be no reason not to have a blog in the first place and then keep it running as much as you could. There was a time when people religiously kept diaries and journals, captains of ships kept logs. The issue of documentation and record keeping is both for reference and posterity, removing dispute from ascertaining the facts as the reckoner has archived the situation.
Not that a blog is as formal as that. For where some have seen blogging as a means to a livelihood, mine is written out of interest, I have opinions and I write them down in a blog, I address social issues and those sometimes find resonance with other people, they begin and interaction that leads to a conversation.
Resurrect yourself in a blog
A blog does not have to be a serious endeavour of academic rigour, do your proofreading, do not dispense with the rules of grammar for the chosen language of communication and follow the common sense of a good seamstress making a skirt; make it short enough to keep the interest and long enough to cover the detail. I hope that analogy is relatable without appearing sexist.
As you read this, why did you stop blogging if you were once a blogger? The excuse that you haven’t the time for it would come across as lame; you can knock out a blog in less than 15 minutes and it does not have to be a treatise. Then the other question is, why are not blogging? That is, if you have never had a blog before, you cannot convincingly say you have no ideas, no opinions or no perspective of the things that surround your life.
There are too many blogging tombstones on the Internet on which we have written; Here lies the exhausted ideas of a person who once regaled us with stories that many once came here to read. Alas! You can resurrect your blog by posting one today.

Shortening time with longing

Time is a measure,
In which we find the pleasure,
Wandering for leisure,
With a heart full of treasure.
There comes a time,
For which there is no chime,
We come into our prime,
With the hopes of a lifetime.
Counting down the days,
The weeks you dare set ablaze,
The months you want to raze,
Till when you face their gaze.
If time will gallop on,
To finish the marathon,
No more to wait upon,
The wish to liaison.
The heart is full of love,
Like a blessing from above,
Time is like a dove,
Freed and better off.
We wonder what to do,
With what we never knew,
As sure as we come to,
The day to meet anew.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Furloughed: Checks, posts and views

A furloughed week
As a consequence of a frank professional assessment of a situation I was working on, I have found myself inadvertently furloughed to work just one day this week, as that is the only billable activity on my schedule. The disadvantage for me is that I do not get paid for days that have no billing, I am dependent on my resource manager to assign new projects to my schedule, or I am technically out of work.
However, not to be idle, I chose to book a sexual health check today, as before now, each visit to that clinic has me spending almost 5 hours there, I seem to always be the last to be seen. They have changed the arrangements from a walk-in clinic to an online appointments system that is open at noon for slots the day after. I caught the first slot of 8:30 AM today and still did not get called by a doctor until 9:15 AM. An improvement, but I arrived first, two people arrived after me and they were seen before me.
In any case, we had a pleasant session from answering questions that were heretofore embarrassing to me giving a detail medical report of my situation. Blood was drawn, swabs taken, and I gave a urine sample; all done in about 30 minutes.
I left to post a letter that was processed as registered post, taking time to ask questions about the normal operations of equipment and systems in the Post Office as part of my activities in the last few weeks included investigating the performance of Post Office environments.
Legacies that last
Then as I made my way home, the Whitworth Art Gallery which had undergone renovations a few years before became a point of interest. I decided to consider some appreciation of art, so I walked in first for a coffee and a croissant before looking around.
The gallery is named for Sir Joseph Whitworth Bt. who donated funds for the gallery and is renowned for setting the standards for the screw thread known as the British Standard Whitworth and the pioneer of the sniper rifle. His name features prominently around Manchester on Whitworth Street; where I live, Whitworth Hall, the Christie Hospital which he funded and is now one of the foremost cancer treatment centres in Europe. His legacy also funds 10-15 scholarships for engineering degrees and now to doctorate level.
At the gallery, is saw prints by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 – 1828), known to all as Goya and William Hogarth (1697-1764) in a curated exhibition titled Prints of Darkness: Goya and Hogarth in a Time of European Turmoil which runs until August 2019. The subtext is these men challenged orthodoxy and the abuse of power in times when the powerful had an untrammelled ability for impunity without accountability.
History is panels
At the exhibition, I learnt that Hogarth as an active governor of the Foundling Hospital founded by retired sea captain Thomas Coram in 1739, persuaded other great artists to donate works to the hospital and thereby pioneering socially engaged artists.
Then in his moral depiction of the Four Stages of Cruelty, he works progressively from childhood cruelty against pets, to adult cruelty against beasts of labour, then criminality that includes robbery to murder, ending with the reward of cruelty where the criminal having been condemned to disembowelled when brought down from the gallows.
On seeing the print of The Cockpit, I did wonder when the meaning evolved from watching a cockfight to being the helm of a water-going vessel or the flight deck of an aircraft.
We always need rational thought
Hogarth like Goya was a fierce critic of organised religion that held sway over people with superstition leaving little room for rational thought. In his Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, he satirises and excoriates the belief in the Cock Lane ghost and a Mary Toft who was the perpetrator of an elaborate hoax suggesting she gave birth to a litter of rabbits.
One can aver that we desperately need a Goya and a Hogarth in these times to challenge the illogical and mad dash to Brexit along with the lies and terminological inaccuracies that has bewitched the populace into accepting that what is essentially damaging to them is more desirable than the status quo.
Another exhibition, Four Corners of One Cloth: Textiles from the Islamic World, filled me with fascination. On show was a piece of Kiswah, the cloth that covers the Kaaba the holiest shrine of the Islamic world which is apparently changed annually on the 9th day of the month of Hajj, divided and sent around the world.
Until I saw the narrative of the items of clothing from the last nomadic tribe of the Qashqai from Iran, I had always wondered where Nissan got the name for their Qashqai. Now I know.
I guess I made more use of the day than I could ever have envisaged.
Some of the pictures of panels, prints and exhibits I took at the gallery are in this slideshow.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Our mother, the example of community involvement

Our mother, the partisan
My sister, Ibukun Olawepo-Johnson, wrote on Facebook about our mum and her activism, even I learnt a few things too that I had to ask if I could share what she had written, below.
Yesterday I was talking to my cousin about the presidential visit (to Lagos), I told him I can bet my last kobo that my mum was at the stadium in Surulere.
It dropped in my mind that we have a lot of lazy youth in this country, my mum retired from the civil service after 35 years of service. I think she was even kept on for one extra year because of the beautiful work she did when she was in service.
Our mother, the principal
All throughout the time I knew her, she was a principal and she was a principal in all the trouble areas in Ejigbo, Okota and Oshodi where she had running battles with thugs and difficult students, (I would add, teachers and some presumably family friends who thought she did not deserve her position), she fought them to a standstill and won the battle. She was last promoted to special principal grade.
[Some backstory information, my mother was asked to start a school from scratch at the age of 34 in 1977, she created and ran Ejigbo Community High School for probably 13 years. Just over a year ago, I think in the 40th year of the establishment of the school, the alumni of the school honoured her with a commemoration and thanks for her leadership, mentorship and contributions to the community.]
Our mother, the activist
After she left service she was still very active, later when she moved to her house in Ejigbo, she joined the Community Development Association (CDA) group on her street and became the Chairman of her CDA, somewhere along the line she joined politics and she is a strong member of APC in her area.
My mum had the option of retiring and watching things unfold in her community, but she chose to be involved. Even when my younger sister was ill, and she was her primary caregiver, she still found the time to be involved in what was going on in her community.
When glaucoma almost made her blind, she was still attending CDA and APC meetings and activities at over 75 years old. [We were able to get some of the best medical help to save her eyesight. She is even more up and about with community, political and church activities.]
Our mother, the example
It's a shame on all of us that are under 70, we have the power to be involved in our communities, yet all we do is make noise on social media, criticising the government in our various offices and the country without getting involved to bring about the changes we want.
No one will hand power over to us, we need to be involved get involved in politics.
It is time we clean it up if we feel it is a dirty game.
We need to stop all this ranting and noise making, we need to make the next necessary move to bring on change and take our communities to the next level.
The elders will only hand over to the youth if only the youth are actively involved.
Campaign for your own candidate, don't say my vote does not count; go out to vote and ensure that votes are counted before leaving the polling booth. Demand good governance in your locality and attend CDA meetings.
Change begins with you and me.
Start from your house, move into your street, on to your local government area, then your office, all the way until you get to the very top.
This characteristic of community involvement is not unique to our mum, our dad is also quite involved in the community also. From as far back as I can remember when we returned from the UK, the renovation of our homestead, the bringing of electricity supply to our village, the building of the new village cathedral, a new secondary school and many other activities to help people in their careers, businesses and general needs.
They are examples of a standard well beyond whatever we have ever attempted, yet they show a way to what can be achieved when we have the commitment, drive and a vision to make a difference in people, situations and communities.
In this, we begin to commend that exemplary lives of our parents.

Friday, 8 February 2019

A Decade on Twitter

A quarter of a century online
I review my life on social media that appears to go back 25 years when it was not a popular term. My first email address in 1994 and then a CompuServe subscription through which I participated in Usenet groups.
When I moved out to Ipswich in 1995, I found an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who I discovered unilaterally blocked adult websites. I paid him a visit and demanded that as an adult, my access to the Internet should be untrammelled, including the ability to view adult sites, as I am an adult and I do not intend to be policed if I am doing nothing illegal.
I guess he was embarrassed for the fact that I was unabashed, my request was granted that evening and he must have glad I did not have to visit him about anything again.
Throwing off and throwing down
Soon, we were on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), I think that was 1997, opening channels for all sorts of interests until people found ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the TCP/IP stack and knock you offline with DoS/DDoS attacks or those that broke IRC connections, called nuking. We had to implement countermeasures to prevent nukes and the takeovers of IRC channels.
As the popularity of IRC began to wane in the early 2000s, I was in a Berlin hotel when decided to start blogging in December 2003. I hope to have written my 3,000th blog sometime this year. It was not for another few years before I joined another social media platform. In my early blogging years, I formed significant and lasting friendships from which I began to grow a social network.
Along the line, I joined other niche social media networks, many of which have fallen out use, favour or are dead. Then came LinkedIn, which many did not consider social as in other forums we participated in, I guess, we compartmentalised, trying to keep our strictly professional lives separate from our lives outside work. I have been a member since the 16th of March 2006.
Can you hear the chirping birds?
One morning just before I left for work, I created a Twitter account and waited for a confirmation. Meanwhile, I travelled to Arnhem where I was working, and it was there that I posted my first tweet on the 8th of February 2009. Today is a decade since I joined Twitter. As I relayed in a blog, I wrote a couple of days ago, I had to change my mode of communication from long-form writing of a blog to the contextualised concision limited to 140-characters. It was a challenge I took on with relish.
I might have been more prolific on Twitter and somewhat become less so on my blog, I have tweeted just under 153,000 thousand times with a following just short of 6,000. I find it a very useful forum for sharing ideas and for getting a prompt and effective response for customer service issues.
A call from beyond
In December 2009, just a couple of days before my birthday, I joined Facebook. I probably resisted jumping on this bandwagon for years. My first invitation to join Facebook came almost two years before when I eventually joined the person who invited me had been dead just over 9 weeks. His Facebook page then became a memorial to lay wreaths and bouquets of thoughts and reminiscences at different times of the Facebook.
Facebook also upended the concept of social media, because the network not only exploited proximity, it allowed you to mine your past. By the time you put in names of your old schools and old friends, many long forgotten, you were caught in a time vortex from which you had little an inkling how to escape.
Mimes and rhymes
Until early last year, most of my Facebook activity came from my Twitter posts and that linked was broken. I would comment on things I find on Facebook, but it is more likely that new posts would come from Instagram or blogs that I have written. I joined Instagram on Christmas Eve of 2014.
Most of my Instagram posts are accompanied by bad poetry or musings about the things I have observed. I have not convinced myself that Pinterest or SnapChat would add any value to my social media landscape. My social media life is lively enough as it is.
This all because of my decade on Twitter and long may we have the opportunity to celebrate life, happiness, love, and the freedom of expression.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The way you make me smile

Juggling words to give meaning to how I feel,
Is my mind at work to express and reveal,
For a moment comes in time and place,
Where one person does take centre place.
Your priorities are suddenly rearranged,
Making the space for what has changed,
Your loyalties you promptly realign,
Everyone else now has to fall in line.
To that one needs not preach a homily,
It’s redefining the context of my family,
I have entered this quite solemnly,
The occasion warrants some honesty.
The dawn breaks to the sweetest messages,
To which I respond with funny passages,
My day started to the fun of encouragement,
Then closes with a lengthy engagement.
I find myself now under obligation,
In response to my deepest emotion,
To guard my heart with the utmost vigilance,
As I am now lost in this crazy romance.
These things are borne of moments sublime,
For which could last quite a lifetime,
Daily we work on building a relationship,
That creates the very best of friendship.

For World Cancer Day and every other day

In remembrance
I probably take no notice of the many days that are celebrated in commemoration of something throughout the year. However, the 4th of February 2019 was one day I could not ignore because I was called out as an inspiration with regards to what the day represents.
World Cancer Day is a day to remember for many reasons apart from awareness and taking action for I belong to the cohort of those who have cancer in remission having survived the ravages of the disease almost a decade ago. Yet, I recognise and aver that we who seemingly and apparently have survived cancer are hardly valiant, we took no sword like knights to battle and vanquish the enemy that invaded our bodies, we are just fortunate.
Not in vain did they die
Rather, I want to commend those who did not have the good fortune I had, who like others would say lost their battles to cancer as if to confer some sort of heroism on those who survived as winners. Those that died are not insignificant, in fact, they in what they suffered and in all that medicine and anything else attempted to do to prolong their lives have immeasurably contributed to the body of knowledge that gives medicine the courage to face up to new incidents of cancer.
When I was verifiably diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma on the 30th of September 2009, this is what my consultant had to say to 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.”
On courses of chemotherapy
That knowledge and confidence came from experience and developments in treating others before me, some of whom did not survive the disease but, that had passed to the professor, to his students and the broader field of cancer medicine and oncology. On the fifth day of October 2009, I took my first course of Liposomal Doxorubicin (Caelyx) and I wrote a blog as a primer for cancer and chemotherapy, in trying to explain my condition to a friend.
“The course recommended for me is Liposomal Doxorubicin – liposomal meaning encapsulated in some fatty molecule and Doxorubicin is a very strong antibiotic. What happens is the liposomes allow for a slow release of the disease-fighting chemical into the body after intravenous introduction which just takes an hour, and this is not fully excreted from the body for up to six days.”
I took 7 courses of chemotherapy every 3 weeks until the last course on the 8th of February 2010, by which time the blackened cancers lesions had completely disappeared, the necrotised skin had been removed and I had fresh, tender skin in place of the foul and fungating tumours.
The battle for life
The battle I fought, in the end, was not with cancer, but with life in general. Cancer stripped me of everything except my humanity and my dignity. I literally lost my career, I lost my home of over 10 years, things I had acquired I basically gave away and had to start all over again. I gained a new perspective on life and the transience of things, the way the seemingly inviolable and easily become the complete vulnerable.
I learnt of the power of hope, the desire to live, the appreciation of life and an understanding of suffering. I stepped off the rat race and tempered my views with patience and consideration. Most pertinently, as I did not or do not know how much time I have left, I have lived a life of the living rather than of the dying. I am inspired to aspire and for as long as I have breath in me, I intend to thrive and be a story of being granted a second life of purpose.
None of this would have been possible without those who underwent more gruelling and horrifying intrusions of medicine so that my consultant could say with confidence, I could be treated. They are the specimens on which researchers concluded their research and came up for new ideas, solutions, treatments and discoveries. I commend those who died because of cancer and those who learnt from them to improve the treatments for cancer. It is by them that we get to write a different story.
World Cancer Day 2019

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Tweeting beautifully without apologising for it

The simplicity of the tweet
On a tweet that composed a seminal thought and political discourse within the conservative landscape of the 280-character limit of a simple tweet, some responses sneered, “Too much grammar.”
I have been on Twitter since the 8th of February 2009, which means in three days I would hit a decade of tweeting. One thing tweeting taught me was brevity, concision, and precision. At first glance, these words are literally synonyms depending on context, but when the definitions are reviewed, you get a sense that they have different qualities.
Brevity - concise and exact use of words in writing or speech. This would suggest knowing the platform is limited, I would find the best words to present my tweet, which sometimes would include a foray into sesquipedalianism. If I have a word that fits the bill, I use it.
Concision - is the cutting out of unnecessary words while conveying an idea. For anything I have to say in a tweet, I want the complete context to be conveyed, I never used tweet elongators when Twitter had a 140-character limit. It could have made the tweet difficult to read, but when understood, you needed no other tweet to explain the tweet.
Precision - the quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate. Once the tweet was composed, there was no ambiguity, it conveyed exactly what I wanted to say, with its difficult and long words, the context of exactly what I had in mind and no doubt about what I intended.
Without the rules, we would be fools
For that, some people appreciated the work that went into the tweet, maybe it even gave some the opportunity to extend their vocabulary. I was never one to economise on what broad range of words the English language offered to anyone who was interested, whilst resisting a decline into neologisms.
Then, some would sneer, “Too much grammar.”, as if grammar had become a synonym for obscurity, verbosity, complexity, difficulty, or pomposity.
Grammar, according to the Cambridge dictionary is (the study or use of) the rules about how words change their form and combine with other words to make sentences. Invariably, without the rules of grammar, you cannot make sentences, you just have a jumble of words that make no sense, except if it is a word puzzle.
Covering for inadequacies
I have come to the conclusion that the sneering is more a lack of comprehension of what has been written, the people, rather than tax themselves with broadening their knowledge or maybe attempting a better delivery of the tweet, as the way people convey their ideas can be a matter of style, they revile and castigate the writer with a heckle, with disdain, with contempt or some other device to belittle the person and by that give themselves a sense of superiority over the expressed ability of the writer.
I do have a writing style, some have suggested it could be flowery, my blogs flourish with that style, you can read anything I have written in the last 15 years of blogging and conclude, that is unmistakably Akin expressing himself.
It goes without saying that much as we nominally recognise Nigeria as an English-speaking country, English comprehension amongst many lags their ability to read, as such, Nigerians would find that they have to take ‘English as a foreign language’ examinations on applying to universities in the UK. You would expect them to pass those examinations, but over-confidence can easily catch you out.
They do not matter
In a series of tweets, I averred, “Basically, if you have difficulty reading or comprehending a sentence of English language and think you can cover your inadequacies with condemning the sentence as excessive grammar, the truth is your proficiency at English is rudimentary if not illiterate.” I will make no apology for that viewpoint or for the fact that my privileged education should pander to the lowest common denominator of communication.
If you cannot contribute to a discourse or broaden the ideas offered in a public space like Twitter, it is better to keep your counsel than display your ignorance. I believe everyone has a story and a mode of expression, Twitter can be a marketplace of opinions and great ideas, and anywhere I find that people are expressing themselves in an interesting or inspiring way, I like to acknowledge them rather than sneer at them.
What I do not understand, I seek clarification or explanation of, and that is why I decided to tweet about grammar and comprehension, because nothing was wrong with what was said, and everything was wrong with those who had nothing to add to the viewpoint than participate in the braying mob of anti-intellectuals shouting out – “Too much grammar.”
We should never be afraid to express ourselves in the richness of all that we have acquired, experienced or been influenced by, most pertinently, never let the sneers limit your communication.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Thought Picnic: I know I do not need a cure for who I am

Whose deliverance is it anyway?
Earlier today I received a WhatsApp message linked to a YouTube video of a person whose life had been changed to a normative hyper-Christian existence from a time of use and abuse in terms of sex, for his identity and livelihood.
There was a time when religious instruction and influence dictated more of what was wrong with me than what could be right, what I did not understand or what I should accept about myself. For decades, one was in this inordinate quest for perfection, the constant proverbial self-flagellation that fed guilt, need, low self-esteem, a sense of failure and a yearning for things that always felt impossible.
Then, a time came when on reviewing many of the things that drove my warped religious experiences created and framed from my mother’s religiosity through personal experiences that should have elicited professional psychiatric help rather than African Initiated Church rituals of incantation, recitation, and pseudo-shamanist acts, I rationalised and began to compartmentalise issues.
Freedom from superstition
Being a product of many cultural influences, much of the knowledge I had gained and had become ingrained in my psyche borne of superstition, the paranormal, the esoteric and the bizarre needed unlearning when set in a Western environment. This is not to discount the potency of those belief systems, but to ensure that my thinking was not beclouded by the inexplicable hand of fate if other plausible explanations existed.
Why at one time on a visit to a witch doctor with my aunt we both were able to chew razor blades and swallow our mastication without internal harm to our organs, I would never be able to explain. I know that it happened to me as true as any other reality I have had that is neither hallucination, dream or trance. I have through my life guarded my sobriety with care except for when hospitalisation required opiates that deadened the pain without rendering me delirious.
Yet, the biggest thing in the discovery of self is acceptance. The acceptance of the many things I am and what I represent without disagreement in my mind. Not only that but also to have the courage to stand for who I am in spite of the cultural and societal strictures that could easily place me in a persecuted and prosecuted minority.
What I do not need a cure for
In my life, I know I needed a cure from cancer, I do not need a cure from my personality or the expression of it. In coming to terms with the many facets of my personality formed from a life of circumstance and situations that contribute to the completeness of who I am, I know there are things I might never be able to do or experience and they have not been allowed to distract me or burden me with a sense of failure, where there is a life ahead of me to live.
I cannot drive, it has not diminished my mobility, I have no children when many of my mates have grandchildren, our lives are enriched in different ways, I do not intend to live the life of another person.
More pertinently, I am grateful for the opportunities and privileges my parents granted me as part of my upbringing, however, thankfully, I learnt a long time ago that I have my own life to live, I am neither here to fully their aspirations, live their perspectives of the life they expect I should have and sadly for them, I am not here to please them.
I espouse the virtues of humanity that I hope would make my parents proud of my achievements, my successes and consequently the person I am as their son, who he is and what he is. So, what I am saying, after not even watching that interesting and possibly life-changing YouTube video sent to me on WhatsApp, is I do not need a cure for my sexuality and my open, proud, and accepted expression of it. Thank you.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Thought Picnic: Closing the chapter on dead love

Stuck in the heart of the past
Now that I think about it, I have really decided to move on as for almost a decade my mind and soul was stuck in grief and mourning, regret and longing, a helplessness at the inability to make any difference to the hand that fate had dealt me in terms of meaningful companionship.
Along the line, I confused attention for commitment, strained at every possible attachment as if it had some mileage for life and fun. I was either reading the wrong signals or a bad judge of intentions and character. It might well be said, none were going to be good enough in the end.
I made accommodations that liberally expanded my acceptance of things my somewhat life of moderation and conservative consumption would never condone of myself. I battled with my conscience where disdain had to be tempered with the consideration that other lives can never be like how I choose my vices and limit my excesses.
I was never going to seek a high that left me out of my senses, much as I could have been adventurous, I doubt I belong to the cohort of the ‘try anything once’ kind. I had my red lines, I never crossed them.
I constantly guarded my heart
What I had for Chris was deep, yet it was unhealthy, I invested more than I ever got return for in every way, yet in that person was the idea of fun and love, possible life and adventure, maybe deeper love, and affection, but there were many times I had to withdraw to keep my heart from harm. Death brought sadness and regret that lasted years, of what could have been if I dared, I feared and so lost.
Birthday and day of death, I visited the Facebook page which I only friended after the person who originally invited me to Facebook had passed on. I left thoughts and memories, holding onto a slither of anything that as in fact nothing. I was in the thrall of the love I lost, I was still loving someone who I could never reach anymore.
Writing a new chapter
Finding new and meaningful love has given me the opportunity to close a chapter, which was written for more a time of sadness than there were occasional blips of happiness. Everything in between then and now never held a candle to that loss.
This new person who on the first touch felt like Chris because that burden followed me wherever I went, gave me a perspective beyond Chris like I found a new life. This was not Chris, in the light, in the mind, in the heart, this person had me, held me, sustained me, supported me and left Chris in the dust, both proverbially and literally. This was a better bidder for me.
A new chapter had begun, with it has come a daring devoid of any fears, a boldness to act and do without equivocation, a kind of fulfilment is finding a gem that brings more value to one than the quest for more treasure. The treasure of the heart is inestimable, I have through loss, pain, grief, and bitterness come out learning anew that this little heart of mine can find something that dreams and hopes in the passage of time had forgotten to aspire to.
When I pinch myself wondering if this is really happening to me, I realise at the same time that I am ready for this, ready to live, ready to love and ready to escape completely from the past that kept me from finding true love.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Thought Picnic: Of character building moments

As I walk
Building character is an evolutionary activity that is under constant review, assessment, reflection and adjustment. At least, that is how I think about it.
One episode this morning caused me to reflect on some of my attitudes to certain situations. It had snowed in Reading and as the pavements had not been gritted, one had to be careful as one walked from the hotel to the railway station.
As I walk briskly, albeit, with a walking cane, I am careful and usually do not expect to have to manoeuvre run more able-bodied people on the street. I would tend to walk close to buildings as well as follow the crowd.
Don’t talk back
I turned the corner and almost walked into someone coming up against me, I made my excuses and he walked around me. The next person simply ignored what had happened in front of him and made to stand in my way when I swung my cane directing him to walk to the right of me as there was no space to the left of me.
He followed my guidance, but as he passed me, he said, “Don’t use your stick at me.”, I then looked back at him as said, “You’re being an idiot.” As the words came out of my mouth, I was both agitated and deflated. I regretted it.
The situation made me reflect on why I had to answer back because there was no reason to. Once he had followed my directions, whatever way he felt about it should have been left to him as I had achieved my goal of, standing my ground and keeping my lane.
Tackle and leave
I felt diminished by the unnecessary outburst and promised myself to do better. I have on many occasions set in motion an act with the aim of attaining a goal and left at that. Engagement beyond having instigated my action simply develops into unhealthy interactions one can do without.
It reminded me of one instance where travelling in the 1st Class compartment of an international train, I could neither relax nor nap because a child was completely implacable and an unruly disturbance. I got up and loudly addressed the parent to see to their ward then sat down.
For 5 minutes the father abused and railed, cursed and vituperated vitriol to the point of exhaustion. I ignored him. By that time, the child was quiet, we all could relax and the journey ended peacefully. From the little intervention, I had achieved what everyone wanted, peace and quiet. I don't dislike kids, but where parents are not embarrassed enough for their kid's behaviour to be seen to do something about it. They do have to be called out.
Achieve the prize
My not engaging the father at all meant the situation did not escalate or degenerate into a breach of the peace. Yes, I took brickbats for it, it was completely worth it.
I can be a better man even if people cannot be reasonable or considerate when they encounter me. I do not have to revel in the uncouth just to impact them. Silence is golden and worth its weight in gold. That is the building of character, only engage when your aim is about to be defeated, else, leave, your aim achieved and your dignity intact.

A February of love

Moments are what we have to share,
In those, we found to really care,
Whether they are near or far,
We sought ways beyond the bar.
The world for us became small,
Like we see each other down the hall,
In Skype, we chat, we laugh, we smile,
As conversation goes on for a while.
Soon after, a promise I made,
In my mind, so many plans laid,
We agreed on time and place,
To meet at Easter, face to face.
The craze that drew us close,
How it comes one never knows,
To sweep you off your feet,
This feeling is just so sweet.
A love that dare not speak its name,
That one must not bear in shame,
Cannot be denied of a heart that beats,
We must be bold with no retreats.
For in life, what is your normal?
In some places, we can make it formal,
Some people are just unconventional,
Even you might be exceptional.
For love, let us make no apology,
Or seek strange terminology,
Whether others accept your choices,
Determines where they will have voices.