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


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.