Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Social Revolution in Nigeria Requires More than Radicalism

For some time now the spectre of unrest amongst the Igbos in Nigeria has been rising. This has now evolved into protests and fervent calls for secession and independence. These are based on actual and perceived acts of discrimination and unfair treatment towards Igbos. This has been combined with a longstanding feeling of outrage at not adequately benefiting from oil wealth generated in the Niger Delta. This has resulted in a wave of resentment at what is seen as marginalisation in social and political life in Nigeria; and a growing desire for more control over the natural resources coming from the Delta. 

There is certainly an argument to be made about a systemic lack of sustainable development in the eastern and southern regions of Nigeria. This coupled with significant environmental damage and a lack of appropriate infrastructure development and maintenance has greatly increased deprivation and poverty in the areas. The previous government's militant 'Amnesty Programme' did not promote sustainable development or properly invest in infrastructure. It turned out to be a less than veiled attempt to divert money to key militant leaders and pacify militant fighters. 

For many years successive Nigerian governments have been negligent and complicit in the exploitation and destruction of the Delta area. It is long overdue that the government puts in place a federal development plan for itself and resident oil companies in the area to jointly fund a long term programme to establish much needed infrastructure, and begin to reverse the extensive damage done. Any plan needs to include the creation of jobs, the development of an integrated transportation system, improving health and wellbeing, and promoting education and training for indigenes. This should be an urgent priority for the federal, state and local governments. 

Those people who are now agitating for change need to recognise that progress can only be made by developing a comprehensive dossier of deprivation in the area, and proposing strategies to make improvements. Even though the prominence of social media means it is possible to instantly reach out to and mobilise vast numbers of people; in order to press for change advocates need to be presenting these concerns through political channels. This can be done through a combination of elected representatives, influential persons or paid lobbyists. The key issue here is they need to articulate a case for change and then get it into the public consciousness through legitimate means. You can't reasonably expect to win support if you don't first win the argument before attempting to win the fight. 

Violent demonstrations and protests are not going to create the right platform for policy change. The likelihood is that in areas where deprivation, poverty and unemployment are rife a lot frustrated people will merely be galvanised into violent dissent. Given the inclination of Nigeria's military and police towards the use of excessive force any clashes are likely to lead to tragic outcomes. If there is one thing Buhari's government of change should address it is how communities are policed. Not only is a radical overhaul of law enforcement needed; there should be concerted effort to move policing away from the use of force against unarmed citizens. 

Nigeria must continue to encourage free speech and debate on issues that affect various communities. It must also respond to regional underdevelopment and environmental damage caused by oil exploitation. But any reparations and compensation must come in the form of capital and community investment and development. People advocating for change must turn away from violence and disorder, and pursue their grievances through available legitimate channels. There is more freedom to be gotten from fair and equal treatment than from agitating for secession. 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Life Expectancy in Nigeria

At 52 years Nigeria has the 17th lowest life expectancy in the world. For a country with a GDP of US$521 billion this is an indictment of governing in the country in colonial times and since independence. With 62% of the country living in poverty it is not hard to see why the health of the people is so poor. However, life expectancy is not just about health and disease. As well as being a measure of health and wellbeing; life expectancy also provides an insight into a country's present and future productivity. It is in seeing it just as a matter of eradicating disease that Nigeria is failing in the huge task it faces in improving life expectancy. 

Low life expectancy in Nigeria can be attributed to the poor state of public healthcare, widespread poverty, unemployment and underemployment, rural underdevelopment, wealth inequalities, government corruption and social deprivation. The stress of living through, and enduring financial and social privations has contributed to a very sparse existence that has created a very inhospitable environment for most Nigerians. In order to reverse this the country needs improved healthcare and a more strategic approach to reducing poverty. 

Improving healthcare will require ensuring free primary care for the poorest in both urban and rural areas. This is needed in addition to the existing health insurance scheme being promoted by the government. It will also require the establishment of country wide health surveillance and protection against common diseases and infections. Providing people with the reassurance of effective and timely healthcare is as important as increasing access to healthcare. In order to do this the needs to rigorous data collection and analysis on health conditions and needs. Information collected will help with targeting resources and commissioning appropriate healthcare provision. 

Poverty reduction will need a coordinated strategy, at federal and state levels, to reduce unemployment, prevent urban drift and increase opportunities for rural development. This will need to be combined with developing an infrastructure for targeted welfare and trading and employment support. Welfare support is needed for those who are most at risk of poverty or out of work. There must be a recognition that academic qualifications alone are not enough to produce a healthy population and fit for purpose workforce. A diverse workforce with a wide variety of skills and abilities is required. 

Life expectancy can only be improved if the overall health of the nation improves and the social and economic conditions for all improve. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Managing But Not Coping

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria he swept in on a promise of change and honest government. After, 100 days he seems to be making up a lot of excuses for why things might not change. Contrary to what he might imagine nobody expects change to happen overnight. We understand that in order for things to change; Nigeria and Nigerians need to reform. This type of sea change can only happen over time. 

In order to reform institutions it is important that you engage stakeholders and identity what the problems are. Reform cannot be based on innuendo and conjecture. It needs to be rooted in evidence and tried and tested means. In order to do this a president needs to have a capable and trustworthy team around him. The ability to bring together a strong team is a sign of good leadership. It shows vision and a desire to achieve concrete objectives. Doing so in a timely fashion is essential for good leadership because it gets the ball rolling and frees up the leader to focus on strategy and other areas of concern. 

The task in Nigeria involves not only change but also development and restructuring. There are problems with healthcare, education, unemployment, poverty, transportation, weak manufacturing, security, brain drain, and housing. All these are in addition to corruption, dwindling oil revenues, and inefficiency in bureaucracy. Tackling all these issues will require that the president has a team around him that he can entrust his vision to and rely on. However, it also requires that his team understand his vision and are fully invested in it. For this to happen the team needs to play a part in shaping the vision and developing strategies to take it forward. 

Nigerians are not expecting miracles (regardless of the manifold prayers). But they are hoping for good leadership and guidance. Being given a political mandate should not be seen as a license for autocratic and unilateral rule. To achieve change the president needs the services of not just a cabinet but also 160 million Nigerians. He needs to share his vision and plans with the people, coopt them on his mission, and listen to what they have to say. Only then will he truly make change happen. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Religion's Moral Failings

Religion is generally considered a system of faith and worship based on a particular set of beliefs and values. These beliefs are expected to direct and guide the thinking and actions of all who believe them. Religion is meant to improve and elevate the consciousness of all who are followers. In other words, they are offered the prospect or reward of a better existence. While it must be acknowledged that not all religious beliefs are ethical; almost all will claim to promote goodness and virtue. 

Following the death of over 700 pilgrims as a result of a stampede during the Hajj this year Saudi Arabia's top religious leader has proclaimed that fatalities were down to fate. This appears to be an attempt to curry favour with the Saudi royal family by absolving them of any blame for the disaster. The repeated deaths of pilgrims during the Hajj seems to be a phenomenon unique to Saudi Arabia and surely cannot be inevitable. There have to be questions asked about the organisation of the pilgrimage and the Saudi authorities' regard for the safety of traveling pilgrims. A religious leader who should be holding the authorities to account, demanding improvements and advocating for devotees has chosen instead to be partisan. 

The moral failure by Saudi Arabia's top religious leader is just another in a long history of religious leaders failing in their moral duty. There are Christian Pentecostal pastors who are accumulating huge fortunes at the expense of their mostly impoverished worshippers. The Anglican Church is riven on the issues of the ordination of women and gay pastors. The Catholic Church is still struggling with the handling of an array of abuses by its institutions. There are a number of Islamic leaders who continuously advocate terror and personal abuses. In Israel there a fundamental religious leaders who are pushing for further oppression of Palestinians. Scientology has acquired assets of over a billion dollars while subjecting its followers to varying degrees manipulation and exploitation. 

The Pope's campaigning for tackling poverty, being less obsessed with money and saving the environment is commendable. However, too many religious groups and leaders are failing to carry out the basic task of taking care of the welfare of members. There are 3 billion people who members of some religious institution or the other, and the evidence is there that most of them are being very poorly served; both morally and materially. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Marriage Equality is the Natural Order of Things

The Supreme Court of the U.S. ruling on marriage equality has broken down another bastion of prejudice and bigotry. One of the most interesting aspects of it has been reading the opinions of the dissenting judges. Most of them appeared to be trying establish a position where society regressed to justify a reluctance to change the law. According to Justice Scalia the function of marriage was to facilitate procreation. And Clarence Thomas argued that denial of the right to marriage did not constitute a robbing of dignity and therefore a breach of human rights. It was interesting to see the Justices resorting to fallacious reasoning in explaining their dissent but barely able to contain their personal aversion to homosexuality itself. 

I strongly doubt there is any merit in the claim that marriage was principally designed for procreation. In early societies marriage was seen as a way of providing a companion and a work partner in securing a subsistence. So it was mainly a means of providing comfort and protection. Having children and building a family was just a natural consequence of that. Even in the American frontier men got married in order to have a companion and someone to cater to their domestic needs. It was widely known that the frontier prostitutes would take money to sleep with you but you couldn't pay them enough to come home with you and wash your undies. In the Bible Eve was created as a companion for Adam, so that he wouldn't be alone. And in the New Testament Apostle Paul endorses marriage for those unable to live a life of chastity and solitude. (Christianity's position on homosexuality is another matter but many churches are having to rethink their positions on that too).

Clarence Thomas' claim that the state cannot deny a person dignity seems confused at best. Is it not a State's duty to protect the freedom of all citizens. And would a denial of access to a freely available social institution not reduce a person's standing in society? To be stripped of your justly entitled rights is an affront to personal dignity. Justice Thomas will do well not to confuse pride with dignity. Dignity comes from elevation. You cannot be truly elevated if you are relegated to a lower status than others around you. 

As Michel de Montaigne wrote, "marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out". However marriage turns out; the choice should be all people's to make. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Culpable Caring - Holding Families of Killers to Account

The judge in the bond hearing for the Charleston killer commiserated with all the victims of the shooting at the Emanuel AME church. He stated that in addition to the the people murdered the family of the killer were also victims of the atrocity. According to him, they did not ask to be caught up in this tragedy. As an aside, there are reports that the judge who has previously been censured for using racist language has now been taken off the case. 

I don't see the family in this particular case as equally victimised by this crime. They may have been victims of issues in their own background and personal circumstances but with regards the killings they are equally culpable. They had in their care a young man who is misguided, deeply prejudiced and borderline sociopathic yet they appear to have done very little to seek help and counselling for him. Instead, they bought him a gun for his 21st birthday. It is little wonder that shortly afterwards he carried out a premeditated shooting to death of nine worshippers in a Black church. 

Even if the killer's father thought he might be being bullied and bought him a gun for self protection, it seems to be the wrong message to give to a troubled youth. It suggests that this was a household that endorsed violence; and was most likely very much steeped in it. Parents who expect that their accepting attitudes to violence won't influence, and eventually scar their own children are quite mistaken. Parents who are violent or routinely resort to violence are setting up their children to become caught up in a culture and lifestyle of violence. 

There are a lot of victims of gun violence and America's obsession with being armed. Statistics suggest threre are more victims of personal and domestic shootings than criminal shootings in America. That points to a society that has got it very wrong on gun control. However, families who don't do enough to look after their children who might be going through emotional turmoil and upheaval have to be held accountable for the havoc those children go on to wreak. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

No End to Violence?

There seem to be an ever increasing number of incidents of violence and lawlessness being witnessed and reported in the press on a daily basis. We've had families going on the run with gravely ill children, spouses refusing to truthfully declare assets in divorce court, stabbing in schools, a parent on the run with a child after losing custody, incidents of road rage, and a father shooting up a police station after losing custody of his son. 

There is a real concern that people are becoming increasingly prone to resorting to violence to resolve disputes. It really does echo back to 'Wild West' times. It is shocking the amount of violent imagery and language that is taken for granted nowadays. Whether it is in real life or online there seems to be little restraint applied when threatening violence. It is equally scary that most people who witness these threats actually find them amusing and fun. It is unclear if people are getting more violent or just have less of an awareness of the consequences of violence. While the media might not be singly responsible for this, the portrayal of violence in film, games and TV does appear to be a contributory factor. The preponderance of vicarious violence seems to transport otherwise docile people into a realm of violence they would never have hitherto imagined. The access to weapons has allowed some to actualise their lethal fantasies. 

The violence and lawlessness raises the question of whether some people are losing faith in the rule of law. An ever growing vein of selfishness and egocentrism in some people means that they see no reason why they shouldn't exact retribution where they deem it due. In many cases the public have seen a lack of action by the police on so called low level crimes as evidence that they are unlikely to see justice done if they report crimes. Police violence against certain communities has also eroded police authority in many quarters. And when certain cases do get prosecuted perceived incompetence by prosecutors or an excessive focus on winning cases rather than securing justice has left a lot of victims frustrated. 

There was a time when violence was mostly associated with abnormal behaviour but it seems to be getting more normalised these days. There is a culture of violence becoming ingrained in society. Language is increasingly violent. Entertainment is violent. Education has become violent. Violence is often a first resort in settling disputes. If the epidemic of violence is going to be tackled it will require whole societies to start changing the normalisation of violence in day to day life. It is down to individuals to change behaviours and attitudes. Both adults and children need reeducation on the harmful effects of violence. Until societies are prepared to speak out against the symbols of violence they will continue to suffer the ill effects of it. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Can FIFA Really be Cleaned Up?

FIFA the world body controlling football has been truly engulfed in scandal over the past few weeks. A number of executives have been indicted in the U.S. on charges of bribery and corruption, and their extradition is being sought. Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president dramatically offered his resignation just days after being reelected to a new four year term. One of his formerly close allies (Jack Warner) has indicated that he has provided documented evidence of corruption that will implicate Sepp Blatter. So it would appear that years of shady deals and manoeuvring have finally caught up with the organisation. 

While it is big news that FIFA's previously untouchable officials are now being held to account, corruption in world sport is not a new thing. The International Olympic Committee faced accusations of a culture of endemic bribery and corruption a few years ago. It has managed to shake these off and get back to business as usual. The world cycling body faced allegations of complicity in covering up widespread doping in the sport. It claims to have a handle on that now and is moving on. No doubt FIFA will move on from this without any substantial damage being done to the organisation. 

It is difficult to imagine how anybody working in football at an international level can claim not to have known about the culture of payoffs and influence peddling. In fact most country Football Associations have either been involved in or known of shady under the table deal making. Payments made to the Irish FA and allegations that Germany brokered an arms deal to get Saudi support for its World Cup bid have recently come to light. A New Zealand football official was charged with corruption following the award of the 2006 World Cup to Germany. While bidding for the 2018 World Cup the English FA wined and dined Blatter and Warner extensively. Franz Beckenbauer was suspended from football activities following his refusal to cooperate with an ethics investigation into the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Michel Platini the UEFA president did a deal with Blatter to not contest the FIFA presidential election some years ago. So it appears even if Blatter goes the culture of payoffs and shady deals is unlikely to go with him. 

There does appear to be a hidden agenda behind some UEFA members' very vocal calls for Blatter to go. And it has very little to do with ridding FIFA of corruption. Quite a few of the member countries resent the fact that they don't have more influence over decision making in FIFA. They don't believe the single vote per member policy recognises their status or accomplishments adequately. A lot of murmurings from UEFA seem to suggest that giving an equal say to the smaller member countries isn't very popular there. A case of 'some animals being more equal than others'. Look for moves by the UEFA bloc to try and change FIFA membership or voting rules once Blatter finally exits the field. It will be ironic that the current FBI investigation may be about to expose one set of unfair practices while laying the foundation for another form of unfairness. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Growing

There are lots of things I never dreamed I'd be
That I have now become. 
There are lots of things I never thought I'd see
That my gaze has longingly fallen upon. 
There are things I thought I'd never agree
How I've seen my mind broaden. 
There are things I've done, regrettably
I now know I was very wrong.
There are things that I now feel 
That I never thought I could ever summon.
I now know if I keep striving patiently 
There'll be many more garlands to adorn.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Redress For Monica Lewinsky

It is nice that Monica Lewinsky has been able to rehabilitate her self esteem and is working very hard to do the same for her reputation. It is true that she was the victim of the artifices of a powerful man. What is not true is that the shaming she was subjected to was undeserved. She was na├»ve and taken advantage of by a predatory powerful man. But she knew he was unavailable to her her, even if accessible at the time. There was no chance of them having a relationship or starting a life together. She was a woman who was old enough to know better and smart enough to have walked away. That she chose not to was an indication of her own moral failing at the time. She chose to conduct a dalliance, and then compounded that error by boasting about it to a friend. A friend who it turns out was disreputable and untrustworthy. 


These errors might have been youthful indiscretions but they do show a certain lack of concern and judgement that was likely a prevalent characteristic of hers at the time. And her actions did threaten to bring a lawfully elected government down. All things considered the intense scrutiny she was subjected to was warranted. She needs to distinguish between unfair intrusion of being the subject of revenge porn and the massive ramifications of being caught up in a presidential impeachment. If she does she might realise that when she chose to keep that dress she set in place a chain of events that was inevitably bound to thrust her into the public eye. She might have known that whatever unravelled in the future was always going to leave her raw and exposed. It isn't quite clear if she cared or thought so much about that at the time.

Monica Lewinsky's stand against cyberbullying is creditable but I am not sure her situation is the best study in bullying to promote it. I don't know whether she is trying to redeem herself or yet again exploit her notoriety. But her story isn't one of an innocent soul used and abused by a savage press complex. It is more a tale of a person who made bad decisions that forever marked and marred her life, and who is trying to make others understand the dangers and pitfalls that lie along the path she took. If that's the story she's telling then I'm all ears.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Mother's Day - 10th May 2015

Today is globally marked as Mother's Day. I acknowledge it as such but decline to mark it in any way. And that is not just because my mother has passed away. It's because I think such days are pointless and wrongly conceived. There is no day that a parent, be they mother or father, does not remain a parent. Good or bad, disowning or disowned; they remain such and should be recognised, as well as act as such. But I feel the day is misconceived because being a mother is is a monumental task that each mother should be respected and glorified for. However, despite all the thanks that are owed to parents, being a parent is also a duty and an obligation. It is a duty that should be sacrosanct and never taken for granted. Any day that celebrates parenthood should also highlight and promote responsibilities of being a parent that go much farther than just biological conception. 

I have heard a lot of people talk about how loving and great their mothers are or were. I have also heard people talk about how bad or mean their mothers are or were. And I have indeed heard some people lie about how good or bad their parents are. It doesn't take much thinking to know how complicated motherhood is. Both for morhers and for children. I had a great mother who had great love and high hopes but also made grave mistakes. I cherish all memories of her, good things and mistakes all. I recognise that in addition to being my mother she was a person with a life that preceded me and in many ways needed to be lived regardless of me. I cannot hate her for that. I can only respect the effort and aspiration it took for her to still be a mother in spite of all that life threw at her. And so when I hear some people harshly critique their mothers I do sympathise with their feelings but rarely agree with their expression. Being a mother is a challenging and daunting prospect and task; from pregnancy through birth to upbringing. It doesn't make it any easier that children have to grow up and find themselves, often in contrast and in the footsteps of their own parents. Maybe some parents get things very wrong, maybe some don't try hard enough but who can imagine the kind of mental and emotional deconstruction required to transition from single person into mother (often without warning or guidance). If some mothers get it wrong, and they will, it is understandable. In this life not all of us are born to be great. As tragic as it may seem, that includes mothers. I commend all those good mothers and commiserate with all those not so good ones. 

Here's to all mothers and children. You have to put up with each and try your best to be the best you can be at all times. Who can begrudge you the occasional slip up?

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Twisted View of Freedom

It was an outrage to see the Charlie Hebdo killings unfold; and it has been equally tragic to read reports of recent cases of extremist attacks and killings. Any society that values religious freedom should do its utmost to prevent the spread of hatred and bile by extremists. The recent incident in Garland, Dallas in the United States represents a sad case of freedom and extremism mutating into a poorly disguised intolerance. 

It is peculiar that an organisation purporting to defend religious freedom should choose to stage an event in Dallas, Texas. Dallas is well known for its great tolerance of diversity and minorities. But one would have thought that if the group was so interested in freedom then it might have made some effort to advocate for the rights of women in Ireland, or the lives of gays and lesbians in Uganda and Nigeria. 

Holding a provocative exhibition is no more a promotion of religious freedom than the crusades were a peaceful mediation. The organisers of the exhibition are as much to blame for any bloodshed as the lunatics who attempted to shoot up the event. It is a shame that some people will try to use the disgust everyone shares for religious extremism as an excuse to sow the seeds of their own prejudices and hate. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

What is Infidelity?

I woke up on Friday morning to find "Blacchyna" trending on Twitter. I rolled my eyes in despair knowing that for some reason the cultural black hole that is Kardashian-Jenner-Kanye-Amber had expanded that little bit more. Oh happy day! It turns out this was just a continuation of hostilities between 'Blac Chyna' and Kylie Jenner over the affections of the rapper 'Tyga'. Happy day indeed! However, it did make me reflect on the nature of infidelity. Why are people unfaithful in relationships? And exactly who is to blame for the infidelity?

Very often infidelity is a straightforward issue of one person stepping out on the other. The person meets another person starts a relationship and it eventually moves from friendly to intimate. It may be a one time thing or it may result in starting a whole other family. However it ends up it amounts to being unfaithful. 

But what happens if the friendship doesn't become intimate? So you throw in the flirting and the impure thoughts but there is no consummation. Does that still count as infidelity? It is possible there may been intent to get intimate but no opportunity presented itself. Or maybe there was just a fantasy of getting intimate but no attempt made to take it further. The person may not consider it cheating but will that person's partner think the same. Is there a 'no sex, no foul' rule? When does deception occur? Is it in the thinking or in the actions?

When two people claim to have an open marriage/relationship in which they agree to allow each other be intimate with other people, where does that figure on the 'infidelity index'? If that is considered okay then it would appear that being intimate outside of a relationship may not be the ultimate test of what is unfaithful. It would appear that if there is pre approval then maybe there is no infidelity. Though I do wonder how things might feel for the third party who might just be a sexual pawn in some couple's non traditional living arrangements. Maybe the other person is the one being cheated on here. After all that person may have very little idea of what they're getting themselves into. That would appear to be open to a claim of deception. 

So this is what I've come up with so far; sex may or may not matter when it comes to infidelity, and if there is agreement by both parties then it may not be cheating (in fact in that case, the person being cheated with may end up being the person being cheated on!). Is it possible that if a person in the a relationship is being totally neglectful and emotionally unavailable then that can be taken as constituting approval to step? Maybe cheating just depends on intent and emotional commitment on the part of the person looking to stray. It can't just be down to what one person or another considers fidelity or infidelity. Or can it?

Saturday, 18 April 2015

When Dying Abroad is Preferable to Living at Home

Nigerians love to travel. You will find them in the every corner of the world. Some are doing great things and others are just there. The number of Nigerians settling abroad and adopting new nationalities is quite significant. In many cases they say they have left to seek a better life. No one can fault them for that. We are living in a global era and there is much to be gained by learning about new places and cultures. However, it is one thing to travel to take advantage of opportunities abroad and further one's own development; and it's another thing to see travel as an urgent means of escape from one's own country.

Over the last thirty years an increasing number of Nigerians have been attempting to leave the country to escape the hardships and inequalities that have become the norm in Nigeria. In fact, this has spawned an in industry of its own. Fake passports, visas, lawyers and advisors abound now, floating around consulate visa offices. Some people have been known to sell all they have or defraud others to make up the money they need to travel. Things have gotten so bad that people don't even care where they go or what awaits them there as long as they can leave the country. Even Ghana has become a refuge away from Nigeria. Unfortunately this desperation to leave is also resulting in lives ruined and lost. Nigerians have been a target of the recent killing of foreigners in South Africa. And Nigerians are amongst those traveling to North Africa to attempt perilous sea crossings into Europe. 

It is an indictment of past and present governments in Nigeria that this has not been recognised as a major social problem for the country. Nothing purposeful has been done to address it. Not only is the country's workforce being depleted but lives and talents are also being wasted. A lot of Nigerians travel abroad to 'study' but end up doing menial jobs or getting involved in fraud. Too little is being done to crack down on the fake passport and visa industry in the country. And nothing is being done either at home or in North Africa to deal with the increasing number of Nigerians mortgaging their futures and risking their lives in the hands of smugglers and on dangerous sea crossings. People are being killed in the back streets of North Africa while others are washing up on the shores of Europe. 

Amongst Goodluck Jonathan's many failings has been his indifference to the social issues that continue to damage the fabric of society in Nigeria. He has appointed myriads of ineffective ambassadors but hasn't got any sensible liaison going in countries where Nigerians are in peril. We know why the only priorities for his government have been capital projects and feting foreign dignitaries. It's about time that Nigeria had a government that properly invests in its people and their welfare. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Ungentlemanly Conduct

Being considered a gentleman used to be the the highest mark of culture and sophistication that all men in society aspired to. Those were times when chivalry meant protecting a woman's honour; involved bloodshed and keeping them away from most aspects of social interaction. It will come as no shock that people who came up with the code that defined gentlemanly conduct were anything but decent people. The idea was mostly an artifice used by the upper classes to separate themselves from lower classes and boost their vain egos. These noble 'gentlemen' were notorious for abusing their spouses and children, and being ritually unfaithful to their wives. Some gentlemanly kings were well known for locking up and slaughtering their wives. Hardly a group of men whose behaviour is worthy of emulation by future generations. 

Nowadays being a gentleman seems to have become a badge that some men wear to justify being pretentious and judgemental towards women. It allows them to actually prescribe how women should behave in order to be respectable and desirable to men. These men claim that as gentlemen women should let them take the lead and relegate women to the role of passive recipients. This involves the woman making herself appear helpless, being permitted by men to talk, and being sexually available only when the man deems it fit to approach her. 

It has become common for men to consider the crowning glory of a gentleman to be treating a woman like a lady. In essence the woman is defined by the man's perception of her. It brings to mind the saying, "a woman should be a lady in the parlor, and a whore in the bedroom". This is a view of women proudly put forward by many a gentleman. The gentleman sees the lady as his prize. She is there for the sole purpose of glorifying and satisfying him. In doing so these gentleman deny women any ownership of their own sexuality. To them a woman cannot be sexually assertive because the man might not be ready for her and hasn't given her permission to switch to sexual mode. Any attempt a woman makes to express herself sexually is seen as dishonouring herself. Gentleman are experts in recognising when a woman has shamed herself and refused to be ladylike. If a woman is sexually expressive they see her as usurping the role of the gentleman. God forbid that she has sexual nous and wants to take the lead. This is anathema to the gentleman who must dictate when and how the bedding must take place. A woman who is sexually aware and assertive is labeled loose and common. Clearly she must have sullied herself in the beds of many men. For the gentleman a woman must be meek, mild and malleable when it comes to sex.

So for all those women out there seeking a gentleman as a partner be careful what you ask for. The code of the gentleman honours no one but himself. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Who Pays the Bill?

Recently Emma Watson, the Harry Potter actress, has been lauded for promoting the cause of women's rights and feminism. She recounted how a date had been mortified when she had attempted to pick up the bill after a meal. He couldn't have been concerned that she might use up what little pocket money she had since she has a fortune of tens of millions of pounds. The likelihood is her attempting to pay may have threatened his notion of masculinity. This may go some way to explaining the prevalent custom in many parts of Africa where men almost exclusively foot the bill for everything when out with a woman. It is seen as the man's rightful duty. Not to do so would diminish him in the eyes of the woman, himself and all around them. This may date back to a time when men were hunters and gatherers; and women were homemakers but the stone ages are long behind us now; and one would have hoped that so was that mindset. 

In Nigeria the idea of a woman paying the bill for a date is largely unheard of. And I suspect any men who suggest splitting the bill or asking the woman to pay won't be going on many more dates. Some women would say that since the man asks the woman out it is only natural he foots the bill. Yet the reason why men have to make the first move is that it is what culture demands. And the man picking up the bill is his way of showing that he is worthy and of good standing. This another archaic notion that is best left back in the caves.

These ideas do persist though and if a woman attempts to swim against the tide she is labelled as a loose temptress or a pushy feminist. So what we end up with is women who treat men like meal tickets, and men who treat women like commodities. These are attitudes that are still being passed on to the next generation. This does not bode well for relationships or society as a whole. Whoever pays for a meal really shouldn't still be a bone of contention. A good start to any relationship is an ability to respect and appreciate each other. Paying the bill shouldn't become a power play. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Relationships in Nigeria: Transactions or Bonds?

I have heard a number of tales of romantic woes among Nigerians recently. There is the case of the woman who found out her boyfriend of eleven years was leaving her the day before he got married to someone else. Then the case of a woman in an abusive relationship who was not prepared to end it because she had put in too many hours of sex during the course of it. There appear to be too many Nigerian women and girls who see relationships as transactions. For too many young girls marriage is their route out of poverty. It is sometimes seen as their one opportunity to better themselves. 

Relationships are pursued as though life is some kind of game show where if you press the right buttons you can win yourself a husband and happy life. Both prospective husband and intended wife are slotted into stereotypical boxes that specify what is wanted and what needs to be done to get it. As a result relationships seem to be very synthetic, and status counts for more than depth. Inevitably in many of these cases the marriages last much longer than the actual relationships. Infedility is rife amongst the men and too many women are living lives of emotional confinement. They have achieved all they ever wanted so how can they not be happy? How can things not be good? As it turns out they have very little happiness to look forward to and nowhere to retreat to. They become prisoners of their own aspirations. 

In Nigeria this arrangement works for the men. Eligible bachelors can have their pick of women. And all they gave to do is give them a ring and provide for them for life. Not unlike a jailer taking custody of a prisoner. Once the man has fulfilled his part of the bargain he is free to pursue whatever his heart desires; money, power, women. This is done safe in the knowledge that the woman is unlikely to do anything to change things no matter how much she complains. 

Needless to say both men and women find comfort in religious scriptures to justify their approach to relationships and the state of their marriages. There are plenty of good relationships and happy marriages. Unfortunately, weddings are no guarantee of a fairytale ending. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Redefining Black Parenting

The first step in ensuring a better future for Black children is for Black parents to be better parents. Fathers and mothers need to make better choices, lead better lives, become better role models and take better care of their children and each other. There is no doubt that institutional prejudice and discrimination are holding Black people back in many ways. In law enforcement it has contributed to numerous killings triggered by racial profiling and bias. There are significantly higher proportions of Black people incarcerated. However, we Black people need to come to terms with the idea that we can't expect the State to bring up our children. New York mayor Bill de Blasio was right to caution his son about how to behave around cops. (He might have been naive to share that bit of parenting advice publicly). As it turns out, the unarmed police shooting in Wisconsin further demonstrates that the police don't need a reason to shoot Black people. It is about time that we stopped giving them the opportunity to. 

It's time Black people started taking parenting more seriously. Being a parent needs to be more than just a biological imperative. Black parents must show more care and concern for the wellbeing of their children. Being better role models would be a start, at least. The responsibility of guiding children and showing them the right path is one that more parents must embrace more fulsomely. Parents must be more thorough in exploring the influences that are engaging their children. This might involve them taking aggressive measures to counteract any negative influences. Being more involved in the lives of their children must mean more than just feeding and housing them. They must take charge of the moral upbringing of the children and fight hard to keep them on the straight and narrow. There is no doubt that good parenting can be rough and thankless. However the agony of mourning and grieving over lives violently and needlessly cut short on with alarming regularity is even more painful and damaging. If things are to change that change must start with us. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Victimising Rape Victims

It has been reported that one of the men who raped then murdered a woman on a bus in Delhi, India blamed the woman for what happened. According to him, she would not have been killed if she hadn't resisted. It seems it doesn't even occur to him that the rape itself is a devastating violation. This is another example of how societal thinking is constantly leaning towards the outdated idea that the woman must be to blame for rape or sexual assault.

There are too many instances of male judges or legislators suggesting that the onus is on women not to invite their own rape. Talk of how women dress or drink have to be contributory factors to the likelihood that men might be inclined to commit rape. One judge in the UK actually stated that a teacher wasn't to blame for sleeping with a fifteen year old female pupil because the girl had aggressively "seduced" him. It seems that some men still feel that males are helplessly at the mercy of the sexual wiles of the female sex. 

There are too many countries where female sexuality is still treated like a disease or some form of demonic possession. Emily Nagoski has recently written a book questioning the concept behind the development of a female arousal pill. In her book, 'Come As You Are'; she questions the idea that females have to physically experience sexual arousal on demand. Her belief is that female arousal is linked to both enviromental and emotional factors she is experiencing. Therefore arousal is more likely to develop rather than just be turned on. This is a radical departure from the prevailing notion that females are objects of sexual desire who are meant to be readily available and instantly willing at all times. Especially when a handyman or pool boy is within close proximity. 

There is a need for society, and men in particular, to change the way that women and female sexuality are perceived. We cannot expect women to be empowered if the most complimentary societal view of them is degrading. More effort should be taken to understand and appreciate female sexuality rather than just define it. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What Black People Really Need to Overcome

A video recording of a Black Woman in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. being viciously beaten by her "friends" has gone viral. The video shows the woman being punched, kicked and kneed by three women while a man holding a 3 year old child sits on a couch watching. Apparently it was all filmed by a boyfriend of one of the assailants. In an era where the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has become a rallying cry for Black people all over the world; and killings of Black people by police in the U.S. And mistreatment of asylum seekers in the UK are in the news; this is a stark reminder of the damage members of Black communities are also doing to themselves. 

Black people have suffered mistreatment and prejudice for many generations. This has contributed to a lot of the failings in many Black communities. While discrimination has held Black people back it will be down to us to redeem ourselves and advance our own causes. We must remember who it was who conspired with slave traders to sell their fellow Africans into slavery. Let's not forget about the explosion of Black on Black crime in the UK and U.S. Nor should we ignore the internet fraud and scams that have become identified with certain sub Saharan African countries. 

If things are to get better for Black people and stay that way then we all must change how we look at  ourselves. The idea that to get out of the ghetto it is okay to step on each other and destroy what little sense of community exists must change. Selling one another out and murdering each other for short term gain won't make things better. We have to realise that for one person to do well, the whole community has to be doing well. In order to build a better community we need education, employment and entrepreneurship. Some people might find success in showbiz and sports but what each family needs are wage earners. Until that is recognised as being normal there won't be any overcoming because we won't even have what we need to lift ourselves up. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Harnessing Conflict to Improve Performance

Recently a team in the National Basketball Association of America suspended a player for having a shouting match on court with the team's coach. Charles Barkley, an analyst with ESPN disagreed with the suspension on the grounds that it as a consensual falling out between two adults. The thought occurred to me that there are times when a little tension in the team dynamic might actually serve to boost performance. And it might not be a positive thing to crack down on every instance of dissension.  

A good leader should be able to ensure conformity and compliance in the pursuit of team goals but must be prepared to handle dissent should it occur. Disagreement might offer a path to refining objectives and strengthen team focus. Handling conflict diplomatically is likely to curb opposition and avoid harmful cliques forming. A leader needs to be able to anticipate the reactions of his team when he chooses to publicly criticise a member. His actions should ideally trigger the reaction he is seeking. The important caution to be bear in mind us not to foster conflict in the group as a means of controlling members but to harness it should it arise. This is a path to achieving compliance on an entirely different level. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Who is Responsible for the Abuse by Jimmy Savile?

We know that for over fifty years Jimmy Savile sexually molested children and adult patients in Stoke Mandeville Hospital. It has been revealed that managers ignored complaints from patients, and the suspicions of staff; and allowed him continued access to vulnerable patients up until his death. We also now know that government officials contrived to prevent any investigations into his activities. In spite of this it appears that nobody is going to be held responsible for the abuse that took place, or the negligence that allowed it to continue for over fifty years. 

Under David Nicholson the NHS became an organisation that spent more money on shutting up whistleblowers than it invested in patient engagement. If that tide is to change then people who put the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable patients in jeopardy for so many decades just so they could advance their professional and political careers must be held to account. Hopefully in due course the NHS whistleblowers charter will address maladministration as well as it does clinical negligence. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

A Commanding Performance?

How would one assess President Goodluck Jonathan's performance as commander in chief of the armed forces? Under his leadership the army appears to lack both leadership and strategic direction. There have been numerous misadventures by Nigerian troops on peacekeeping missions. Engagements with Boko haram have been spectacularly unsuccessful. There was a calamitous failure to take advantage of the resources and goodwill readily available following the kidnapping of the girls of Chibok. It wasn't until a week before the elections were due to go ahead that the heads of national security and the armed forces realised they had a responsibility to secure key locations where voting was expected to take place. Cameroun and Chad have made more progress against Boko Haram in two months than Nigeria has made in ten years. Instead the armed forces are populated with pot bellied pigs masquerading as officers. 

That is not to say that Muhammad Buhari has that much more to offer despite his having been a general in the army. When he was head of state he showed himself to be lacking in ideas and leadership skills. It's hard to know if he is more capable now but his performance as a presidential candidate has not given much cause for enthusiasm. He has been embroiled in a crisis over a secondary school certificate, and refused to take part in an election debate but ends up in London campaigning for votes amongst the ineligible. 

Things are really looking up for national security in Nigeria. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Teenage Pregnancy On the Decline in the UK

It was great to hear that the overall rate of teenage pregnancy in the UK is dropping. Teenage pregnancy has been a significant blight on the lives of young people, particularly girls. For a period there was an underclass of "children having children". Teenagers with barely any life skills were being thrust into parenthood with next to no parenting skills. Too few of them were able to return to education and get qualifications; or find productive and well paid employment. Too many of them settled for a lifetime on welfare benefits. 

There has been a lot of investment made in helping teenage parents manage better and build a better life for themselves. However it will require more than improved sex and relationship education to maintain the drop in teen pregnancies. Young people need to be presented with more opportunities for success than just the sports and entertainment businesses. They are unlikely to be motivated by the prospect of leaving school to take up minimum wage jobs. Those who are academically able should not be prevented from going on to higher and further education just because of cost. Others who may not meet the university standard should be encouraged to take up opportunities for training and skills development. This isn't just the key to dealing with teenage pregnancy; it might also be the way forward in tackling youth unemployment. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Can I Get a…?!

Was watching a U.S. tv sitcom where a woman was despairing of her husband's hapless efforts in the boudoir. He thought he was being caring and compassionate but she found his efforts routine, dull and passionless. It occurred to me that women really do endure a lot when it comes to men's bedroom fumblings. A lot of women have the most dissatisfying experiences in bed yet avoid telling the man how bad it was. Sometimes they try to be sensitive to his ego; conscious of the difficult discussion that might follow. Other times they keep quiet to avoid being labelled promiscuous. But they should bear in mind Michel de Montaigne's recollection of a quote by Pythagoras' daughter in law. She said, "a woman who goes to bed with a man ought to lay aside her modesty with her skirt, and put it on with her petticoat".

While women tend to have the most difficulty being satisfied during sex men certainly have to bear the greater burden of performance.
Whether it is challenges with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, size issues or technique the male faces an uphill task satisfying the female. Unfortunately too many men are blissfully ignorant of this.
They get so excited by the mere prospect of bedding a woman that too many of them are already rolling over and sighing with pleasure before the woman even has a chance to lift her legs up. 

The truth is men need help in the bedroom. Whether it's about creating the right mood, being gentle, foreplay, putting on a condom without a disaster happening or bringing the woman to orgasm; none of these come naturally to a guy. So while it isn't the woman's responsibility to instruct a man in the ways of the boudoir, a little word in our ear from time to time won't go amiss. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

The "No Ransom" Policy

The parents of Kayla Mueller, the American hostage killed recently while being held by ISIS, have accused the U.S. Government of putting policy ahead of U.S. citizen's lives. The policy they are referring to is; not paying ransoms to terrorists for hostages. The U.S. Government did not agree to the ransom demands of the group for her release. The suggestion here is that had a ransom been paid the terrorists would have released their captive. The implication however, is that governments are responsible for the plight of any citizen captured by a terrorist group. In this particular case she traveled to the region on her own to support the relief efforts there. 

It is possible that paying a ransom might have secured her release. However, the funding provided by ransom payments goes on to fund further terrorist activities that jeopardise the lives of thousands and whole communities. The funding being provided to ISIS by supporters and ransoms has gone a long to expand and embolden its operations. The U.S. Government has said it is committed to halting any further progress by the group. 

Paying ransom for kidnap victims very rarely resolves the problem. The more success the kidnappers have in extorting money the more likely they are to continue to attempt to take hostages. This proved to be the case with pirates in the Horn of Africa. It wasn't until they were hunted down that there was a reduction in piracy. It might be suggested that paying ransoms puts all other foreigners in the region at risk. However, it can't be denied that ransom payments have led to the release of hostages in some cases. 

Traveling to war zones to help the embattled is very commendable but also fraught with danger. For individuals who go on their own the lack of any security apparatus further increases the risk. There are only so many precautions an individual can take. So when individuals choose to take on these risks who is responsible for their safety? Governments have a duty to all their citizens who find themselves in trouble while abroad. But how far does that duty extend? When a private citizen travels into a war torn region on their own who is ultimately responsible for their safety?

Leading Nigeria Nowhere

In organisational psychology there are a range of characteristics that are associated with being a leader. They include being knowledgeable, formal authority, commanding conformity, good communication skills, respect, create change; and so forth. In Nigeria it would appear leadership requires that you be older, wealthy, hold redundant titles, and amoral.

The leading two people currently vying for the leadership of Nigeria appear to have no real affinity for leading people or projects. One is a former leader who was most underwhelming during his tenure; and the other is the current leader who has been spectacularly uninspiring during his current term. And yet they both passionately believe they should be given the mandate to lead Nigeria for the next four years. However, true to type the campaigning from both parties has comprised of squabbling over educational certificates, empty promises about defeating Boko Haram and distributing rice and mobile phone credits. This is despite the fact that there are enormous problems plaguing the country. These include widespread poverty, stagnant rural development, growing unemployment, high cost of living, a broken bureaucracy; you name it. Strangely enough our wannabe leaders are foremost in overlooking these issues. 

What Nigeria needs are leaders who are able to elevate the sacrifice of service above the subversion of mindless corruption and thirst for power. Sadly, such leaders appear nowhere on the horizon. 


Friday, 20 February 2015

Friendship

I saw this old Irish saying about friendship and found it quite poignant. Friendships are like God's warm embrace. They can comfort and cheer you up in good and in bad times. But how fickle they can also be. Friendships can tear the beating heart out of your chest and salve the gaping wound with acid and bile. Friendships can leave you stranded and alone just when life has decided to abandon you by the wayside. Take care of your friends and pray they care enough about you to take care of you too. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Academically Askew

In Nigeria having a postgraduate degree is essential currency for professional advancement. It is now very rare to be promoted into a position of leadership at work without having at least a masters degree.  As a result Nigerians are driven to postgraduate academic study even if they didn't have much of an aptitude for it during their first degree. Nigerians are also well known for their love of titles. They wear them with pride and a haughty air. It's in Nigeria that people who no longer hold professorial chairs in universities still hold on to the title of professor for life. It's also in Nigeria that you have professors and holders of doctorates who seem even less competent and conscientious than the "ordinary citizen". 

Too many Nigerians embark on postgraduate study without giving too much thought to how the course of study will improve their professional skillset or equip them for a career. Most employers encourage this fear driven approach to acquiring qualifications. Hence you have a lot of postgraduate students who are barely able to conjure up an original thought, nevermind articulate an original idea. 

It is time that a distinction is made between education and training. While education offers you the prerequisite knowledge and understanding for most careers; higher education is not needed to become proficient in every career. In some careers professional or vocational training are what is needed to develop the necessary skills to become proficient. This is certainly the case in accounting, I.T. and administration. Maybe if we focused more on work skills there wouldn't such a culture of incompetence. It's time we stopped wearing qualifications like jewellery and focused on job-related training and skill development. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Respect or Love?

Relationships start in many different ways. It could be a sudden burst of electricity or the slow burn of sustained familiarity. No matter how things start there is a whole industry built around telling us how to keep them going. When I was young the importance of respect was drilled into me as the key ingredient in all relationships. Respect for elders, those in authority, and the head of the household. The notion of romantic love was seen as something very insubstantial that was a byproduct of a decadent western civilisation. 

It is the test of time that truly determines whether a relationship is for real. And in any relationship you need to have both love and respect present. However, over time both of these change in a relationship. Very often that overwhelmingly passionate love that was there to start with gradually settles into affectionate caring. The feelings may remain the same but their spontaneity and expression become somewhat dulled. Over time there are a lot of things that can erode respect in a relationship. It could be male insecurity, a reversal  of fortunes, sexual dysfunction, irritating personal habits or infidelity. If these conditions persist it often opens the door to bickering and disagreements. 

A good relationship needs love to thrive but without respect a relationship has minimal hope of surviving.

360 Degrees of Love

Is it the heights to which I fly
Or my smile that's so very shy
That make you love me?
Is it the subtlety of my wit
Or the steel in my grit
That make you love me?

Is it the cynicism of my views
Or my tendency to be obtuse 
That make me unlovable?
Is it my Sundays spent at home
Or my disdain for all things chrome
That make me unlovable?

If I changed 
Would I still be me?
And if I stay the same
Will I truly be free?
How unlovable can I be
And yet still be loved?
How lovable is the me they see
To yet remain so unloved?

Friday, 13 February 2015

Some Advice About Advice

There are times I wonder whether we shouldn't subject people who helpfully volunteer to advise us to a lot more scrutiny. I would go so far as to suggest we should interview and evaluate the people we choose to offer us advice. It is quite a big job after all. Good advice can set us up for life; and bad advice can put us on the path to ruin. This is literally the case with financial advice. Similarly, in our day to day lives our success or failure can rest on taking the right advice. And it will serve us well if we exercise some caution with regards who we look to for advice. 

I remember a few years ago when I was about to do some traveling an uncle of mine who I had gone to notify decided to advise me of what to expect on my travels. He told me how it was going to be tough, probably like nothing I had experienced before. That's because conditions in Nigeria were so agreeable most Nigerians had become soft and lazy. He said this with a very pitying look in his eyes. He rounded up by giving me a hard stare and wishing me good luck if I still wanted to travel. My guess was this was his way of telling I was feckless and wouldn't really amount to much. Now I don't know whether he was wrong or right. But I do know I did not find his words either encouraging or inspiring. They didn't do me much good but I certainly never forgot them. Because while they may have been factually accurate they certainly weren't very supportive of me. But he had to have his say, so screw me; he thought. 

Nigeria being a very hierarchical society we are practically required to seek the counsel of elders. And then we're duty bound to abide by it. This can be a good thing, as a Yoruba proverb points out; "a child can never have as many rags as an elderly person". It is true that wisdom comes with age and experience. However it is true that not all aged people have actually devoted themselves to the pursuit of wisdom, nor have they experienced everything the world has to offer. So there are times you have to figure out when the 'advice' you're being given is really just so much hot air. 

As with these words I have written, all advice should be taken with a reasonable degree of scepticism. Who knows where the motivation for the advice truly comes from? Ultimately you must know what you want for anyone to capably guide and direct you. If you haven't figured out what your options are, there is a good chance that the good advice you get will only lead further down the path of confusion. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Smuggling Africans into Europe

The smuggling of Africans across the Mediterranean into Europe has reached crisis levels. It has practically become an illegal industry. It is time governments in Africa take more responsibility for the problem. The amount if suffering and fatalities that are occurring during these illegal crossings is an indictment on the social and economic conditions in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. There needs to be greater cooperation by the African governments to handle Africans getting stranded at sea. This needs to be done alongside taken action to stop and prevent the human smuggling going on. The African Union and ECOWAS need to recognise the damage that this doing. The continent is losing valuable young lives to fruitless quest for the fantasy of a better life anywhere but home. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Mugabe Falls, Zimbabwe Left Bruised

It has been reported that Robert Mugabe has suspended a retinue of bodyguards for not preventing him from taking a tumble last week.
While this sort of overbearing behaviour is not untypical of Mugabe it does show the mental frailty that is increasingly accompanying his physical frailties. Someone should inform him that the elderly are prone to falls. Mugabe has long been one if those leaders who is determined to rule on till death. And as is typical of these types of tyrants as they age and become enfeebled so does the country they claim to be serving.

Africa has a long history of rulers hanging on to power - Kaunda, Sese Seko, Gadaffi, Mubarak, Jawara, Boigny, Kenyatta, Nyerere, Bokassa; the list is endless. It also has a history of democratically elected rulers trying to make constitutional changes in order to extend their reigns - Obasanjo's third term manoeuvring and Goodluck Jonathan's six year term proposal of recent memory. In all of these cases the leaders have not distinguished themselves during their stewardship. So it is no surprise they were oblivious to the conventional wisdom that rather than increase stability, staying in power for life only tends to embed existing malaise and create more division. And when such rulers die or are removed from office the country is almost always left worse off. Succession becomes a problem, whether it's because of the instalment of an unwanted heir apparent or due to rival factions fighting for power. 

Mugabe has long since fallen from grace and his recent history of physical falls are just his body coming to terms with the infirmity that has plagued his mind for a long time now. Under his stewardship Zimbabwe has become one of the poorest countries in the world. That is the legacy his long reign will leave. In addition to the many hilarious memes his fall generated.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Nigeria Waits, A Little While Longer

After years of preparation Nigeria has had to postpone the 2015 elections for six weeks. And yet again the country's government has demonstrated that it couldn't organise a drinking session in a brewery. According to INEC concerns over security in the north east of the country have persuaded it that it would not be safe to go ahead with elections on February 14th. However sources close to the government have suggested that INEC just isn't fully prepared to organise the elections effectively. Whatever the reasons are this decision should have been made sooner to avoid the subsequent disruption that is likely to follow. 

It is clear that the postponement has been ordered from high up in the government. INEC doesn't have the remit or resources to determine security risks. That would be the responsibility of the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Inspector General of Police and the head of national security. I would have expected security during the elections to be top of the National Security Committee agenda for the past twelve months. It should thus have been apparent much sooner that security in the North East needed to be reinforced in order for elections to go ahead. It speaks to the endemic institutional inefficiency in the country that this was not done. 

It is impossible to ignore claims that INEC is still not fully prepared to hold the elections. Even the INEC chairman acknowledged that almost 40% of eligible voters still haven't received voters cards. It's further confirmation of the prevalence of inefficiency in the country that a simple task like issuing voters cards is beyond the means of a long standing national body. But it is very likely that fraud and financial misappropriation probably played a part in the lack of preparedness. It must have been apparent for some time that INEC did not have the distribution of voters cards in hand. One can only wonder why the Minister of Internal Affairs did not take appropriate action sooner. 

It is not entirely clear how much disruption this postponement will cause. Some universities have already shut down anticipating the conclusion of elections this weekend. It is unclear whether they will now remain closed till March. While it us unlikely that the security risks will be any less come March, one hopes that the elections will be able to go ahead with minimum disorder and violence.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Gunning for the Children

According to the National Rifle Association in America guns don't kill, people do. There has appeared to be an increase in reports of children shooting and killing. Makes one wonder whether, according to the NRA, that now makes these kids killers if it isn't the access to firearms that is to blame. Certainly it would appear that the persistent advocacy for carrying arms combined with a social glorification of gun violence is creating a curiosity about guns in children. The more it seems like not only the right but also the normal thing to carry arms the more we are likely to reduce awareness in children of the dangers of guns. How do you explain to a child who has just shot and killed someone how wrong it is without traumatising that child even more? And is it possible to tell the child everything will be alright when that child has just killed a person? Tragically it would appear that guns are destroying our communities in so many different ways.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Childhood Immunisation

The measles outbreak currently causing concern in the United States can probably be traced to an increasing number of parents choosing not to allow their children to participate in childhood immunisation programmes. This is in spite of the fact that it is a legal requirement. Unfortunately, the decentralisation of power, and the rolling back of federal authority means that states can water down the requirement to make all children receive a prescribed set of vaccinations. In America they readily give farmers subsidies for producing surplus food but get all philosophical about immunising their children. 

Childhood immunisations not only provide protection for individual children they also contribute to general public health protection. Contrary to some dubious claims avoiding immunising does not build up a natural immunity. What it in fact does is multiply the risk of future infection across a wider ranging area. Over a period immunity levels drop and communities become vulnerable to widespread infection from isolated cases that are introduced into their area. In communities where a large proportion of residents refuse to vaccinate their children a single case can potentially affect a huge proportion of the children in the area. In the UK the link being made between childhood immunisation and autism has been discredited. And with increasing levels of social mobility it is very likely that children can potentially come into contact with previously eradicated diseases. Whatever your beliefs may be immunisation is the right thing to do for your children; and the ethical thing to do for the community you live in. 

Protecting Women, Saving the World

A suicide bomber recently attacked a market in Maiduguri; Nigeria. Jordan has just executed an abortive ISIS suicide bomber. In America a person who shot at an alleged abusive partner was convicted but given a non-custodial sentence. The Sun newspaper in the UK was recently embroiled in a controversy about the use of topless models on it's page 3. What all thse cases have in common is that they involved females. And they represent instances where women are being exploited and abused by men. What is striking is that in the countries where these things happen there appears to be a tolerance, and even acceptance for this type of treatment of females.

ISIS and Boko Haram both claim to be religious movements but it appears the pursuit of their objectives is fuelled by good old fashioned misogyny. All over the world women are being subjected to prejudice, abuse and exploitation because societies have a great difficulty in acknowledging that the inequality between genders is rooted in years of male chauvinism and ignorance. Men in authority still seem to actively seek out opportunities to humiliate and undermine women in their personal and professional lives. And until the law and every decent person in society starts respecting the right of females and offering them their due regard the world will continue to witness injustices and oppression against a group who deserve both our respect and the full protection of the law. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Multinationals Still Bleeding Africa Dry

The recently released African Union report into illicit financial flows claims that between 1970 and 2008 $850b has been siphoned out of the continent through illegal payments and tax avoidance schemes by multinationals. $20b has been lost since 2008. This one of damaging legacies of colonialism exacerbated by a culture of local corruption that has gone unchecked. It is easy to see why there is so much underdevelopment in the continent. It is no surprise that current campaign pledges to curb corruption being made in the lead up to next week's elections in Nigeria do not include any specifics on what fraudulent practices and how they will be tackled. That is no surprise since both presidential candidates are probably implicated in the tolerance of this bleeding of resources. Unfortunately, even if the problem of illicit flows by multinationals is addressed it doesn't stop rampant financial fraud and misappropriation that have become the norm across the continent. 

Strategy of Life

Whether it's in business, corporate affairs, military operations, politics, sports, games, romance or life you need a strategy to ensure you successfully achieve your objective. A strategy is what takes a hold of insight and creates achievement. In the world of practical application strategy is what brings genius forth. It would be right to call strategy a carefully laid out plan. Every aspect of the phrase "carefully laid out plan" tells you something about how critical strategy is in endeavour. It gives a hint of the forethought, development and execution that is required to successfully reach a goal. 

As Machiavelli and Sun Tsu have shown strategy can either be used to manoeuvre or manipulate. I am not sure that I agree that "all is fair in Iove and war" but the truth is that if you leave home without a plan you will most likely return home dusty, drained and defeated. A good strategy identifies where you are at in regards to achieving your objective and analyses the extra distance you need to travel to help you maximise your chances of success. While a good strategy might stun and surprise your competitors and leave them in disarray it should never leave you befuddled and confused. In short, using Marshawn Lynch as a decoy and attempting to pass the ball 3 yards from the goal line while a score down in the final minutes of the Super Bowl is not a good strategy. Inevitably, it led to defeat. A good strategy makes the best use of your resources at the right time and in a precise way. 

While a good strategy might not guarantee you success it will most likely offer you your best chance of achieving it. You have to remember that in the hands of a fool the goose that lays the golden eggs will most likely end up missing or dead. There are those who will say the only strategy you need is God. However, the bible says "faith without works is dead". Strategy not only helps you plot a path to success it also allows to respond to unforeseen circumstances that crop up along the way. So making the right use of a good strategy is the sign of an ace strategist. And that is why they are a premium in whatever field you are in. 

So remember, if you want to develop a good strategy you need ideas, analysis, planning and execution. There are different elements that optimise the impact of each of these components but putting them together is a good way to start your venture. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Who Needs a Business Plan?!

Over a number of years people I know in Nigeria have consulted with me on business start ups. Very often they have found a venture they like or are good at and noticed that it appears to be a profitable trend. Proposals have included farming, shopping malls, business consultancies, wedding planning, event management and transportation. All very marketable ideas. However, each time I have mentioned putting together a business plan a lot of people have hesitated. One person remarked that business plans don't work in Nigeria; you just go for it and try to make the best of it. Needless to say quite a few of these ventures have gone down the pan. 

Typically in Nigeria people have raised money for business by borrowing from family and friends, or getting a loan through a friend who is a bank manager. People have been known to take out car loans and use the money for business. Nowadays, banks are stricter with lending, and micro finance institutions require very detailed business planning. So the benefits of having a business plan aren't just to show you can make a profit. Whether it's a bank or a friend investors want to understand what your marketing strategy is, how much your set up and operational costs are, what your profit projections are  and how the business will be run for the first five years. Of course, this might not be applicable if your proposal is to secure a government contract and abandon it midway after pocketing the money!

Having a business plan is more than just having a document to wave around. It's a sign that you have subjected your idea to a thorough cost-benefit analysis and you have identified the milestones you need to reach to ensure success. It also gives your investors an assurance that you will be accountable and mindful of the risks to be managed. It takes some effort to prepare a business plan but it is well worth it both in raising finance and managing the business.

For Better, or Until the Break Up!

I read a recent news report in which a woman has filed a claim against the estate of her former partner (who has since died) claiming she was misled in negotiating a settlement based on a falsely reported lower net worth. They were in a 19 year relationship but broke up and her partner died a year later. She now wants the courts to review the case and award her a higher settlement. The case has now gone to appeal. 

Negotiating a settlement after the break up of a marriage or relationship is a necessary evil. No one prays for a marriage to end but sometimes you have to plan for the possibility. In principle I agree with the payment of spousal support. If a partner has sacrificed a career or personal ambition to create a good family and home then they should be reasonably considered to have contributed to the income that the partner brings into the household. In some cases where spouses are more of a trophy there may not be so much of a contribution. But that's why there are prenuptial agreements. Whatever people say, love doesn't insure you against future loss. No matter how much love you start out with if things break up the then it can get messy.

In practice though, the laws in many countries are very antiquated when it comes to dealing with spousal settlements. They either cast the woman as a helpless stray who will not be able to survive unless the ex partner supports her; or they offer no protection whatsoever to women who have devoted their lives to bringing up children and maintaining a home. The law in some of these cases ends up fostering a feeling of unfairness and creating further hostility between already unhappy people. 

Unfortunately, religious guidance hasn't always proved helpful or conclusive in resolving relationship disputes. A lot of religious texts do tend to apportion all the power to the man. This is unlikely to help matters in situations where the man hasn't been very reasonable. That notwithstanding there is plenty of counselling about how to have a good relationship but not much about how to achieve a good break up. It will take a shift in legislation and social norms to address the anomalies in break up settlements. In the meantime, amidst all the loving and hugging people better keep a watchful eye on how much money their partners are earning. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

It's What We Believe But Is It Moral?

A lot of us confuse adhering to a belief with being morally upright. There is the assumption that if you are a believer of a widely held belief then anything you do in the name of that belief must be morally right. This is often seen in how people practice their religious faiths. There is the recent opposition to the ordination of female bishops in the Anglican Church for instance. We also have the Charlie Hebdo murders in France to draw upon. In the bible Jesus drew the distinction between morally right and lawfully right when he stopped the stoning of Mary Magdalene, asking the crowd to examine their own righteousness first. Whether you look at capitalism, democracy or jurisprudence; there are a wide variety of belief systems that would probably not be rightfully considered moral.

In our daily lives there are too many instances where we fail to do what is just and fair because we claim to be following a belief. Too many instances where we treat people badly but justify it on being true to a belief. There are times we sacrifice the wellbeing and feelings of others in order to feed our own need for piety. While it is difficult to close every ethical loophole in a belief system it isn't impossible to weigh up our own actions on the basis of what is morally right. Just as Pope Francis is attempting to do in stating that there is a place for transgender people in the Catholic Church.