Wednesday 26 June 2019

Nigeria: Don't let your passport be handled like junk mail

A few weeks ago, a Nigerian citizen vandalised many vehicles around the offices of the Nigerian High Commission in London out of frustration with their poor customer service practices, not excusable, but understandable. [Punch]
In reaction to that event, the Nigerian High Commission in London has released a poorly written notice on their website that invalidates the use of third parties or electronic booking systems for applying for Nigerian passports.

However, there is one requirement that I cannot ignore, written in their own words, “applicants are required to submit pre-paid self address special delivery envelop on completion of bio-metric capturing.
A passport is a critical identity document that cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands, there must be a chain of custody from when a passport leaves the Nigerian High Commission to when the recipient verifiably receives it.
They can employ a low-cost postal option with next-day delivery, secure, signed for with proof of delivery or returned to the sender, all this with tracking and tracing along with knowing where the responsibility lies if the document is lost. Introducing a parallel insecure archaic service does not cut it and this idea should be stopped before more damage is done to the literally irretrievable bad reputation of this rotten bureaucracy.
I advise the Nigerian High Commission to avail themselves of this service and hope the staff would at the very least stop behaving like they are impervious to using systems that work.
This is what the Royal Mail does - Royal Mail Signed For® 1st Class

Monday 17 June 2019

I'm raining on the inside as I pine

Daydreaming is an existence of wakefulness
Where the thoughts wander and ponder,
On and off to things and places,
Within which many memories are relived,
Of the company of people you’ve been with,
And the things of purpose you’ve done,
Beyond these, you create new worlds,
Of dreamy existence unquantifiable,
That you can hardly frame or draw,
Your mind is active and alive,
Urging on the eerie into your reality,
Caught in the middle of this and the other,
You’re raining on the inside,
Pining, yearning, longing and desiring,
For your love and your joy,
The strength of why aches the heart,
As you refuse to forgo the hope,
Of being together once again,
With the one who makes it all matter.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

To The Runaways, The Misfits & The Radicals

What I negotiated for me
When my father first learnt that I had travelled out of Nigeria to the UK, he was not in jubilant mood at all even though that first trip was to acquire equipment for a company in which I had 30% equity. I returned and, in the meanwhile, the relationship between my business partner and I deteriorated because I was neither obsequious enough nor too enamoured by the opportunity I had, I had many professional responsibilities of which NextStep Limited was just one.
After my return, I visited the British Consulate to fix my status, both to be able to travel to the UK and if I needed to, emigrate. The need to leave Nigeria was not pressing, though one of the contractual engagements I had from a year before included the full payment for my flight ticket to the UK.
When I seized control
I was not mindful of that prospect, even as Deji Sasegbon engaged me as a desktop publishing consultant at his legal publications outfit. My father thought I had abandoned academic pursuits to the whim of activities he never really understood. He took it upon himself to attempt to secure my admission to an HND programme at the Federal Polytechnic, Bida and despite his engagement with the Rector, my name appeared to be switched with another in the rector’s files.
None of this bothered me, as after my visit to the UK, I found that there was a market for my Nigerian-acquired skill because I was more knowledgeable about the things I wanted doing compared to the technical staff who were there to demonstrate the kit I was acquiring.
Then I cared less
In the background, in communications between my father and guardians who had direct influence over me and access to me, he had suggested I was running away from responsibility. Responsibility is a nebulous concept, but it is never 'responsibility' in its distilled form, rather it is one of whether you can control, decide, instruct, and require without question, someone to do your bidding.
It is one where your independent view must seek the permission of another deemed superior, where your initiative must encompass the pleasure of another who has set the expectations, where your individuality and uniqueness is a function of conformity to some generally accepted norms and values or you are a misfit, you cannot chart a course of difference else you would be excoriated, called to order and commanded to obey or risk ostracism and be condemned as a radical.
Yes, I could run away
We were the runaways, though I do wonder what kind of a runaway I am. My father is essentially Nigerian, a proud one at that. I doubt if was ever Nigerian even if I spent some of my formative years there. Daily, I was reminded that I was born abroad, certain quirky mannerisms and my accent modified by influences from England and in Nigeria put me in a limbo of identity.
I probably found ways to navigate the system, but I really do not think I belonged. After having moved to the UK, my father was a resident of the 60s, I became a resident of the 90s. His experience of society then was radically different from my experience. He was treated like a second-class citizen and hardly appreciated, yet, in Nigeria, you could be a first-class citizen and it counted for nothing.
My storied identity
The greatest benefit of our returning to Nigeria after the Civil War was that I attended really good schools with an international pupil population, I grew up a world citizen, self-assured, confident, curious, precocious and inquisitive, our teachers open to questioning and discussion that we were free to be ourselves.
Within the non-formal educational setting, I learnt without noticing it, to appreciate who I was in terms of my identity and consequently my sexuality, though along the way, I was abused, exploited, violated and much else. The end-product is tried by experience good, bad, hard, and bitter, it would not be traded away to anyone, if I could help it.
Nigeria? On my own terms
I can understand my father’s desire for me to return to Nigeria, maybe to visit, even dare to settle down, I do not share any of that sentiment, especially the latter. I am first, an Englishman who happens to have Nigerian parents, I don’t expect many to agree with that, but it is my story to tell, not for others to usurp and retell to their own intentions. I owe no explanation to anyone about my sense of self, you can accept me for who I am or leave me be.
I ran away for my freedom to be who I want to be, I ran away for the need to be independent of influences I cannot reason with to get across my point of view, I ran away to take on responsibilities I choose to shoulder rather than those thrust upon me, I ran away to have my own prerogative in matters concerning myself, my welfare, my sanity and my life. I ran away to thrive outside the confines of unwarranted interference and according to my own terms.
Would I be returning to Nigeria soon? I don’t know, but if I do, it would be on my own terms, at a time of my choosing and if I find it convenient. I guess that is the most inconvenient thing if it gets to the notice of my father, we are not the same person, not by a running mile. Maybe, I could be given a little credit for having my own mind.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Thought Picnic: In the husbandry of futility

In the stream of time
As the end of an era beckons, the reckoning begins from the closing of accounts and the realisation of balances, many uneven between the credits and the debts, that whether there be profit, loss or a break-even, life is never as simple as the figures you see.
In the memories of the past are the stories for which no value can be placed, there is virtue and there is emotion, the feeling you get in clarity and in turmoil, nothing giving you a sense of finality.
Yet, in the irreversible event of things we have learnt of from the miraculous, that seems to escape reality apart from in theatre, sometimes as absurd as never to be witnessed but relayed to the corners of the earth, time is a perpetual motion machine, only stopping or slowing down in the expanse of galaxies and the knowledge of astronomy that blows away your imagination.
In a wasteland of barrenness
No, we cannot turn it back, much as we might have hoped, rather we live many of these events in the subconscious, in the dreamy landscapes of slumber bringing to life that incongruous or even the incomprehensible, difficult to process or understand.
For a moment, there was a shock, a numbness, resignation and then a journey into the annals of the mind to retrieve episodes and snatches of the somewhat insignificant that paints the pictures of the relationships and person you once knew. Then, in the light of the present, you were overcome with a saddened pall, for what could have been and what never did become.
If a man were half the big brother of the many who were given so much and yet made little of what they received, you can only marvel at the parable of the talents. For the servant given one talent should probably have never been given anything, but the one talent was the least that could be given to that servant, the master knowing before he gave the talent that it would profit nothing.
A harvest of little
In another tale, many servants were given several talents in access, in opportunity, in prospect, in advantage, in advice, in business and much more. Still, it all came to naught for both servant and master, the servant remaining poor and the master made poorer in means and in spirit.
Dare one believe that the husbandry of many lives might yield a harvest of a very little gain, much regret, and a multitude of hurts impossible to assuage in any way? Must a farmer know the soil in which he sows? Can one hope that life can arise in the valley of dry bones cracking from the searing heat of the desert? Alas! In the untold is the mystery of the unfortunate to be bewailed in a dirge for which there are no words.

Sunday 9 June 2019

In the hours of paths to Harare

On the waters of adventure, I bid Godspeed,
For the purpose to which we both agreed,
The ideas of where this trip might lead,
Is after all for it to succeed.
Until you came, I have never so smiled,
In your grasp, my imagination ran wild,
You lit in me, the infatuation of a child,
This is true, I’m not beguiled.
When heart finds heart to laugh and sing,
As we did without knowing one thing,
As strangers that met for a just fling,
For all that’s said, we’re meant to cling.
For you, my love, I have a desire,
In everything that for which I aspire,
The sight of you has lit my fire,
From this time on, we take it higher.

Tuesday 4 June 2019

Opinion: When William Haines decided against a sham marriage

A lavender marriage sought
A few days ago, I read of someone in a quandary of sorts. A young successful Nigerian man in his 30s under pressure to conform to tradition and in the parlance of his community become responsible, that is, get married.
This man knows in his heart, in his mind and in his body that he is not in any way predisposed to conventional marriage as he has no attraction to the opposite sex. Fully aware of this, he has no plans to escape the strictures of the society in which he exists, so he has a cunning plan.
He is looking for a lady who identifies as lesbian under the same pressure to get married with whom to contract a lavender marriage that would to satisfy the yearnings of community and involve having a child but with the broader freedom for each of them to live life on the down-low in an open relationship where either party is at liberty to fulfil their other desires.
This is not the solution
He is definitely not up for outing himself, he has already thought this matter through as a marriage of mutual convenience in which no one would get hurt.
I beg to differ, for I only wonder for how long this façade of a sham lavender marriage can go on for with its secrecy and scheming, before some unanticipated event breaks this neatly cobbled together alliance apart scandalising everyone involved, the child. the parents, their community and beyond. This man with his plan is building himself up to some crescendo for blackmail for which he would probably do very stupid things than damn the consequences.
Don’t complicate the complicated
If your life is complicated, it cannot be simplified by complicating another life with self-conceit, a complication doubled presages an unravelling that no one would be able to control when the duplicity finds the light of day.
Now, I know that the situation in Nigeria has led many people to contract lavender marriages, it might work, but I realised long ago that I would rather bear the burden of my sexuality alone than for the purposes of conformity and satisfying the desires of anyone else mess up the life of someone else to hide my true self.
A touch on Winfield House
This brings me to an interesting piece of history that shadows life. President Donald J. Trump is in the UK for a state visit and such heads of state would typically stay at the Buckingham Palace with the Queen. We have the convenient situation that the palace is undergoing extensive renovations and so he is staying at Winfield House, the residence of the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, since 1955.
In the story of Winfield House which is situated in 12 acres of grounds making it the residence with the second largest private garden in London after the Buckingham Palace, it was built by the 7-times married American heiress Barbara Hutton in 1936 to whom Cary Grant was the 3rd husband. The house was sold to the US Government for $1 just after the war.
William Haines, a man apart
Whilst the house has undergone extensive renovations and alterations it is notable that in 1969, William Haines was engaged for this activity.
What makes William Haines remarkable is that he was one of the most successful film stars into The 1930s contracted to MGM Studios. At the height of his success, the head of the studio gave him the ultimatum to choose between his career that would have involved contracting a lavender marriage to hide his homosexuality, which was popular in those times, or James Shields, his ultimately lifelong partner.
He chose his partner and ended his film career, a decision to which he referred later in life with these words, “It's a rather pleasant feeling of being away from pictures and being part of them because all my friends are. I can see the nice side of them without seeing the ugly side of the studios.”
William Haines and James Shields formed a successful interior design and antiques dealing business and were together for 47 years until the death of the former in 1973. It is reputed that Joan Crawford described them as “the happiest married couple in Hollywood.”
Choosing your life over a required lifestyle
The moral of this story has many strands, from a man who from a young age in times of difficult societal pressures and ostracism decided to live his own truth, pursue his own happiness with passion, find love and refuse to give up that love for the sake of his career or anything else.
In being himself, he was able to leave the success of one career to another successful one with his partner, that friends noticed that they had one of the strongest relationship bonds in Hollywood. These friends supported them, respected them, patronised them and honoured them, not judging them for who they were that in the year of the Stonewall Inn riots, they were invited to renovate the palatial residence of the US Ambassador to the UK in London.
The difficult but true choice
We can make choices, the choices to be our true selves rather than try to serve a different normality that brings grief. Obviously, the biggest hurdle is one of acceptance. Accepting who you are first, then loving yourself enough to live your own life than live a lie. I admire all those who have found that essence of being, life and love.
In William Haines who I never knew of until I did some research on the lavender marriages, many big stars like Rudolph Valentino, Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, and Rock Hudson sacrificed their true selves for maintaining a façade and their careers.
Here was a man, principled, with integrity who followed his heart and lived a wonderful life. I hope many might find some truth in the story of William Haines.
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Monday 3 June 2019

Thought Picnic: Levitating on the confusion some have about me

This is who I am
On the public pages of my Facebook profile, I wrestle with the urge for an outburst whilst exercising considerable restraint. To be honest, I don’t do much on Facebook, the greater traffic of material comes from Instagram.
I take pictures and write long captions to them and post on Instagram, with the option for the same posting to go to Twitter and Facebook. Before Facebook severed the automatic posting facility from Twitter, the bulk of traffic to Facebook came from Twitter.
Other activities on Facebook involves posting reactions to comments, I find I can get involved in several discussions, debates or disputes, it is all good for engagement.
I am not taking that
However, the issues on Facebook are some questions that get posted to inputs from Instagram. I was kissing my boyfriend and someone I hadn’t had any interactive contact with for over 3 decades came round with the question – What am I seeing? I didn’t bother answering the person, I deleted the question and eventually removed him as a friend.
Nothing is as annoying as people who have lived abroad for decades but have not escaped the myopic frame of reference that limited their vision of a diverse humanity since they were in Nigeria. It is no secret lest there be the surfeit of assumption, my normality is different and probably does not fit in the concept of the normality of others. I am different, not abnormal. Difference is a function of diversity, not one of abnormality.
I owe no explanation
There are realities about myself that I know, and I do not need to explain to others, just as I do not intrude in the affairs of the busybodies who cannot hold their counsel. All the conclusions you probably want to draw have been drawn, I am not conventionally married, I have no children in or out of wedlock and fundamentally, I have never been attracted to the opposite sex.
It is something not understood in some societies, yet it is fully understood in others from a scientific, medical, logical, psychological and physiological perspective that we not only have the abrogation of Victorian-era laws but the promulgation and enforcement of laws and rights for protection and acceptance of the somewhat minorities who need not fear to be themselves and in that thrive as worthy and celebrated members of their communities, little and large.
My life is not a lifestyle
Then let’s disabuse ourselves of that misconception, lifestyles are about choices you can make when there are options available to you. Sometimes, a lifestyle is an adoption of a persona, a façade, a veneer behind which you hide, hoping no one would find out who you are. A lifestyle is usually looking for a sort of conformity, a pretension to normality you do not have, and you are constantly looking for a mask when you’re not looking in the mirror.
Living your own life is a long way from living a lifestyle, it is the point where you have become true to yourself regardless of what others think. It is where your individuality is expressed, and uniqueness is what you choose to be. It is where your heart beats, your soul rests, your mind sings, and your happiness begins to glow. Life is where you are becoming the best of who you are not caring about pleasing anyone, but if anyone is pleased, it is a bonus.
Life is where you have accepted who you are and know you do not need a cure for who you are. It is also where you can travel with those who accept you and jettison those reject you. It is where you soar like an eagle and find the champion in life that you are. I would marry who I choose to love and marry, and we would together decide what we want to make of our own family. Those choices would not be made for me by anyone else other than with whom I have chosen to live my life.
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