Friday, 31 December 2010

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Saying farewell to youth..

I had cause recently to read up on 'night sweats'. I did this on the Internet, as you do, when you need to find out more about something that's been on your mind. Okay, I guess I have to admit at this point that I have in fact been suffering from night sweats, a condition that has meant that in recent times my night's sleep has been disrupted far too frequently. So I searched for more information on the web and narrowed my search down to "night sweats in men". All the sources I read, after having excluded various other medical conditions that may be indicated by night sweats, were pointing towards one thing: Andropause, or the Male Menopause, also sometimes described as Androgen Deficiency of the Ageing Male (ADAM). (The word Decline is sometimes substituted for Deficiency).

I would not be entirely honest if I said that I'd heard of the term andropause before now. And even from the literature that I've come across, it is clear that there is considerable controversy among the experts as to whether andropause, or the male menopause, is a valid concept at all. However, it seems undisputed that there are distinct biological changes that take place in men during mid-life, which are comparable in some ways to the female menopause, even though it is also undisputed that unlike women, men can continue to reproduce well into old age.

Menopause is a "complete cessation of reproductive ability caused by the shutting down of the female reproductive system.." Andropause on the other hand is "a decline in the male hormone testosterone. This drop in testosterone is considered to lead in some cases to loss of energy and concentration, depression and mood swings. And while andropause does not cause a man's reproductive system to stop working altogether, many suffer bouts of impotence.." (cough!)

I won't bother you too much with all the technical details, which I'm sure all of us are perfectly capable of scouring the Internet for. I do wish however to go a bit further by saying that apart from the night sweats, several of the other supposed symptoms of andropause that I discovered during my search, do in fact apply to me as well. So what are those symptoms and what is my response to each of them?

  • Hot flashes ................. Not sure
  • Excessive perspiration .... Most definitely
  • Loss of libido ............... Maybe
  • Impotence .................. No comment
  • Anxiety ..................... Sometimes
  • Depression ................. I think so
  • Impaired memory ......... Can't remember
  • Lack of concentration .... Maybe
  • Fatigue ..................... Sometimes
  • Insomnia .................... Yes definitely, but mostly because of the night sweats
So you see I do have cause to be concerned that andropause, the male menopause, is now a reality for me. I have seen suggestions for "treatment", such as hormone replacement therapy. But this holds no appeal for me, since I would rather that I allowed myself to age gracefully. Two days ago I sat in the barber's chair, watching as clumps of my cropped hair fell from my head into my lap. I was keen to take a closer look to see how many grey hairs I could find. Well, there weren't many, but there were definitely more greys than the last time I sat in that same chair.

And talking about this now is not out of place, because only this evening I was informed of my impending appointment as an Elder in the church. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was attending the Young Men's Group meetings. Well, I suppose the time comes when each of us must confront the reality of ageing. But have no doubt, I intend to wear all of my grey hair with pride..


And recently I have noticed that people have been referring to me as "Sir" when they talk to me; strangers, some even of my mother's age.. Hmm, I know about the traditional English politeness, but this is nothing to do with that.. I'm not sure if I'll get used to being called Sir, or even whether I like being so called..

Monday, 27 December 2010

Lean tidings at Christmastime..

The forecasts are for weak disposable income growth in this country for the coming year, and possibly beyond. The true effects of fiscal tightening are expected to become more apparent going forward. But for me though, its as if my disposable income has been in the grip of decline for several months already, as I find that I'm just not able to do the sorts of things that I used to do before.

About a week before Christmas, I caught myself carefully examining every single detail appearing on the receipt the checkout lady at the supermarket handed to me. I mean this is something that under normal circumstances I would scowl and swear under my breath if the person before me in the checkout queue was standing there wasting everyone's time by inspecting his receipt. After all, the items he'd just placed in his shopping bags were items that he'd picked himself from the shelves. But on this day, I saw that I'd spent at least one-third more than I thought the shopping should cost, and I thought perhaps there might be some mistake or something. But no, there was no mistake at all. It seems that all that talk on the news about rising prices of food and other household products is true after all..

Ah yes, Christmas.. that time of year again. Alarming as this may seem to some people, I have spent nearly every Christmas over the last two decades alone. Well, its not because I want to be alone, its usually been because everyone I know always has somewhere else they want to be, (or have to be) at Christmas. Sometimes, one or other of my siblings is feeling rich enough to make the long trip to London to spend Christmas, and that has been lovely when it has happened. For some odd reason though, I on my part, am reluctant to impose myself on others at Christmastime, when you know that what people really want to do is to be with their husband or wife and their children. Of course I've been invited several times to different people's homes, but having consistently been politely declined in the past, those invites have become less and less frequent.

So for me, Christmas has evolved into ME time, a time when I can selfishly and mindlessly indulge myself prodigiously in vices of all hues, ranging from chocolate to pornography; a time when I can treat myself to an expensive item (or two); a time for toying with the idea of whether I should splash out on the TAG Heuer or the Longines, and maybe fantasise about that Patek Philippe I've been ogling for months. And then of course the wardrobe is due for its yearly update and characteristically, I would tease myself by flirting with the idea of purchasing a couple of bespoke suits from some insanely expensive gentleman's outfitters, knowing full well that this is way beyond my means. Eventually I would settle for some middle of the road off-the-rack suit or two, from a reasonably respectable men's clothing store.

This was just to give you an idea of what Christmas and the prelude to it have been like in the past, at least until the Christmas of 2009. Christmas 2010 however, has been decidedly different. Which brings us back at where this post started, the hike in the cost of living. I mean this year has shot past and I've found myself so busy with seeing to the day-to-day, that by the middle of December, I was wishing it was possible to have the Christmas postponed for another couple of weeks yet, since I simply was not in the position that I'm accustomed to being when this time of year comes around.

Christmas has now come and gone. Like most people I have celebrated it in the best way that I was able to. No, I did not acquire any luxury items for myself (for obvious reasons). But I did receive a few gifts from others, notably, a gaudy ornamental mug and a fruit bowl. In keeping with the low key, I too handed out numerous greeting cards, a couple of cosmetics gift packs and some handkerchiefs. Somewhat embarrassing, really, but nothing compared to what is portended for the lean times ahead. Today I took the car out for a good shine and polish, since for the time being and indeed for the foreseeable future, a car upgrade is completely ruled out..

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Ave Maria 2

I couldn't think of a better way to wish everyone a Happy Christmas than by posting Hayley Westenra's rendition of the Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod). Sometime ago this video of her performing the Ave Maria (Schubert) appeared on this blog..

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2011..

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Bursting at the seams.. Lagos

Perhaps the era of climate change refugees is already upon us.. You may also see the video here on the Community Channel website..

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The painted people..

The Surma and Mursi people of Southern Ethiopia's Omo Valley..

I am fearful that words of any description might somehow adulterate the unspoilt, pure, natural beauty that these images exude..

I have however previously done a write-up of sorts here about some of these images by Hans Silvester..

Monday, 13 December 2010

Living Africa, Steve Bloom

In January of this year I posted this. The photograph that was posted then is speculated to be "the world's widest panoramic photograph" and it was taken by Steve Bloom. I did say then that I'd become a fan of the man. And in keeping with this, here is another magical work of his, Living Africa, a book of 336 pages and 236 photographs published a few years ago.

Above is a short film, detailing some of what is featured in the book, which has been described inter alia as a magnificent work, in which Bloom "combines vivid personal experience with a passionate articulation of the environmental and other challenges faced by Africa in the twenty-first century. Everywhere is apparent his deep affection and affinity for the continent where he grew up, and to which he has felt compelled to return throughout his life."

Mr Bloom was born in South Africa in 1953 and started out by using his camera to document life in that country during the apartheid years. He moved to England in 1977. You might find interesting Bloom's BBC interview about Living Africa.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Appeal for Guest Contributions..

Dear Readers, Commenters, Visitors and Others,

My apologies that I have not blogged in ages. I've been preoccupied with stuff that takes my mind far away from the blogosphere. And even when I've had a moment to spare, creativity has somehow eluded me..

This appeal is for you (especially my African brothers and sisters and others of African descent) to send guest contributions for this blog to or Your contributions will be posted on the blog and the idea is to keep the blog relevant, exciting and as a venue in cyberspace for expressing our views on the issues that affect us and about which we feel strongly.

There is no requirement for guest contributors to disclose their identity, as anonymous contributions will be attributed to Anonymous Guest Contributor(s). The only requirement is that your contribution is relevant. However, it may be preferable that a guest contributor has an online profile to which readers may refer..

Wishing you all a great festive season ahead..


Friday, 12 November 2010

African Roar 2011 selections..

I have reproduced this posting which first appeared on Ivor W. Hartman. Ivor had already notified me privately that I am one of the authors whose stories have been selected for the 2011 edition of African Roar, an eclectic anthology of short fiction by African writers. See here too.

"African Roar 2011 Selections

It gives us (Emmanuel Sigauke and Ivor W. Hartman) great pleasure to announce the selections for the next annual StoryTime anthology African Roar 2011. Congratulations to all who made it through the selection process, and thank you to everyone who entered!

Chanting Shadows by Mbonisi P. Ncube

The Times by Dango Mkandawire

Out of Memory by Emmanuel Iduma

Masvingo neCarpet Thamsanqa Ncube

Diner Ten by Ivor W. Hartmann

Missing a Thing of Beauty by Abigail George

Water Wahala by Isaac Neequaye

Longing for Home by Hajira Amla

Snakes Will Follow You by Emmanuel Sigauke

The Echo of Silence Delta Law Milayo Ndou

Snake of the Niger Delta by Chimdindu Mazi-Njoku

The Saxophonist by Anengiyefa

Letter to my Son by Joy Isi Bewaji

Waiting for April by Damilola Ajayi

A Writer's Lot by Zukiswa Wanner

Witch's Brew by Stanely Ruzvidzo Mupfudza

To the Woods with a Girl by Masimba Musodza

Silent Night, Bloody Night by Ayodele Morocco-Clarke

Lose Myself by Uche Peter Umez

Uncle Jeffrey by Murenga Joseph Chikowero

Because of my Wife by Kenechukwu Obi

The Orange Barn by Sarudzai Mubvakure

PS: The various parts of my story are posted on this blog. The easiest way to find them is by using the search tool on this page.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Out of the closet 2

This post is a follow-on to a previous post on this blog.

One often hears and reads of people referring to homosexuality as an "act" or a "practice" and in a mildly sarcastic way, one has wondered whether in using the word "practice" they are perhaps suggesting that gay people are practising to be gay, in the same way that a football team practices in readiness for the next big match; or whether, (as I think they really mean), they refer to homosexuality as a practice because the idea of homosexuality for them revolves wholly around a single sex act. Let us get one thing straight. There is homosexuality, and then there is homosexual sex. These are two different things.

Homosexuality goes to the orientation and the disposition, to the mind and feelings of the individual. Homosexual sex on the other hand is physical sex between two (or more) persons of the same gender. And although homosexual sex acts are in many cases performed by individuals of a homosexual disposition, it is the case that even those who are not normally homosexually inclined are known to engage in homosexual sex acts in situations where the opportunity for sex with the opposite sex is absent. We have all heard stories about what goes on in prisons where men, who otherwise would have no sexual desire towards other men, engage in rampant homosexual sex with other male prisoners. These men have not become homosexuals just for the fact that they have engaged in sexual acts with other males. In actuality they are not homosexuals at all, since they would opt for sex with females rather than with males had they the option.

Given the inauspiciousness that surrounds homosexuality, it is hard for me to understand the assumption by many that gay people have somehow wilfully chosen to be gay; that they have deliberately chosen to subject themselves to all that hatefulness and resentment. I am not an expert on human sexuality and do not claim to be one, but common-sense makes it perfectly clear to me that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. And although I have no wish to pretend to be more knowledgeable than I actually am, I find it bewildering that so many others have failed to come to the same realisation.

Which brings me back to the title of this post.

Am I out of the closet? Well, I suppose this depends on what 'the closet' is. Wikipedia offers the definition for the terms 'closeted' and 'in the closet' as, "..metaphors used to describe a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) person who has not disclosed his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.."

Insofar as this definition of 'the closet' is limited only to the non-disclosure of sexual orientation and insofar as this description does not include pretending not to be gay, then I will accept that perhaps for a time during my teenage years I was in the closet. The reality for me though has been that I have never really experienced any such thing as the closet. If at all there were times when I failed to disclose my sexual orientation, it was either because I did not think it was necessary to do so, or because at the time I lacked the intellectual maturity to face the possible consequences of doing so.

Looking back now I can only imagine how odd I must have seemed to my friends and peers back then, since I would hardly ever join them in talking about girls, or join them in their amorous activities. In those days, well before the advent of the Internet, it was nigh on impossible to make contact with others of a similar disposition in a place like Nigeria, especially when one was from a sheltered home as I was. But even if I did not disclose it, I never at any time pretended to be anything other than gay, being a one who thinks of any form of pretence or hypocrisy as highly repugnant.

It is true, I am now present in a country where I have no need to fear physical attack simply because of the pugnacious bellicosity of some others who might think of my sexuality as being resentfully displeasing. In this respect I suppose I have been fortunate so far, although it remains the case that the predominance of my social contact is with those of a similar ethnic and cultural background to me. But even then, I am able to pick and choose with whom I engage in social contact, unlike back in Nigeria where the socio-cultural circumstances are such that the individual has little or no control over who he must associate with.

With this in mind, perhaps I have been guilty in recent times of failing to fully appreciate the precariousness of the situation for those who are like me, but who are living in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa either by choice or of necessity. Perhaps, living away from home has caused me to become less sensitive to their vulnerability. I mean, I am able to without fear, write about my sexuality on this blog, using my real name. It is doubtless that there are those who will come across this blog and be utterly shocked. But for me it has been easy; my sexual orientation is not something that I have any reason to be ashamed of. And living in the UK as I currently do, I am protected from any unpleasant maliciously motivated acts by those who might be so inclined. Of course I'm aware of the issues concerning my reputation back at home in Nigeria, but I remain firm in my conviction that my sexual orientation is not a problem and that it is they who are homophobic, who by their homophobia are possessed of a problem that requires a solution.

A few days ago, Gayuganda (Gug) a long-standing friend of mine and a champion of the struggle for gay rights in Uganda, gave an interview to CNN on the recent exposing of gay men in that country's tabloid newspapers, which lay the men open to danger. Gug has now for years been blogging on the issue of gay rights with particular reference to Uganda, but has all along chosen to remain anonymous. Protecting his identity was sensible, given the unrivalled levels of homophobia that have been displayed in that country. In giving this interview, Gug was filmed and half of his face was broadcast to television screens right around the world, including of course Uganda, where he lives, works and is well known. It was only the lower half of his face, but it was quite easy to identify him, especially if one already knew him in person.

When I saw the interview on CNN and knowing how brave Gug has always been, my assumption was that he was aware that his anonymity was going to be blown, but that this was another brave and bold step forward in the struggle for recognition and acceptance. My thinking was that there are other gay Ugandans and indeed other gay Africans living in Africa who have openly declared their sexuality. Indeed, David Kuria a gay Kenyan gentleman is running for Senate in his country. Gug posted the CNN interview on his blog and in responding to it, I left a comment to the effect that there is only so much to be achieved if one remains anonymous, suggesting and expressing the view that coming out boldly could only be a positive thing.

However, now when I think about it I remember that, "Keeping our anonymity is the only thing that we have.." were among the words that Gug said during the interview in responding to a question and also, "I don't put my name on the blog because I don't want to be killed.."

In responding to my comment in a subsequent post on his blog, Gug pointed out that the CNN reporter had assured him that his anonymity would be intact and now that I know different, I feel some remorse. I put it down to what I was saying earlier about me in my mind possibly experiencing some disconnection from the reality of being gay in Africa, becoming less sensitive to the very real threats that gay people face on my home continent. I have expressed my apologies to Gug. Perhaps in my fervour to see change come about, I have been overly optimistic. But even then, I remain of the view that remaining in the closet indefinitely cannot be the way forward. Peace..

Friday, 5 November 2010

Yetunde's blog..

A couple of weeks ago, my neighbour who attends the same church as I do gave me some food to take home. In the food container that she handed to me was ayemashe (or ayamashe), a particularly spicy but extremely delicious traditional stew of the Ijebu people, among Nigeria's Yoruba population. Its not unusual for me to receive gifts of food from ladies at church, since perhaps they think that not having a wife must mean that I am under-nourished. They seem to have a desire to ensure that I receive proper nourishment and get all the vitamins that I need. Well, I don't know anyone who turns down perfectly good, home-cooked food when its so freely offered. And I do not wish to be the first person I know who does. So of course such gifts are gladly (and gratefully) accepted, even if the ultimate benefit to me is that I'm spared having to shop for and cook food until all that free food has run out. This last time it was ayemashe.

Ayemashe is unique and for me while growing up it was a mystery. Nothing that we ate at home, at our friends' or relatives' houses, at parties, or anywhere, even came close to tasting like ayemashe, a greenish-brownish stew with little pieces of meat in it, which is usually served with white rice. For many years it was offered mainly at small, informal eating places known as buka, (or bukateria, a play on the word cafeteria), and was available with rice for a small amount. For me, ayemashe was a delicacy that was consumed only once in a while. It seemed to me that only a relatively small number of people knew how to prepare it, and that they kept their secret close to their chests.

I have recently observed however that ayemashe has become more readily available and is served at many Nigerian restaurants at home and abroad, sometimes appearing on the menu as "designer stew", (No 22 on this menu). What this means of course is that more and more people have learned how to cook it. So after joyfully consuming all of the ayemashe that Bisola (my neighbour) gave me, the next time we were in the car together on the way home from church I asked her for the recipe, which when it was revealed to me turned out to be surprisingly simple. And from that moment on I was determined to cook ayemashe for myself, but I thought I should search online to see if anyone else had done something similar and posted it. In doing so I happened upon Yetunde's blog, which I must admit I'm now totally hooked on.

The photo at the top of this post is ayemashe on rice, but its not mine. It's borrowed from Avartsy Cooking, Yetunde's blog. I haven't summoned the courage to cook mine yet, but going through her blog has opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities and the kitchen beckons now more strongly than ever before. I should be keeping you posted..

Monday, 1 November 2010

Ugandan High Court restrains tabloid..

After a Ugandan tabloid newspaper for the second time published the names and photos of 14 men it identified as gay men in a country where homosexuality can lead to persecution and lengthy jail terms and has even prompted calls for the death sentence, a gay rights group countered by today obtaining an injunction from Uganda's High Court blocking any further publication of similar material. In a previous edition, the tabloid pictured 15 men it alleged were gay. Then, the publication also quoted an unnamed religious leader calling for gays to be hanged, but the most recent issue did not advocate violence.

The lead article in the Rolling Stone newspaper (no relation to the US magazine by the same name) entitled "Men of Shame Part II", pictured 14 men identified as "generals" of the gay movement in Uganda. Says editor Giles Muhame "They published their pictures on a gay networking website, so that was enough evidence for us," adding that the paper did not contact the men before publishing their pictures.

In the paper's Editorial, editor Muhame explained his paper's motivation for focussing on homosexuality..

"A cross-section of heartless homosexuals is seriously recruiting and brainwashing unsuspecting kids into gay circles.."

When queried by AFP Muhame admitted that he had no evidence that the 14 identified men were involved with youths, but he believed exposing them had "news value".

The gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) secured a court injunction restraining The Rolling Stone newspaper from publishing any similar material. Justice Vincent Musoke-Kibuuka of the Kampala High Court upon an application by SMUG granted an "interim Order restraining Rolling Stone (or any affiliated publication) from any further publication of the identity of any person perceived by them to be gay, lesbian or homosexual."

Justice Musoke-Kibuuka referred to the editorial material as "an infringement or invasion of the right to privacy" of the individuals identified. A further hearing is scheduled for 23 November.

The paper did not secure the services of a legal representative and there was no lawyer present in court on their behalf. Agence France Presse confirms that when they notified Muhame of the court's ruling he was defiant, saying..

"We will publish more pictures but in a diplomatic way, so that we can dodge the law. We might not name them as homos, but the public will know what they are."

By the way, Rolling Stone is not a licensed newspaper and had been instructed since last month to desist from publishing until it receives its licence from the Uganda Media Council. Muhame confirmed that the paper had not yet received its licence but decided to publish regardless.

Commenting on his blog in a piquant post about the exposing of gays by the Rolling Stone newspaper, fellow blogger AfroGay pointed out that in Uganda exposing gay people in tabloid newspapers is not new. However, this has never succeeded in bringing about the desired mass uprising of the people against those identified. If anything, what has occurred is that the plight of the gay and lesbian people of Uganda and of much of sub-Saharan Africa continues to be highlighted in the consciousness of the world, adding momentum to the drive for change.

To my surprise Giles Muhame himself responded by leaving a comment on AfroGay's blog post. But from his comment it becomes apparent that despite the jeopardy that their contemptible publications bring upon innocent gay people, despite their high sounding moralistic claims, including this CNN interview in which Muhame insists that reports that gay people have been attacked after being exposed in his newspaper are "all lies", the likes of Muhame and his newspaper as well as others like it, are motivated solely by money.

Read more here and here.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Zimbabwe's blood diamonds

Zimbabwe is supposedly enjoying political stability under the coalition government formed in 2008. However, according to the UK's Channel 4's Unreported World programme, which Channel 4 describes as a "critically acclaimed foreign affairs series offering an insight into the lives of people in some of the most neglected parts of the planet", the reports from Zimbabwe are of a country still "gripped by terror and violence."

Reporter Ramita Navai and Alex Nott filmed undercover to investigate claims that gems from one of the world's biggest diamond fields are being used by Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party to entrench their hold on power by buying the military's loyalty. (Navai is the same reporter whose story on the escalating violence in South Sudan I wrote about on this blog in November of last year). The current reports from Zimbabwe are against the backdrop of human rights abuses, which victims say are being perpetrated by the military and the police.

Filming covertly and secretly, (footage that was broadcast during the programme Friday evening), the team discovered a climate of fear reminiscent of the pre-coalition Mugabe years. Almost everyone Navai and Nott met was too terrified to talk about the diamond fields, including several members of the MDC party, which forms part of the coalition government. We see some people speak out, albeit at great personal risk. They detail stories of beatings, killings and rape connected to the diamond area. There were suggestions that powerful individuals within the government oversee and control these activities.

A military insider told the Unreported World team about how different Zimbabwean Army units are allowed to rotate through the fields to make profits from the diamonds in exchange for loyalty to president Mugabe. The serving officer claimed that syndicates of civilians are used by soldiers to mine illegally and they then sell the gems to middlemen. (In June last year, Human Rights Watch reporting on the same issue wrote about forced labour, torture and military massacres in the Marange district in Eastern Zimbabwe where the diamond fields are located. Click here for the HRW report).

The team followed the diamond trail, showing how smugglers move precious stones from the Marange fields across the border to the boom-town of Manica in neighbouring Mozambique. Filming secretly, they showed how the stones are purchased no questions asked, by Arabic speaking buyers who claim to be Lebanese. We are then informed that Manica, once a sleepy rural Mozambique village, is now buzzing with diamond buyers from around the world chasing after the flush of Marange diamonds from across the border. Its impossible to track the diamonds once they have been purchased from the smugglers, usually for meagre sums. From Manica the diamonds are absorbed into the international market and sold in upmarket and high street stores across the world.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) a UN-backed industry watchdog has been tasked with ending the sale of conflict diamonds. Its function is to ensure that diamonds are not used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. It is thought however that this definition is narrow and doubts have been expressed as to the effectiveness of the KPCS, as in this BBC report of June this year. For sure, the KPCS has not prevented the reported widespread looting and human rights abuses connected to Marange and there is the suggestion that it has failed to deal with the unfolding crisis.

Next month in Tel Aviv, Israel, the members of the KPCS meet for their annual summit to decide what to do next. The State of Israel is the current Chair. The Unreported World reporters indicated that at the time of filming, there were fears that the situation in Zimbabwe could precipitate the end of the Kimberley Process itself, as internal politics and in-fighting about how the watchdog should proceed may tear it apart. (This caught my attention and is something I will be investigating further).

vast natural resources found in the Marange district of Zimbabwe could potentially change the fortunes of a country whose economy has hit hard times. These reports however, despite the coalition government, confirm that Zimbabwe is a country still plagued by corruption and violence, a serious warning of what is to come ahead of the 2011 elections.

For those in the UK, Unreported World series 10 episode 15 'Zimbabwe's Blood Diamonds' is available on the Channel 4 website for the next 29 days. Click here to watch.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Westerners no longer swallow my story, says Kagame

In this video posted on YouTube by Olivier Nyirubugara a Rwandan journalist and PhD student in The Netherlands, we hear Rwanda's President Paul Kagame commenting on the increasing divergence of views between his administration and its Western partners, formerly known to be "unconditional supporters".

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Accepting yourself..

"It is difficult to understand homosexuality..", Zambia's President Rupiah Banda is reported to have said, during a meeting with Champions of an HIV-free Generation in Africa in Lusaka last week. Read the full story as reported by the Lusaka Times here.

I joined a discussion sparked by the remarks of the Zambian president on an online forum for LGBTI Nigerians. This was the first comment on the president's words:

C: "Yes, it is difficult for me to understand homosexuality. I have accepted it. Truth be told, it is difficult to understand heterosexuality. Its acceptance, on the other hand, has been taken for granted (by the majority). There, lies the difference!"

Responding to this comment someone else stated:

N: "Well, in all honesty, I think it is more difficult to understand homosexuality than it is to understand heterosexuality. Even many of us who have feelings of same-sex attraction, have some difficulty in understanding our own sexual feelings.

Our confusion and perturbation are compounded by the unfavourable impression of homosexuality that most people around us have, most of those people being heterosexual and therefore having no need to make the effort to seek to understand why some other individuals might be sexually attracted to members of their own gender. Being in the minority and surrounded by all this negativity, it is unsurprising that many gay men think of their sexuality as an unwelcome burden. When one considers the arguments often advanced by homophobes, such as "homosexuality is against the order of nature", "God made Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve" and about procreation, etc., one sees that heterosexuality can easily be thought to be normal, whereas homosexuality is [thought to be] abnormal and difficult to understand.

I think it is rather arrogant for we humans to think that it is we who should dictate to Mother Nature what is normal and what is not. But herein lies the crux of the matter. Most people are not affected by homosexuality and therefore have no need (or desire) to learn of it, read about it and expand their knowledge concerning it. Hence we find that homosexuality is not understood, and even so to a greater degree in the less well-informed societies of the world as in Zambia where this president was speaking."

Then this comment followed:

EB: "The difference is not at all difficult to understand when one has grown in his thinking and manhood to be a lover of his kind. It is not as though, this man chose his destiny. Much easier life would be, if he could unknowingly follow the dreadful path of hate and intolerance that informs most of his society, from the highest courts of corrupt America to the simplest civilizations of our remaining primitive origins. But some men, after awful agony, accept themselves as different beings altogether from the rest and open themselves to love of all life."

I agree with the second comment. Homosexuality is not readily explainable. He who has no real cause to seek an explanation for it (and thus a better understanding of it) eg., the heterosexual person, will have little or no understanding. And even more so when his mind has been corrupted by homophobic doctrine that propounds the false notions that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender identities are sick and sinful. It should not surprise us when President Banda tells us that he cannot understand homosexuality.

When you think about it, even the gay men and women in society are born and raised in the same circumstances as the heterosexual majority. They too have been exposed to the same influences that have caused many among the heterosexual majority to hold strong anti-gay views. Hence we find that among gay people, self-loathing is common. The recent spate of gay-teen suicides in the US is a case in point.

What then is the way forward for the gay person? Well, EB in the third comment above puts it neatly. Agony is unavoidable; pain caused to self and to others is inescapable. But in the end one must truly accept oneself as being different. I cannot imagine living a life of denial and pretence, a life of lies and constantly looking over the shoulder. There are even those who dislike themselves so intensely that they vent their frustration and anger on other gay people, the ones who have attained the maturity of mind to boldly accept themselves for who they are. It is trite that many of the loudest anti-gay voices are the voices of unfulfilled, unhappy gay men. EB in his comment stated it aptly: "..But some men, after awful agony, accept themselves as different beings altogether from the rest, and open themselves to love of all life."

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

On this and on that..

Some weeks ago I walked away from my job. I had endured the job for long enough and the time came when I'd had enough and I acted almost on impulse. Walking out felt good, as if it was the right thing to do. It was exhilarating knowing that I would no more have to put up with what had caused me to be unhappy with the job in the first place. And although I knew not what I would be doing thereafter I left nevertheless, trusting my instinct.

Since then, a lot has happened. I have now reverted to my former employment status, self-employed. My professional regulatory body will not allow me to practise on my own, since I'm facing some disciplinary action brought on by the actions of my erstwhile partner at my former firm, which is now defunct. However, I've been able to work out a fee-sharing arrangement with a different firm that allows me to do my own work, (through the firm of course). Giving up half of one's fee cannot be easy for anyone, as you probably can imagine. But it is necessary that one should pull one's own weight within a firm in order to have some clout. Also when one considers the firm's overheads, contributing my bit can only be a good thing.

While all this was happening, I came down with the worst flu I've ever had, with a chest infection and sinusitis to boot, causing the worst one-sided headaches I've ever suffered. In fact on one occasion, I was forced to pull up on the busy motorway for about half an hour, not trusting myself to be able to summon the concentration needed to navigate safely home through the traffic. I had a fever and the severe headache refused to go away, despite having overdosed on Cocodamol. But since I desperately craved my bed, I eventually had to brave it and forge ahead regardless, until I clambered up the stairs of my building and staggered through my front door.

You're probably wondering what I was doing driving around when I was so sick. Well, I am no longer an employee, so it is impossible to call in sick to the office. Also, I still had to attend for all of my client appointments, attend court, attend meetings and so on, even while coughing, sneezing and wheezing..and of course spreading the germs around. Anyway, the good news is that at the time of writing this I feel a lot better, even if I can't help thinking that the effects of the illness would have been considerably less, had I the luxury of being able to afford to take a week off work..

Then the Commonwealth Games in Delhi came along and provided us with some comfort in the evenings. Thank goodness for the BBC Red Button, which allows you to watch all the action you missed while you were out. I was particularly interested in the athletics. Now bad publicity is something that we Nigerians are perfectly familiar with, (not that being accustomed to it makes it any less unpleasant). So it didn't particularly come as a surprise the hullabaloo over the winner of the 100m women, Nigeria's Oludamola Osayomi being disqualified and losing her gold medal, having tested positive for Methylhexanamine a nasal decongestant, which only made it into the list of banned substances for athletes in the summer of this year.

That Osayomi was awarded the gold medal in somewhat controversial circumstances anyway, meant that its loss was not as painful as it would have been otherwise. My main concern was to see that Nigeria won more medals than Kenya at the Games. So I was terribly glad to see that despite the loss of Osayomi's gold, Nigeria was placed 6th versus Kenya's 7th place on the Medals Table, although I must admit that I always looked forward to seeing Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi and Vincent Koskei on the track... PS. Well, the Commonwealth Games medals table has changed. Kenya is now placed 6th with 12 gold medals and Nigeria is at 9th place with 11.

And then there is the story of the Chilean miners, a story that has been making it unto the news for months now, usually as a side story about what for most of us, would have seemed like a mishap that befell some unfortunate people in a far off place. Last night I got out of bed in the middle of the night. Sleep failed to find me for some reason, although my guess is that the culprit was my persistent worrying about the financial side of things, (now that I do not receive a regular wage). Anyway, there I was at 2.35am perched on the sofa, turning on the TV, mug of lemon tea cupped in my hands. The pictures on the screen were of a paramedic (I later learned he's in fact a mine rescue expert) being strapped into the Fenix capsule before it began its first manned journey down into the bowels of the Earth at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Chilean Atacama. I noted that all the major news channels were showing the same pictures, so I selected one, sat back and watched.

It would have been quite unnatural not to have become transfixed on the screen as I was for the next four hours, as I watched miner after miner being pulled out. The Chileans I think, have done a marvellous job in organising this feat, albeit with technical assistance from abroad. What strikes me most is how media-savvy the Chile government has demonstrated that it is, streaming live pictures from the cavern inside the Earth where these miners have been entombed for all of 69 days, the country's mining minister Laurence Golborne tweeting constantly about the rescue operation as it progressed (click here for his Twitter page). I think it is ingenious for the Chile authorities to have arranged for the orchestrated reunions of the rescued miners with their families to take place in the full glare of klieg lights and TV cameras.

As I type this, 15 miners have already been rescued and with much of the rest of the world, I am greatly impressed with the way this rescue operation has progressed. It was only a few days ago that in casual conversation with some friends, I was saying that had those miners died when the mine collapsed in early August, none of us would be talking about them now. Instead, they are now expected to become celebrities, recipients of substantial payouts in compensation. One can only wonder what the effects of their sudden celebrity status would be on each of them, some of whom we are told already faced somewhat complicated circumstances in their personal lives.

And then of course I've recently received an invitation from Rolex to participate in a two-day event to honour the first five winners of their Young Laureates Programme taking place at one of Europe's leading institutions Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland on 9-11 November 2010, where I am informed some of the world's foremost scientists, explorers, environmentalists, doctors and educators will be gathered. Interestingly, two of the young laureates are Africans, one a Nigerian. And I am still scratching my head, wondering if I really should accept the invitation and go over to Lausanne, Switzerland, unsure if I am deserving of this honour..

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

On Gamu again..

I was invited on to the BBC World Service this evening, on their programme World Have Your Say when we talked about Gamu the Zimbabwean teenager and X-Factor contestant who has now been requested by the UK immigration authorities to voluntarily leave the United Kingdom, or be subjected to forcible removal from the country or possible deportation to Zimbabwe. Her mother's application for an extension of her visa was refused and Gamu as a dependant under her mother's application is affected, just as much as her mother and her two younger brothers by the UK Border Agency's decision.

Last weekend Gamu was axed from the ITV talent contest when one of the judges on the show, Cheryl Cole (Tweedy), made her decision in favour of two other contestants who, it is widely believed, were less deserving than Gamu. The decision has given rise to a furore and there is even a Facebook campaign supported by nearly a quarter of a million people clamouring for the singer to be allowed to stay in the UK and continue in the show. Claims have been made that Ms Tweedy's decision was influenced by the looming visa crisis surrounding Gamu and any potential impact this might have on the show if she were allowed to continue as a contestant. It has been rumoured that UK Border Agency officials met with X-Factor bosses before the decision was made.

Widely reported is the fact that Nokuthula, Gamu's mum was refused by the immigration authority because she did not satisfy the criteria laid down by the UK Immigration Rules and therefore she, like every other such person, must depart from the country as soon as her visa expires. This is the reason given for the refusal in most of the reports I have seen. Not so widely reported however is the allegation in the publication New Zimbabwe, citing The Sun. The report is that the order to leave the country was the "result of an investigation into £16,000 in benefits wrongly claimed by the [Gamu's] mother". The mother is said to have received benefits and tax credits for her children - but her visa rules strictly forbid her from any state payouts.

While I do subscribe to the notion that immigration rules are universal and must be applied in a consistent manner to every person, I do also believe that there is an inherent discretion vested in the Secretary of State for the Home Department to grant leave to remain outside the immigration rules, especially in particularly compelling circumstances, even if that leave is limited leave, i.e., for a limited period. I take the view that Gamu's case is one of a kind and one in which this discretion ought to be exercised favourably. It is obvious to many of us that her departure from the X-Factor has been caused by her immigration difficulties. But it is apparent to us too that X-Factor 2010 is greatly diminished without Gamu as a contestant. Requiring her to leave the UK is not in the public interest.

Interestingly when I had my chance to state my view to a worldwide audience on the BBC World Service this evening, I found that while on air I was tongue tied. Very strange indeed, given that running out of words does not happen to me very often, as I seem always to have something to say..

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Nigeria at 50

Last Friday the 1st of October, Nigeria my country celebrated fifty years of independence from Great Britain. I, like many other Nigerians, acknowledge the fact that our country has not had much to show for the fifty years of her existence. But let us take a closer look..

Being as diverse as Nigeria is, the country merely surviving as a united nation for all of fifty years is itself a significant achievement. In this special report in the New African (among several similar reports), it is suggested that many Nigerians are disappointed, because going by its immense oil wealth, great population and intellectual acumen, (not to mention that most of the country's land is potentially arable), the country has failed to fulfil her potential as the engine of growth that carries West Africa and indeed Africa, into economic prosperity as Japan has done for the Far East. Well, my view is that what these critics often fail to acknowledge is that countries like Japan (and South Korea) do not face the same challenges that Nigeria has had to contend with.

Japan is a country populated by a homogeneous Japanese people who have inhabited that country's islands continuously, uninterrupted and have existed as a nation for centuries. This description applies to the Koreans too. Nigeria on the other hand did not come into existence as a recognisable political entity until towards the end of the 19th Century, when parts of the country that we now know as Nigeria were taken over by imperialist Britain. It was Britain's colonial officials who presumably for the purpose of easing their administration of those territories, later arranged for the amalgamation of (what was to them) various colonial territories.

The country of Nigeria is an artificial creation. It is an amalgam of different peoples and cultures (and their lands); an amalgamation for which the consent of those most affected was never sought, nor was it ever given. An appropriate analogy would be a hypothetical European state made up of Hungarians, Romanians, Czechs, Greeks and we can toss in a sprinkling of Slovaks and Albanians for good measure, where this artificial state has been foisted on the people and none of them are given a say in whether or not they should coexist as a single nation, but they must proceed nevertheless..

We all know that where artificial states have been created in Europe, those states have not stood the test of time. Yugoslavia fell apart spectacularly, leaving a trail of bloodshed in its wake. Even today there are still tensions between the Bosnians and the Serbs in Bosnia Herzegovina and between the Serbs and Kosovo. When communism unravelled in the Soviet Union, the Soviet state crumbled into its various component parts. The artificial states of East Germany and West Germany did not survive for fifty years. So in this sense, fifty years of Nigeria as a united nation is indeed a success story. Ours is a country of over 150 million people, where more than 250 languages are spoken with a corresponding number of ethnic groups. Yet, rather than breaking up or falling apart, the country's unity is strong and she has even fought (and won) a civil war to stay united.

However, I would not wish for us by getting carried away with our sense of achievement to fail to recognise that as a country we have and continue to fail in many respects. There has been a failure by us Nigerians in our minds to accord to our nation the exalted position that she deserves. This is part of the reason why those in positions of power think little of the consequences of their actions when they siphon substantial portions of the nation's financial resources for their own personal benefit, transferring the same to financial institutions overseas, whereas millions of their compatriots wallow in deprivation and poverty.

Regardless of the fact that there are very wealthy people living in Nigeria, it is still the case that most Nigerian citizens with disabilities are not provided for in an organised manner. Many are still condemned to a life of begging in the streets. And since a society is only as strong as its weakest member, the Nigerian society is not a strong one. The fancy buildings, the expensive cars and houses in Lekki and Abuja notwithstanding, the majority of the country's population continue to live below the poverty line. Since the days of my childhood, the problem of erratic electricity supply to the nation's population rather than improving has in fact worsened even further. Out of poverty, people continue to die of malaria, a disease which we all know is 100% curable; life expectancy at birth (which is a measure of the quality of life of a society) has been in steady decline in Nigeria since 2003.

The nation's resources belong to all of the nation's people and it is towards the improvement of the quality of life of its people that the nation's resources must be invested. There has been a failure by successive governments in Nigeria to recognise that the well-being of the people that it governs is the primary responsibility of any government, anywhere. There is a need for the reviving of the patriotic spirit in Nigeria, even among the leadership. I am envious of the way others are proud of their country. I wish to be proud of mine too..