Monday 28 January 2019

South Africa: I was caught in up the rapture

A mystery
I probably have not had the time to reflect on my trip to South Africa as I have been caught up in the rapture of something indescribable, yet so amazing.
One on an outing before the year closed, unexpecting of anything and anticipating nothing, my gaze fell upon a mystery of nature exuding beauty impossible to process as neuron bombarded synapse trying to make sense of what my vision and perception gifted my senses.
My rational self concluded, like the Mona Lisa, this work of exquisite genius and art belonged to where it was seen and nothing else. I could not aspire to fulfil a desire that I had judged to be completely out of the league of what was observed.
A wonder
Yet, fortitude works in ways to birth opportunity and for what you could never have planned, the substance of dreams creates a reality that blows you away. That was the gust of wind that blew me off my feet that night and in its wake was my heart enfeebled by an emotion stronger than love.
Never in my thinking had such a thing occurred in my subconscious for me to dare that in my wildest prognostications, the situation that presented was ever possible, but if we are such deterministic creatures, surprise and accident, luck and fortune, experience and reminiscence, love and adventure, would not feature in the stories we get to tell of life.
A dream
The crazy thing is, in a hopeless place, love turned an ace and gave me a jackpot of the person I wish, and hope would be a companion for the journey called life. This was something I had given up on from the time that one I did really care for suddenly departed this mortal coil almost a decade ago.
Not for once would one have thought there was a hope for the heart in unison with another for a future of dreams and excitement, but here we are – caught up in the rapture of love.
South Africa beckons again to reunite with one who has stolen my heart away. In due course, there would be an unveiling of what makes my heart race like a gazelle hopping in delight in the savanna plains of Africa.

Sunday 13 January 2019

The look of love is crazy

We concluded on one basic fact,
We found love in a hopeless place,
Yet, love is rarely a creature of tact,
What it needs for expression is space.
Tall, light, handsome and imposing,
A wary eye caught the body and the frame,
To which one concluded whilst supposing,
One is not anywhere in his game.
Fate works in mysterious ways,
Occupied by thoughts in one corner,
This masterful creature strays,
It was a bit dark, but he was a stunner.
I dared to dream that he was interested,
Yet, I could not hope that in the slightest,
As he sat beside me quite invested,
His plan to have me in arrest.
He was not a baby for he could walk,
Seconds and minutes passed on,
Then with some courage, to me did he talk,
From then the look of love did come.

Monday 7 January 2019

Thought Picnic: How hubris leaves essential cornerstones off buildings

Stones and bones
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalms 118:22 (New International Version)
“The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” [Wikipedia]
The biblical reference to the cornerstone though indicating lifeless stones pertains to people, the stones are set in place by builders, yet, in the art of masonry, there has to be a stone in the construction of the building that becomes the reference point of the other stones, without which the building risks looking like a work of amateurs and consequently it might collapse upon the occupants who eventually occupy it.
Hubris guides rejection
The cornerstone as a metaphor in many contexts in relation to people could in organisations refer to who runs the organisation or who manages projects, in institutions, it might be the experts whose knowledge is necessary for processes or operations to work.
There are cornerstones everywhere in different guises, the people who teach, the people who mentor, those who provide guidance, those who must be consulted on ideas, issues, events, circumstances, plans or status before major decisions are made.
Yet, as history shows from even the early biblical times, there are linchpin people who have not been recognised for who they are when decisions or actions are taken by those who have position, power, authority or influence and during implementation it dawns on those who were somewhat wise in their own conceits that the consultation and arbitration should have included the people they had heretofore ignored.
Rejection is myriad
Ignoring such people is exemplified in overconfidence, hubris, narcissism, the abuse of power, the denigration of personalities, the belittlement of persons and their abilities, patronising attitudes to contemn expertise, the removal of protection of rights and privileges, discourtesy, rudeness, racism, discrimination, patriarchy, violence, prohibitions, and so on.
Many of these, readers would recognise at work, at play and at home. The question then becomes how the cornerstone gets recognised at the get-go without experiencing an initial or repeated rejection by those who matter.
It is a challenge I have met in a recent family situation that is calling on all inflexions and projections of language, semantics and diplomacy. It is never an easy task, but one that must be tackled.
Notice your cornerstones
For instance, in a professional situation, where essential input to facilitate change is missing, the project would fail. Unilateralism in an environment that depends on relationships, teamworking and systems presages disaster. That concept is more universal than we dare to acknowledge.
Buildings would crumble when builders reject stones that are the inherent cornerstones, not using the requisite cornerstone entertains the risk of an unstable building. You wonder what informs the decision to reject that important stone. You can extrapolate this to any situation, ignored pertinent data and your research is flawed, anything utilising the conclusions in that research would put lives, property and capital at great risk, some of which would be unquantifiable.
By extension, it also relates to the power of persuasion when the argument, idea, concept or intention is not persuasive. Without a strong basis in fact and evidence, the whole premise of any enterprise can be taken apart with sound reasoning and good questions for which answers are unconvincing. In the UK, Brexit is a good example of the Prime Minister miserably failing to persuade the majority of her grand plan.
Invariably, courtesy must be accorded to people who are needed to assume responsibility in certain matters to engage and contribute for them to feel involved and take ownership with a higher call of duty to ensure what they are called to do succeeds, else the activity harbours every indication towards failure.

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Thought Picnic: My perception made me choose South Africa

Probably the blog I wanted to write
When I began to write the blog about the 28 years since I last left Nigeria, I had another blog in mind, but as blogs go in my world, the narrative takes on a life of its own as each idea and construct begins to find attribute and reference to other ideas, events or people, by which time I have digressed to the point of writing an entirely different story.
Even as I have a concept I want to write about here, I am beginning to see deviations from the main topic, yet, I would rather let a blog take a freeform than shoehorning it into the strictures of an academic paper, which it is not.
Indeed, I like South Africa
I have just returned to Johannesburg from spending the New Year in Cape Town. It was my intention to visit South Africa for about 3 months, but a number of events concerning my health meant I could not plan so far ahead due to restrictions and advice regarding my medication and a procedure I had in November.
I got quite perturbed about the thoughts of South Africa to the point of self-flagellation, I was already regretting that I had let myself down in realising what had become an earnest desire. Then, whilst I was yet in Germany on a business trip, just 11 days to when I had planned to travel, I made the decision, booked my flights and hotel accommodation, and that was done.
Normally, I would have gone to Gran Canaria for some winter sun, though the last time I had winter warmth and sunshine was when I was out in India in 2011. I spent the Christmas Day visiting the Taj Mahal for the second time and what an experience it was.
No fuss consular services
The choice of South Africa was simple for me, I had been twice before, three years ago and I had a general idea of how to get around. When I travel, holding a British passport confers many privileges to certain countries, I do not have to apply for a visa, fill in odious forms and join incessant queues at consulates or embassies to visit the country, time is precious.
My visit to India for a month-long course was fraught with all sorts of officialdom and difficulty, I had to visit the visa office thrice, paid the higher price because my parents were Nigerian, even though I had lived 21 years without break in Europe, but I was in the Netherlands. Basically, I was not being treated as a European once I was resident outside my home country.
If I were in the UK, the visa would have been issued within 2 days, but living in the Netherlands could have my passport with the Indian visa processors any time from 5 days to 8 weeks. I was beside myself in anxious contemplation, unsure of what would be the case, it was eventually issued within 5 days.
Colonial hangovers that endure
India like Nigeria has a colonial carry-over of an unwieldy civil service, the sector is a leviathan, untamed, unreformed and completely inscrutable. Every requirement from the government institution is laden with red tape and unnecessary paperwork that exacerbates inefficiencies and inconveniences. The system serves prebendalism, neopatrimonialism, corruption, graft and malfeasance with no consequence or recourse for redress.
Though I would like for the need to visit countries to be hassle-free, if not visa-free, I appreciate that the UK and Europe do not necessarily grant the privileges to many of the countries I desire to have easy access to.
I remember when leaving Nigeria, my passport was seized by a heavily pregnant lady for no reason than to attempt to extort money from me. I cannot say I was street-wise enough to appreciate what she required of me as she walked away with my passport with probably the view of distressing me until I came to the kind of senses, she expected me to have.
Thankfully, there was a friend with me who knew how to work the system, and some 30 minutes later I was reunited with my passport after I believe a bribe had been extracted from my friend.
People doing their jobs
When I travel, I have expectations and requirements, I hate the fuss, I like officials to be honest, diligent and forthright, doing their jobs as opposed to doing their bellies and that is why I carefully choose where I want to visit and sadly Nigeria has not appeared on my itinerary because I probably would have cause to turn back at the airport and board a plane back to my home in the UK.
When visiting South Africa, I am not accosted by touts or dealers, there is usually someone to pick me up from the airport to my hotel. No one is trying to inveigle their way into my confidences and burden me with life stories that are no concern of mine.
For good service, I would tip generously and be on my way without getting badgered.
Nigeria is not South Africa
Despite the concerns about xenophobia that have arisen in recent times in South Africa, I have carefully chosen where to stay. In Johannesburg and in Cape Town, these places are conveniently exclusive and offer good quality safety. I am smart enough not to venture out to strange places without escorts and I would use the Gautrain in Gauteng for the major stations and to the airport. Uber always comes to the rescue, to take you anywhere and extricate you from strange places.
I am not of the opinion that Nigeria works that way, you read too much of egregious abuse by officials ready to take advantage of you at every turn from when you access the consular services abroad, through passport control, the customs and the journey to your overpriced hotel which is priced for access rather than for quality.
There is no doubt I have lived too long in Europe to begin the consider the prospect of inconveniences, especially with travel. Yet, I doubt Nigeria would be fixed enough to suit the standard of customer service I have grown accustomed to for almost 30 years.
Nigeria really is not South Africa
Furthermore, it goes without dispute that South Africa on the surface is a more emancipated and organised society, the institutions appear to work, the checks and balances are robust and when tested, they endure. I have my rights, the freedom of will, of beliefs and the kinds of engagement I choose, are protected.
In the months that I was about to leave Nigeria, I was being blackmailed, I refused to pay up and told the blackmailer to do his worst. I guess him having to explain how he came upon the information he planned to use against me kept him guarded. Unusually, I was also ready to have him rumbled if he attempted to besmirch my name. I probably would not have been able to sustain this for a long time, but it worked then.
There are other anxieties that bother me about Nigeria, it comes with a sense of foreboding like that feeling I used to had when I saw our house from the top of our street. A sickening and debilitating gut feeling, almost paralysing in function. I just faced it when it would have been more comforting to flee. I have promised myself, I would never put myself in a situation that appeared to overwhelm my rationality out of purpose, duty, commission or omission.
Yet, on any planned visit to Nigeria, I guess one would have to dare to be a Daniel and just do it. For since my father got on Facebook, each publication of my travel exploits has had him comment asking when I would include Nigeria in my itinerary. If only Nigeria were another place, it just is not and that, I am sorry, is a shame. Perceptions matter always, it would take a lot to change my perception that visiting Nigeria is just as easy as planning to visit South Africa.
Your comments on a postcard. Thank you.