Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Early morning blues

My insomnia is getting worse. Hardly get to sleep nowadays. Considered going on Zolpidem to help, but was advised against it, so I took the advice. Going for a long walk...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Let there be light

Thanks to Olly for this one...

LET THERE BE LIGHT:
PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN A STRUGGLING DEMOCRACY


Delivered by Dele Olojede at the 4th Annual Aelex Lecture, Muson Center, Lagos, July 24, 2008


An Area of Darkness
On this Equatorial belt, where our ancestors chose to settle so long ago, we are bathed in the light of the sun for more than 12 hours on most days. And because we value the sunlight, we are uncomfortable with the dark. In all our languages, and with the stranglehold of superstition on our culture, we have come to associate the dark with all manner of terrible and malignant things.

And so we have usually preferred to conduct our affairs in the open, in broad daylight. Every significant marker of our existence—births, weddings, deaths—all unfold with extravagant openness, leaving only those which are meant to frighten, or which are forbidden, for the dark.

Except of course, in our modern politics.

Here, we exist almost entirely in an area of darkness, where any demand to share information is treated with great suspicion, and our political class regards itself largely as unaccountable to the public.

The conduct of our affairs, in the political sphere, can most usefully be likened to a feeding frenzy, where all tiers of government have effectively fallen under the sway of unrestrained men [and the occasional woman] .

The public business goes on largely behind closed doors, and the sharing of the most elementary information is viewed with horror. Even the president’s health is seen as government secret, leading to wild rumors and dark prophesies about the fate of the leader of the country. The specific ailments of a man supposedly hired by 140 million people to help run their affairs is deemed to be none of their business.

It is in this atmosphere that we must of necessity consider the reluctance to pass into law the Freedom of Information Act. The Act aims to bring a number of existing laws, notably the crudely colonial and militaristic Official Secrets Act, into conformity with our current constitution.

In its essence, the Freedom of Information Act seeks to let the people in on how the sausage of government is made. Every citizen will have the right to access public records, such as contracts, budget provisions, legislative votes, rules and regulations, and other government decisions.

As currently envisaged, and also in its previous incarnations, the draft law carefully balances the public’s right to know with the exigencies of governance. It exempts, for example, information that has a direct bearing on national security. The law would not guarantee me a right to ask the military, for instance, to disclose to me any plans for invading Niger or Cameroon. It would also preclude disclosure of certain law enforcement information, and aspects of the conduct of foreign affairs whose premature disclosure may injure the nation’s interests. It also protects individual privacy—for example, a private citizen’s tax information, except as specified by law.

But as in all societies that aspire to greatness, the proposed law presumes that an informed citizenry is a necessary condition for social progress. It presumes that the people should, quite logically, have the right to know how their business is being conducted, and how their employees, otherwise known as public officials, are performing their duties.

It starts from the premise that information should be readily available, and if there is a dispute over gray areas, then the courts can step in to resolve them.

Information is the oxygen upon which a democracy depends. It helps a society confront its true condition with sober senses, and helps dissipate the darkness of atavistic loyalties, rumor and superstition.

And of course, bringing the public business into the sunlight helps restrain the wilder impulses and the rapaciousness that we all know exist in overabundance in our political leaders. A law such as this is needed in recognition of the reality that, to paraphrase Rousseau, men are “as they are, and the law as they might be.”

It is not an accident that the Americans, who run a system that is more open that most, went even further by enacting into law a Freedom of Information Act more than 40 years ago. And it is not mere happenstance that the law took effect on their symbolically important Independence Day, the 4th of July.

On our own continent we are not even attempting to break any new ground. The South Africans, who have one of the more enlightened constitutions, already have a similar Act, as do the Angolans and the Ugandans, among others. Any minute now, Liberia will join the ranks of the enlightened.

The Language of Politics
Earlier this month the House of Representatives, which by the day resembles a bazaar, maneuvered to kill off, for now, the proposed Freedom of Information Act. The noisiest of the legislators denounced the draft law as an instrument of the media and a kind of noxious piece of legislation sure to bring the country to ruin. By which, as all sober-minded citizens surely know, they mean that the law will introduce a new and unaccustomed level of scrutiny and accountability, which is liable to get in the way of the feeding frenzy that now occurs without shame in the corridors of congress.

For its part, the Senate had seemed a tad more receptive to the idea of the Act. And the president’s spokesmen announced that the leader of our country supports passage of the law, though he does not appear to have exerted himself too mightily to ensure its passage.

We are not always so blind.

As with most Nigerian problems, everyone knows the solution, but few are willing to work for it.

An exception to our culture of secrecy was the former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took a simple step of publishing, every month, how much each tier of government was allocated from the federation account. As a result, it was possible, theoretically and over time, for citizens to begin to engage their leaders on the specifics of how the commonwealth was being managed.

If this basic step had been extended and deepened, it would have been possible for residents of, say, Kotangora, to know exactly how much had been allocated to their local school, and whether the resources were going to the purposes for which they had been advertised. The same would have been true for the good people of Birni-Kebbi, or of Modakeke, who would be able to determine, if they took the trouble, whatever happened to the money meant for the local firehouse, the local dispensary, and the local police station.

This is how functioning communities have been built elsewhere, and no magical solutions, or fruitless invocations of divine intervention, are needed to build ours.

Alas, the current minister of finance apparently sees no merit in this arrangement, which has the advantage of doing a lot of good without any obvious legitimate downside. We are unprepared, it appears, to harvest even the low-hanging fruit.

In our dysfunctional politics, language has been deployed as a weapon by bleeding it of all meaning.

Supporters and opponents of transparency alike use the same words and phrases. I make it my business to regularly interact with our political leaders, and I have yet to meet one who is against accountability, transparency, ethics, or due process. It was the same way I never met a single white South African, in the years following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, who ever, ever supported apartheid. In fact, everyone in our political firmament proclaims, often loudly, that they are for all these good things, including the current fad and my personal favorite, “the rule of law.”

In reality, the fervency of the proclamation of the “rule of law” has proved inversely proportional to actual law enforcement, as anyone who lives in our beloved land can attest through everyday experience. One needs only drive around, or visit a police station, or engage in any kind of exchange with another citizen, to understand that the rule of law, no matter how repeated with great affection, is the farthest thing from the reality of life on these shores.

And yet, language does have the power to inspire the dispirited, to free the oppressed, and to rally a nation, as we have seen throughout history. Lincoln gave one of the shortest and most powerful speeches ever given by a human, at Gettysburg, when he rallied his troops around the idea that their sacrifice was for nothing less than to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the face of the earth.” Nkrumah stood before his people at independence to proclaim, “Africa is free forever!”—thus inspiring a shackled continent to believe that freedom was indeed around the corner. Churchill gave courage to a small island at its darkest hour by vowing, “We shall never surrender.” Mandela, facing a death sentence in a Pretoria courtroom not that long ago, declared solemnly that racial justice was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” King related his dream in front of the multitudes, a powerful imagery of hope for the disillusioned. And standing in the dock in 1953, his band of revolutionaries in tatters, Castro defiantly kept hope alive be declaring, “Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

So yes, language can be a potent tool in the service of social transformation. No one ever felt the stirring of the heart while listening to a leader say, “on the one hand; on the other hand.”

But when language is drained of meaning, its effect can be disastrous.

Both houses of the national assembly, you may recall, already had passed the Freedom of Information Act, in 2006. At least in the public explanations offered, the act was allowed to wither and die over the meaning of words.

The Man Who Knew Everything
The former president, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, now fitfully retired to his beloved farm, reportedly stated that he refused to sign the law in part because he was unhappy with its name! Apparently the man did not want information to be free, hence his stated aversion to the “Freedom of Information Act.”

For thoughtful citizens, this was one of the more damaging decisions taken throughout Obasanjo’s presidency, precisely because the Freedom of Information Act is one of those foundational things that help set a country on a long journey towards the light. It is more damaging because it goes to the heart of what quality of citizen a society ultimately produces—and thus the progress, in a very real sense, of that society itself. Without it—without, it must be said, an informed population-- almost no tangible and lasting advances are possible.

That Obasanjo, who had the unusual good fortune of a second chance, chose to fritter away much of it in the end points to his enduring paradox.

His opposition to the Freedom of Information Act actually had less to do with the inappropriateness of the bill’s title, and more to do with the former president’s visceral hatred of the media. In his mind, the law was really about granting license to reporters to rummage around politicians’ closets. He did not see it at all as conferring certain inalienable rights upon the citizen, for whom he had expressed contempt on more than one occasion.

The tragedy of Olusegun Obasanjo was that he was equal parts patriot and scoundrel; visionary and utterly blind; reformer and destroyer. He had large ambitions for his country but suffered from the Napoleonic complex—l’etat ces’t moi: I am the state. He was the man who knew everything and, therefore, knew nothing. He was not beyond pettiness and casual cruelty, and remained old school to the end, unable to help us move beyond the era of the Big Man.

The dishonesty of his stated reason for letting the Freedom of Information Act die from neglect is the same dishonesty that envelops the current explanations from opponents of the Act in the National Assembly.

The Mimic Men
Our current crop of political leaders, particularly in the national legislature, is, if anything, even more willfully avaricious than the previous bunch. To be fair, though, they are not that materially distinguishable from the rest of the political elite, deeply embedded at the state and local government levels, which conducts itself in the manner of those described by V.S. Naipaul as the “mimic men.”

In every measurable way, our ruling elite sees itself as the successor class to the colonial authorities, the main difference being the current leaders are incapable of running anything.

Members of this exalted group see the citizen as a bother and an irritant, to be abused daily and spat upon, and certainly not deserving of any information, save as doled out in whatever version by the rulers, and often bearing little semblance to reality. The basic functions of the state have long been abandoned, and all the paraphernalia of governance has been redeployed in the personal service of the political elite and the most privileged citizens.

If we must speak frankly, are the police not now merely used as private security in the service of the powerful? A young in-law of mine, recently returned home from America to work for a private equity firm, was shocked the other day to find himself, complete with his own police escort dutifully arranged by his employer, driven to the airport so he can travel out safely and undisturbed by Lagos traffic. The police exist solely to protect the influential, including unsuspecting 30-year-olds. The ordinary citizen is on her own, except when someone makes a fuss over the length of her skirt. And certainly, no powerful man or thieving politician is yet convicted of violating the sharia, a law that in practice is meant by our politicians only for self-perpetuation and for the oppression of the poor.

I have digressed a bit to take you, ladies and gentlemen, on a guided tour of our political landscape, because it goes to the very heart of why the Freedom of Information Act is urgently required, if we are to create the long term conditions necessary for our country’s revival.

The Matter of Goats and Pigs
The deliberate design to keep the citizen in the dark—exemplified by the incoherent and illogical opposition to the Act—continues our aversion to the nurturing of memory.

With no paper trail, no record of our affairs that anyone has the legal right to obtain, and with no clear restraint on the ability of officials to destroy whatever does exist, we are succeeding rather well in the erasure of memory.

As far as we are concerned, the past does not exist. The past is not even past, to paraphrase William Faulkner. Only recently we witnessed the appalling spectacle of three former military leaders—Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari, and Abdulsalami Abubakar—making the quite extraordinary claim that the dearly departed Sani Abacha had been unfairly maligned, that he was in fact an innocent man unjustly put upon. He was not a thief. He never did any of those terrible things attributed to him.

And just like that, poof! The hundreds of millions of dollars from the estimated $3 billion of Abacha loot returned by the Swiss to the Nigerian government was a mere figment of our imagination. Alex Ibru was not shot in the eye nor was Kudirat Abiola murdered. Obasanjo was not jailed on trumped up charges at all, and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, brother of the current president, did not even die in Abacha’s prison.

Ladies and gentlemen, Abacha did nothing wrong, and we have it on the authority of these three gentlemen in question, at least two of whom still have designs on returning to power, to do us the favor of ruling over us. On Tuesday in Minna, the endlessly self-regarding Babangida reportedly said to a visiting team studying electoral reforms, and with a straight face and without a trace of irony, that he had organized the cleanest elections in Nigeria! “Aside,” he added, “from the cancellation of the result.” The Jews call this chutzpah. The Yoruba might refer to Babangida as an ogboju. The city of Ibadan, which sprang up around a war camp as the Yoruba empire collapsed in internecine warfare 150 years ago, is saluted tongue-in-cheek as a place where the thief legally triumphs over his victim. Mr. Babangida should feel right at home in that city.

Presumably, these three gentlemen’s public exoneration of Abacha is not seen as insulting our intelligence at all, since we as citizens have no intelligence left to insult. Can there be any further proof of the eternal vigilance required of us, in our role as citizens, and the central importance of the Freedom of Information Act to lighten the burden of citizenship?

As it is, we Nigerians have not exactly covered ourselves in glory, particularly those more fortunate members of our species. As many of you have doubtless noticed, goats do roam in Ikoyi, in front of the luxury homes of our captains of industry. And so, too, are pigs reared in the medians of our avenues in the country’s most expensive neighborhood. It is all part of what a friend calls the “ruralisation” of our urban landscape, and our elite seems incapable of guaranteeing even minimal standards in its own quarter.

How can such an elite be trusted to run a country?

Let There Be Light
The fight for the open society, and for clean and accountable government, is likely a long, if not a life-long, one. But the time is now—to stand up for it, to fight for it, and to make it worth the fighting for.

Let us stop living alongside the goats and pigs, both literally and figuratively. It is time to step again into the sunlight, to start the hard task of gradually dispelling the darkness, and to make whole again a traumatized land.

In that long struggle, the Freedom of Information Act can serve as an effective weapon.

Long ago, as a youngster in first grade in Mrs. Fatunwashe’s class, the formidable old lady would promise to reward any kid who could recite large chunks of the Bible off head. The reward often was a bowl of fried and salted caterpillars, which I much coveted. And so it has been a lifelong habit of mine, even as a lapsed Christian, to suddenly recite complete verses of the Bible.

As I prepared this speech, the opening bars of the Book of Genesis bubbled into view:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…

“And God said, Let there be light.”

I say amen to that.

Thank you for your patience and attention.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The question

Onwu bu ugwo onye obula ji Chukwu, nke onye obula ga akwu oge Chukwu choro ya!

Why is a man created?

Are we created for a particular purpose? Like Jesus for example who came to deliver men from their sins, does every man have a particular "job" to perform before passing?

If the above is true then it means every man's fate has already been set. So why then does one have to go through so much BS in life? Why can't I play my wii till the day of my assignment?

Or does each man decide his role in life.

P.S: Literally translated, the Igbo phrase at the beginning means death is a debt that everyone owes God, a debt that would be paid when God demands it.

Secrets

If you point a finger, four are pointing back at you.
---Igbo saying

Those of you living in the UK would by now be well aware of the Max Mosley case, as well as the judgement that was delivered yesterday which despite the protestations of the judge is actually a landmark judgement in the 'protection of the individual's right to privacy'.

The invasion of another man's (or woman's) privacy is an extremely messy arena which throughout history has marred human relationships. However, it is one of the most tempting things to do. A diary left lying about carelessly, a misplaced phone, an email box left open whilst the owner went for a leak, these are avenues that tempt the voyeuristic part of every human being. Like in all human situations, some people are more voyeuristic than others. Chxta for example is extremely voyeuristic, and that habit has bitten Chxta in the arse more often than it has bitten most other people.

Chxta has a confession to make here: back in the day Chxta made it a habit of checking other people's email boxes (as well as other sources of information about them), just out of the sheer pleasure of knowing what they were up to. Then Chxta saw an avenue for profit, and Chxta began to sell some of the information gleaned from checking people's private messages to others who needed to use it for whatever purposes they wanted to use it for. Hence at a point in time the great Otumahana referred to Chxta as UNIBEN's Information Minister. Chxta really should do a piece on Otumahana someday. It's such a pity that himself and Chxta have not been on speaking terms since 2003. Great bloke really.

One thing that Chxta learned during this period of spying on people as it were is this: when you know too much about someone, you get paranoid about the person and as a result actions which on a good day are made in all innocence would easily be misconstrued to mean something else. It is a lesson that lives with Chxta up until now, so hand on heart, Chxta can say that Chxta has not actively sought clandestine information about people for some years now.

However, there is a flip side to this whole issue, and that is what happens when by your actions or inaction as it were, you encourage other people to engage in voyeurism? Again Chxta is at fault here. Despite the fact that Chxta doesn't actively seek information about people, Chxta listens, and in listening Chxta asks questions, which lead to more answers, and which encourages the voyeurs. Case point, a few months ago, Chxta was chatting with a friend of Chxta's that Chxta hasn't seen in three years, for privacy, we would refer to the guy by nickname, Asterix. Quite a few of Chxta's readers already know whom Chxta is referring to. Asterix simply put was dumbfounded as to how much Chxta knew of what he had been up to in the intervening three years. If Chxta is being honest here, people had given Chxta gist, Chxta had asked questions, and more gist followed. Had Chxta kept quiet, more gist wouldn't have followed, and Asterix wouldn't have felt stalked.

It is attitudes such as Chxta's in this respect that encourage tabloid newspapers such as The News of the World to invade people's privacy, and in the process of doing that destroy not a few lives. It is all good and sounds dandy for the press (and they are doing just that) to holler about press freedoms, people's rights to know and all that crap. No one is making a sound about poor Mrs. Mosley (and her sons) who didn't know that their husband and daddy was involved in S&M stuff, as well of course as gross infidelity. The man had gone to great lengths (and rightly so) to protect his family from having knowledge of his secret tastes, a knowledge which now that they know has breached the mutual trust they had for one another.

Some people would scream that since he is a public figure that he should live a squeaky clean life. The question then is how possible is that? And how many of those people pointing fingers live squeaky clean lives themselves?

You see, everyone, and I mean every human being on the planet has his (or her) moments of weakness, has his (or her) faults, and has his (or her) skeletons. And within certain limits, each individual has every right to keep those skeletons within their closet, and they should stay in that closet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Freedom...

'I am the only free man on this train. The rest of you are cattle!'

---Amourski from Dr. Zhivago


I have to apologise to those of you who have been waiting for me to write something new. I should have done earlier, but blame the work. Enough of the excuses, let me tell some of the truth, I've been extremely lazy about this. So much to talk about, and procrastination has been the problem.

Shortly after the Science vs Religion article was published, someone took the liberty of placing a call to my daddy. The idea behind that call was to ask my daddy to bring me back into line. Note that whoever did the calling was not exactly interested in trying to reason with me. Luckily, my daddy is a reasonable fellow, although like a lot of Nigerian fathers he has his moments (do as I say without question). We discussed the merits and demerits of what I wrote from his viewpoint, and he indeed conceded that I have a right to ask questions and seek answers, so that is that for that for now...

That response (from the complainant), and other similar responses over the course of years serve to reinforce something I believe to be fundamentally wrong with Nigerian society, the apparent inability to think outside of our apparent comfort zone. As a people we keep doing things as they've been done for ages, even though those things aren't exactly working out for us at the moment, hence no one seems willing (or able for that matter) to provide the vehicle for the real development.

The statement I quoted above was from the 1965 movie Dr. Zhivago, IMHO one of the greatest movies ever made. The scene occurred shortly after the revolution, when Yuri was moving his family to the Urals to escape the upheavals in Moscow. In the cattle train which was taking the travellers to their destination was a guy who evidently was an enemy of the state, an intellectual. He was chained and the guards seemed to be taking their frustrations out on him. Then a commissar got on the train and read out some announcements, ending it with the statement, 'Long live the revolution'. Amourski retorted at the top of his voice, 'Long Live Anarchy! Lickspittle! Bureaucrat!' at which one of the guards attacked him. Hence the statement, 'I am a free man, Lickspittle, and there's nothing you can do about it. I am the only free man on this train. The rest of you are cattle!'

You see, the irony there was that the other occupants of the train were not in chains, he was. However the difference between themselves and him was that they knew that they'd rather not be where they were, but were resigned to accepting their fate quietly. He knew that he'd rather not be where he was, and he had to be dragged to whatever gulag he was being taken to, however, he had not been broken. Mentally, he was as free as a bird. His fellow passengers were slaves of the situation that they found themselves in.

That is the problem in my homeland.

Most Nigerians are slaves of the situation in which we find ourselves, and make no mistakes about it, one of the tools that is used to maintain us in that level is our religious convictions, and our fear of questioning the Higher Authority for fear of the consequences of our questioning. This nicely ties in with what Fred Lugard said in his thesis which I quoted here some weeks back: and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural. Chxta's own belief is this: God will not strike me dead for daring to question Him. If indeed He is the loving Father that he is made out to be in all the holy books, then he would take the time out to answer my questions, and allay my fears.

Another thing holding us back as a people is our seeming inability to focus on what is truly important. We focus on the flash, temporary things. Classic example here: the vast majority of my classmates from my first degree have found their way into the oil industry back in Nigeria. I studied Engineering back then, so I know for a fact that they are needed in that industry. However, a large number of others who studied other courses in during the same period, courses not related to Oil and Gas, are pulling out all the stops to get themselves into the oil industry. I personally know a guy who studied Accountancy back home, and is now doing an MSc in Oil and Gas Management (hope I got the name right) simply because he must get into an oil firm. So many of our people are letting other sectors of the Nigerian economy to die because they want to drink of the black stuff. We saw a similar pattern a decade and half ago when banks were undoubtedly the highest paying organisations in Nigeria. Back then almost every Haruna, Okeke and Bolaji wanted to work in a bank regardless of what he was studying. The same thing happened in the early part of this decade when telecom firms got into Naija and began splashing cash. Suddenly MTN became the place everyone wanted to work in. Now it is oil, and we have all moved over. Then we wonder why our economy is lopsided (no one in his right mind at the moment would say that the Nigerian economy is stagnant). To be fair to people however, a man has to provide for himself and family, so it is only natural that people would gravitate to where they'd get the best financial deal, and a lot of other sectors simply put pay peanuts. I know of someone who is being offered a lecturing position in UNIBEN, and they want to start the person on N76k per month. Of course it is a no contest if an oilco offers same person a starting salary of N400k per month, and that disparity is something that has to be treated as a matter of urgency or else we would reap the whirlwind in another generation. His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future.

In the last few weeks, Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of the This Day newspapers has been in the news a lot for the wrong reasons as far as this writer is concerned. At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, wouldn't it be more beneficial to Nigeria as a country if the man builds one school or hospital (or both, he is capable) in either his ancestral community in the Delta, or his adopted community in Lagos? Personally I found this article to be very insulting. People pay good money for his events, what has the money been used for? Pay stars who then take it out of the country, contributing more to capital flight? Full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music...

Chxta is increasingly disappointed in the man in Aso Rock. You see while on the one hand I am an advocate of patience with respect to our physical development problems as they are too deep for someone to just wave a wand and expect them to disappear. Again, I appreciate his point about the rule of law and Nigerians learning getting things done as and at when due. However, what the man needs to realise is that the rule of law ought not to interfere with the development of the country. There are no rules that state that you can't clean your house and build a new loft at the same time, so Yar'Adua ought to get of his arse and do something, or else he would eventually be confined to history as Yawn Adua.

At the moment, if there is a straight fight between Yar'Adua in Abuja and Fashola in Lagos, Fashola wins it hands down, not because he is the best, but because he is being seen to be making an effort to do something. Actions they say, speak louder than words. By the way, I would like to commend Fashola for this. In any event, Yar'Adua (even though he isn't there by choice), ought to realise that by virtue of his position he owes Nigerians. And one thing I would ask for were it to fall upon me to ask: fix NEPA. He lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business.


Recommended reading: Apes obey.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Tackling world hunger

First course:

Amuse-bouche

Corn stuffed with caviar

Smoked Salmon and Sea Urchin "Pain Surprise style"

Hot Onion Tart

Winter Lily Bulb and Summer Savory

Second course:

Folding Fan Modeled Tray decorated with Bamboo Grasses for Tanabata Festival

Kelp-flavoured cold Kyoto Beef shabu-shabu, asparagus dressed with sesame cream

Diced fatty flesh of Tuna Fish, Avocado and Jellied Soy Sauce, and Japanese Herb "Shiso"

Boiled clam, tomato, Japanese Herb "shiso" in jellied clear soup of clam

Water Shield and Pink Conger dressed with Vinegary Soy Sauce

Boiled Prawn and Jellied Tosazu-Vinegar

Grilled Eel rolled around Burdock strip

Sweet Potato

Fried and Seasoned Goby with Soy Sauce and Sugar

Third course:

Hairy Crab "Kegani" Bisque Style Soup

Fourth course:

Salt-Grilled Bighand Thornyhead with Vinegary Water Pepper Sauce

Fifth course:

Poele of Milk Fed lamb from "Shiranuka" flavoured with aromatic herbs and mustard and roasted Lamb with "cepes" and Black Truffle with emulsion sauce of Lamb's stock and pine seed oil

Sixth course:

Our special selection Cheese, lavender honey and caramelized nuts

Seventh course:

G8 Fantasy dessert

Eighth course:

Coffee served with Candied Fruits and Vegetables

Wines:

Le Reve Grand Cru Brut/La Seule Gloire Champagne

Monday, July 07, 2008

Morning quote

"In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. Lacking in self control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewellery. His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future, or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals’ placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the State he has reached. Through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural"


“He lacks the power of organization, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realize its responsibility ....he will work hard with a less incentive than most races. He has the courage of the fighting animal, an instinct rather than a moral virtue...... In brief, the virtues and defects of this race-type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy.......Perhaps the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his lack of ability to visualize the future."

---Lord Frederick John Dealty Lugard, The Dual Mandate, pg.70 (1926)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Science vs Religion

There's currently an argument going on in the Nigerian Guardian. You can follow it here and here. It has spawned reactions on CE (registered users only). The argument of Faith vs Science is about 200 years old, and has been raging ever since Charles Darwin published his iconic book On The Origin of the Species. It reached a rather interesting crescendo recently with a group of researchers at Ulster University declaring that "intelligent people are less likely to belive in God".

My take is this: Science should and does supercede religion, especially when we consider the advances that have been made within the last 150 years.

Religion plainly defies logic, and is predicated on blind belief, which can, and is used, as a tool for mind control. Karl Marx's statement readily comes to mind here.

My personal demons at the moment come from the paradox of religious thinking. You see, most religious fervour comes from want, i.e people asking a higher power, namely God, for favours: I want something, I pray very hard for it, and I by God's grace, I get it. One thing I have noticed, even in Nigeria where we are ostensibly very religious is this: people are less likely to remember God when things are going well, but run to Him when they want something.

Since we remember God when we are in want, what of when we don't get what it is we want, no matter how hard we pray? Then people tell me that I didn't get it because it was not the will of God. For me, that is quite simply contravening the promise made in John 15:7. At the same time, I understand that if everyone got what they wanted, the world would be in chaos, I mean bedlam. However, that paradox still remains in my mind, 'ask and you shall receive' then when you ask and ask hard and you don't get it, people shy away from blaming God for not giving you what you asked hard for, but instead tell you things like it isn't God's will, or that you didn't pray hard enough.

The question I ask in such situations is this: if you pray so hard and you don't get it, then what is the point of praying if at the end of the day God would still do His will? Why not just sit and wait for His will to be done?

Science on the other hand is rational, logical and methodical. Questions are asked, sense is made. Quite the opposite of religion which quite simply expects us to follow like sheep being led to slaughter.

However, there are certain things in life which quite simply have not been explained up until this moment by Science, one of which I have seen with my own two eyes, an incident I'd rather not repeat. Such incidents tell me that there is something out there, something out there that is terrible. And logically, if there is something so bad out there, by the law of 'equal and opposing' there has to be something good out there.

Ultimately my own experiences in life so far, have made me reach this conclusion: there is a force for good somewhere which we will call God, likewise there is a force for evil which we will call the Devil. And both of them work through organised religion.

Odd

I was going to a client's place at Knightsbridge for my day a month of work on their network. Wearing something slightly different from my daily fare of company shirt and black trousers, I was wearing a white tee-shirt and black trousers.

Just in front of Harrod's I saw this white guy, exactly my height, and dressed in a black tee-shirt and white trousers. Like me he has a slight beard and moustache. I was carrying a black bag, he was carrying a white bag. We both wore brown shoes.

We stood for a while and contemplated one another. Then he goes, 'My God, one of us must be the negative'.