Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As another Year Goes by

It is exhilarating to see the 365-day long loop being completed – while another prepares to commence. What is exciting about the coming of a new year despite the fact that nothing really changes – June remains the sixth month of a year, there still exist seven days in a week and the Creator of time nonetheless refuses to extend the 24-hour day by a minute? I believe the closing and advent of a year avail us new opportunities, fresh starts, anniversaries, chances to consolidate on the gains of the previous year, etc.

This annual closure and commencement can be likened to a moving train. At its point of departure, a train is boarded with passengers. At every train-stop, it drops off some of its passengers while picking new ones, most importantly it refuels. This it does till the full cycle is completed – back to its first point of departure to pick passengers afresh. Drawing from this analogy, as we end and commence a new year we usually (resolve to) keep good habits, healthy relationships and attainable goals while dropping the not too beneficial and viable ones. In the same vein, the transition between the old and new allows us to “refuel” for the journey ahead. We tend to ruminate on how to forge ahead in the coming year, strategising on making the best of opportunities while mentally, physically and spiritually preparing ourselves for new challenges.

In this outgoing year, I have had my fair share of lost/wasted opportunities, disappointments, failed/uncompleted projects, deaths of loved ones, working with difficult people, betrayals, etc. Similarly, I have witnessed the good times – I have grown successes with my hands, added value to myself, increased my mental and psychological capacity, established worthy relationships, tried to empower the less privileged, and many more.

As I write this, I discover I have always been caught in a web of delusion even as this year ends and likewise in years past. I have relentlessly dreamt of and yearned for “the better life” which always seems elusive. Within the quoins of my mind, I see and aspire for that illusionary “better life” – where the pastures are greener, the rivers flow still and the heavens drop fats. I have always been of the opinion that the next month, next year and probably the next decade will convey “the better life” come my way. The closer I get to walking into this life, the more subtle, vague and indefinable this mirage becomes. It keeps evolving (or am I changing my mind about what I desire?) and frustratingly eluding.

With the chimera of “the better life” in focus, I discovered I have denied ‘self of many chances of enjoying life’s precious moments believing better prospects lie ahead. I have failed to communicate with loved ones opining there will be opportunities to do same in the future (only to find out later they are no more). Many a time, in the bid of attaining “the better life” with its attendant hustle and bustle, I have lost touch with the essence and stillness of the person within – the real me. Alas, there is no better life than now – no greater moment than the present, no better opportunity than the instant. In fact, El Dorado or Utopia can only be witnessed when an individual makes an inward journey, halting at “life-stops” dropping off “expired passengers” while picking up beneficial ones. It is also expedient that one “refuels” in the course of this life’s journey. These life’s timeouts culminate to be the very life we desire – that “better life”. The greatest wealth and riches lie within. The zenith of heights is the depth of a soul that is ebullient of life.

As another year goes by, I have decided to live by the moments – taking time out to enjoy/endure each opportunity/disappointment that comes my way. This is not a call to reckless living, disregarding the “rainy days”. Howbeit, in the process of doing so life must be lived by the moments. The tomorrow we dreamt of yesterday is today. The future is now! Carpe diem – live the present! Life is short. In fact, it’s a dash as expressed in Linda Ellis’ The Dash:

I read of a reverend who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own
The cars…the house…the cash
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash

So think about this long and hard
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
(You could be at “dash-mid-range”)

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile…
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while

So when your eulogy’s being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?


Stop postponing your living. Live the life – make that phone call, admit that fault, face that challenge, go on that vacation, write that email, picnic with friends and associates, enrol for that course, make that donation, write that exam – now!

The best of your years is ahead of you - and it begins now!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eduwatch, Myself and Project-Jos Campaign

by Enitan Doherty-Mason

Eduwatch is an education nonprofit organization headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland U.S.A. that is committed to ensuring the meaningful education of Nigerian children in order to promote peaceful co-existence, global understanding and a world citizenry that is both responsible and productive. Eduwatch is non-sectarian.

Myself:It is not often in life that we truly find our calling. We find our careers. We find the love(s) of our lives. But few people are privileged to find their calling. To find anything twice in life is truly amazing and to be found by that which one loves is even greater. I count myself among the lucky ones. I found my calling as an educator earlier in life. I served in various capacities with all my being and found myself usually unable to leave work until the final "t" was crossed and the final "i" was dotted. There was no compensation for the extra time put in but I worked as hard as I did because I loved what I did.

Major aspects of my life have changed in ways I could never have imagined, but all of my experiences now lead me to believe that my calling has found me. My calling has found me by coaxing me along, pushing me along, dragging me along and kicking me along until my passion burned for the educational needs of Nigerian children. The world did not change I changed.

Why Nigeria? All the world's children need education. Yes. Nigeria. Nigeria is my first home as the United States is my second home. I have been prepared for the life I live by each country in different, sometimes conflicting ways. Growing up Nigerian provided me a strong educational foundation and cultural insight into the Nigerian educational sector and America has given me the technical skills with which to analyze, dissect and seek improvement as need be. My background has provided me invaluable insight that allows me to empathize with both a Nigerian and an American audience without being blinded by the seductions of either world. What once appeared to be my greatest challenges have become my call to action.

I have to admit that I wasn't always thrilled about where my name was being called because Nigeria, my home country, is a country full of challenges and paradoxes... and people; people who are frequently exasperating because they need an opportunity to understand other ways of looking at the world in order to improve their lives. Life had and still has a way of placing me where I need to be even though I'm not always in agreement while change is taking place. I am coming to understand that as long as I do my part, things will work themselves out. The universe has a way of creating balance although we may be blind to it. It is only through action that we can change the world and make it a better place to live.

The Project-Jos Campaign
Eduwatch is running a fund raising campaign through the end of the month of December 2008 for the purpose of supporting needy children with disabilities at Open Doors Special Education Center in Jos, Nigeria. The goal is $4,000 by Christmas and we still have a long way to go.
The Special Education Center/Unit in Open Doors Special Education Center provides services to children and young people with special needs. These students are not able to benefit from a regular school because they have a handicapping condition such as mental retardation, autism or other developmental disability.

This Thanksgiving season I am filled with gratitude that more of us are able to give back to my homeland with help from friends. While we understand that these are challenging times globally, we know that our children who are the gatekeepers of the future of our nation cannot be ignored or set aside until we are ready. The time is now for you to do your part. Cooperation makes things happen!

TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO EDUWATCH PROJECT-JOS
Donation options:

~Checks (Make check out to Eduwatch specify Open Doors)
Mail to:
Eduwatch
8817 Swallow Court
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
U.S.A.
~PayPal.com (Visa, Master Card, Discover, American Express)
Eduwatch

~Western Union or Money Gram or U.S. Post Office Money Order
Name of Recipient: Enitan Mason for Eduwatch
Address: 8817 Swallow Ct.
Gaithersburg, MD 20879

~U.S. Post Office Money Order
Eduwatch

~Amazon Honor System (Visa, Master Card, Discover)

Nigeria Note: Contributions in Naira to the Eduwatch Project - Jos for Open Doors may either be made directly to the school's bank account in Nigeria at any Zenith Bank branch through December 31st 2008 or to the Eduwatch account at any Stanbic IBTC Bank branch.

Nigeria Note: All contributions/donations after December 31st 2008 must be made to the Eduwatch Account to ensure accurate accounting.

OPEN DOORS for SPECIAL EDUCATION LEARNERS ACCOUNT INFORMATION
~Zenith Bank any branch in Nigeria
(If check, Make check out to Open Doors Special Education Center)
Name of account: Open Doors for Special Learners
Bank: Zenith Bank, Jos
Account number: 6013302132

EDUWATCH (Nigeria) ACCOUNT INFORMATION
~Stanbic IBTC Bank Formally IBTC Chartered Bank PLC any branch in Nigeria
(If check, Make check out to Eduwatch)
Name of Account : Eduwatch
Bank:Stanbic IBTC, Allen Avenue branch, Ikeja
Account number:7200016875

Note: Naira donors, please let us know how much you contribute as we analyze information received from the respective banks so we can tally all donations into the total funds raised for this specific Jos project.

Donations made after December 31st 2008 must be deposited into the Eduwatch account to be acknowledged by Eduwatch. Please contact Eduwatch and specify how funds need to be applied eg. Programs or Specific project.


You can learn more about Eduwatch and it's programs by visiting http://www.eduwatch.org/

The Open Doors web site can be found at http://www.opendoorsnigeria.org/

WE at Eduwatch THANK YOU and WISH YOU and YOURS A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Global Food Crisis: Causes, Impacts and Solutions

The current food crisis can be defined as a combination of decline in stocks of primary or staple food produce (essentially grains and cereals) and escalating prices of food products.

i. There exist four primary causes: reduced crop output in major producing areas like Australia, Canada and the US (due to climate change); increased use of crops for biofuel production rather than for food; high price of oil (fossil fuels) for mechanised farming which is largely dependent on the use (and their attendant high costs) of fertilisers, pesticides, farm machinery and transport; and trends in local/global population and economic growth especially with increased demand for food in rapidly developing economies like China and India, whose combined population constitutes about 36% of the world’s!

The impacts of the prevailing food crisis cover a wide spectrum. About 850 million in the world today are estimated to suffer from hunger of those, about 820 million live in developing countries. These people suffer acutely from rise in staple food prices with the most affected being women who are unable to feed their families.

Furthermore, conditions of already impoverished regions (with most people living below the poverty line) can only be exacerbated. The resulting food insecurity in these regions will as a matter of fact trigger civil unrests, social conflicts, eventual humanitarian crises and rising aid costs.

In addition, the larger corollary of this quandary might spell doom in the health sector. Increases in animal feed and food prices threaten livelihood and nutrition of young children. Controversially, it has already been reported that sex work is on the rise due to high food prices, unemployment and lack of economic opportunities for vulnerable women. High food prices have put pressure on HIV programmes. People living with HIV need more nutrition than healthy people but as prices continue to rise, people will start buying cheaper, less nutritious food and may begin to skip meals.

Unabated food crisis may hurt economic growth especially of not-too-robust economies of developing countries, the hard-hit being the susceptible poor. Soaring food and fuel prices will undoubtedly hamper economic growth. Moreover, increasing food prices and decreasing food stocks will undermine gains of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly by increasing poverty and putting the MDGs target out of reach.

ii. Preventing similar occurrence of the current food crisis both in the short and long terms will require immediate and proactive interventions.

In the short term, the key policy options will entail formation of a UN/World Bank task force to co-ordinate efforts to alleviate the crisis; releasing of reserves into the market (which may bring the price down significantly); increasing loans to farmers in developing regions and emergency monetary aid to badly affected areas; dropping mandatory targets aimed at increasing the ration of biofuels used in transport; and creation of food-exporting countries with the potential to develop a price-fixing cartel is expedient, although care must be taken so as not to capitalise on the crisis.

On a long term basis, domestic food production should be protected through trade agreements that seek to address imbalances in supply and demand, exclusion from access to land, unfair trade practices and distorted incentives and subsidies. Furthermore, the most unsustainable agricultural practices should be phased out.

Climate change (with its attendant problems) should be addressed continuously. Moreover, both developed and emerging economies (particularly the US, China and India), “must begin to see the possibility of evolving a new lifestyle, with new methods of production and new patterns of consumption; a lifestyle designed for permanence.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lessons from US Elections

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”Barack Hussein Obama, 2008

Despite the temptation, I tried with so much restraint not to comment or write about the campaigns and build-up to the 2008 US presidential elections. Not because I was cold-eyed or totally disinterested but my heart and head were poles apart regarding a particular issue and I never wanted to be despondent if I decided to follow with cacoethes. As a matter of fact, I tactfully avoided discussing this anytime it came up. The disquieting issue? I could not imagine the emergence of an African-American president! I hoped against all odds that this election would stay off what it is all about – racism – but alas it did not.

Howbeit, with keen interest I tacitly monitored (most times staying glued to the TV set in the middle of the night) how the pre-election razzle-dazzle played out from the gruelling campaign trails and travels to intriguing debates, blackmailing, name calling and even to a controversial transcontinental fund raising jamboree in Nigeria. I was paranoid to the extent that even when all kinds of polls suggested this election might be historic in producing the first black American president, I would still be (pleasantly) shocked at this realisation. I was pessimistically expecting the GOP and rednecks to come up with an upset.

This article is not to give an executive summary on the pre-election and election activities but after the dust has settled at the trail of electing the first man of colour to take over the wheel of affairs of the most powerful nation on earth, what are the salient lessons to be learnt?

President-elect Barack Hussein Obama would never have performed this feat without the rousing support of white Americans particularly the perceived rednecks and racists. Even if all African, Latin and Asian Americans had voted for Obama his win could have been too close to call. I think the real heroes of this election are the Caucasians – white men and women who are no longer blinded by the deceitful veils of racial prejudice. Particular mention must be made of the Clintons who despite having lost a most exalted seat to a black man still went ahead to campaign for him even till the tail end of the trail.

This election has come to prove the supremacy and efficacy of America’s kind of government – democracy. The people voted and their votes counted in electing a man of their choice. In addition, I never knew there was much gallantry and honour in defeat until I watched Senator John McCain (who I believe had superior arguments over certain Obama’s policies) gave his speech, congratulating President-elect Barack Obama while pledging his support and urging Republicans to lend same.

African leaders, Africa and Nigeria in particular must take a cue from this. The way we run our elections/democracies should lend credence to rather than disenfranchise our citizens from being part of the democratic process. This informs low turn-outs and lack of patriotism during most elections since citizens know the value of their votes does not go beyond the paper it is made of. Our politicians should also learn to take defeat with valour. This serves as an indicator of how matured they and the process are. As I watched the passion with which Americans campaigned, the superiority of arguments they allowed to prevail, the pains they endured on queues to vote for their choice candidates and the colour that graced the declaration of a president-elect, I could not but weep at the chance Nigeria lost to experience the same in the 1993 elections.

During the presidential debates, one could not but marvel at issues which served as the core of the candidates’ deliberations. From healthcare to education, foreign policy, energy, technology and the economy, these debates dwarfed and completely expressed how shallow our politics are on this side of the world. It is unimaginable and shameful that in the 21st century, most of our politicians still employ the tactics of construction of roads, provision of pipe-borne water, etc to crusade.

I felicitate with my fellow Africans – the Kenyans in being part of history. However, while they might have been part of producing the physical Obama sadly, no credit can be given to them in developing the phenomenal Obama, the whole world celebrates now. This is not meant to derogate Kenya and/or Kenyans but if Obama were to be born and brought up in Kenya with the past and prevailing conditions of governance, leadership and development would he have grown to be a Kenya president? This pitiful realisation plays on the stages of most African countries. Do our social, political and economic environments guarantee quality education, healthcare, equal rights and opportunities for our citizens similar to what obtain in the US? Food for thought.

Lastly, the actualisation of the first black US president realised in Barack Hussein Obama is not by accident. It reinforces the fact that change has a history, it is a process and most importantly, it is constant and has a future and destination – change is a journey!

In 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for disobeying a segregation law in Montgomery, Alabama, that required her to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. Her bold action helped to stimulate protests against inequality. The blacks of the community organized a boycott of the bus system and were led by Martin Luther King, Jr. King and other black leaders organized the 1963 March on Washington, a massive protest in Washington, D.C., for jobs and civil rights. On August 28, 1963, King delivered a stirring address to an audience of more than 200,000 civil rights supporters. His “I Have a Dream” speech expressed the hopes of the civil rights movement in oratory as moving as any in American history: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Barack Obama is a realisation of that dream! However, he took the bold step to run for a position that was hitherto considered a taboo and impossible for a man of colour to occupy. It must be accentuated that the Obama presidency is not an end to that dream but a pointer to the fact that one can achieve the seemingly unachievable – and even more!

The sitting of Rosa Parks, the march and inspiring speech of Martin L. King Jr. and the audacious run by Barack Obama tell us that change is possible in any circumstances. This goes to Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike who might have lost hope in Nigeria. We must be selfless and courageous enough to stimulate and/or contribute to a revolution we might not even live long enough to enjoy the benefits of.

This is the true spirit of the “Audacity of Hope”.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Rescuing the Insatiable Custodian from Self-Destruction

Pretermitting Darwin’s theory, God gave the earth to man to subdue and dominate. From early Stone Age to the present era of dramatic structures man has incontestably and consistently demonstrated his superiority over his immediate environment and beyond. However, at what cost to himself and other cohabitants? Man considers himself as master over all: Other forms of life and inanimate entities only exist for his survival and consumption. On the other hand, it must be accentuated that this coexistence rests on a delicate balance. Mankind and its cohabitants need this mutual dependency for continued existence.

Sustainable development ensures that the use of resources and the environment today does not restrict their use by future generations. Man has a responsibility to handover his planet to generations unborn in a manner in which they can also meet their needs and deliver same to succeeding generations. This is the custodian role man is expected to play in place of the roughneck, Hector position.

In recent times, usance of resources has become lopsided with worrying consumption patterns in industrialised regions vis-à-vis the underdeveloped regions hardly harnessing theirs while bearing the brunt of consumption consequences from developed regions. With globalisation, problems and emergencies are no longer localised. The upshots of famine in a sub-region in Africa, a civil war in any of the coalescing parts in the defunct Soviet Union, fortunes going bad on Wall Street or an insurgency in the Middle East now transcend borders. The UN is aware of this import and the G20 seems to be catching on.

Ecological footprint of a given population is "the total area of productive land and water required on a continuous basis to produce the resources consumed, and to assimilate the wastes produced, by that population, wherever on Earth the land (and water) is located." Ecological footprints and consumption patterns of citizens of industrialised countries particularly the US, raise alarms and serious concerns. According to Chad Holiday, “Given existing technology and products, for all 6 billion people on the planet to live the average American life, we would require the equivalent of 3 planet Earths to provide the required material and energy; and to dispose the resulting waste.”

The present greatest challenge is energy utilisation with particular reference to non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels. Rising energy demands (predominantly from the West and fast growing economies like India and China) in comparison with depleting non-renewable resources have made individuals, governments and corporate organisations to consider harnessing various sources of renewable energy. A most recent venture is into development of bio-fuels and bio-fuel technologies. In simple terms, it means extracting (fuel) energy (basically ethanol) from plant crops. This has resulted in a global food crisis as once again, we have failed to realise that when a problem is not solved systematically and holistically, it postpones or shifts consequences (possibly in greater magnitudes) to other spheres.

Farmers (who essentially are business men) prefer to sell crops as raw materials for bio-fuel production rather than food supplies. The resulting global food shortage is complicated by reduced crop output in major producing areas like Australia, Canada and the US (due to climate change); high price of oil (fossil fuels) for mechanised farming which is largely dependent on the use (and their attendant high costs) of fertilisers, pesticides, farm machinery and transport; and trends in local/global population and economic growth especially with increased demand for food in rapidly developing economies like China and India, whose combined population constitutes about 36% of the world’s!

In addition, more and more energy companies are outdoing one another in exploiting renewable energy sources in order to meet the world’s growing demand. They allege to spend huge sums of money in researching and developing technologies to exploit renewable energy resources. These include Gas to Liquid (GTL) fuel, wind energy, onshore exploration etc. Moreover, it is now “fashionable” for industries to portray themselves as environmentally friendly backed up with an ISO certification. To a large extent, this may be considered to be a propaganda and farce as it is known that most companies are more interested in public perception and their corporate image rather than sincerely doing business in a way that will not hurt the environment, ISO certified or not. Wrong public perception is bad for business. At the end, the motive is profit and not to stop “hurting” the environment. While it is important to invest in technologies that will help harness more resources, yet still priorities are not being set right.

Having an engineering background, I was always of the notion that technology will solve any human development problem until I was enlightened a couple of years ago during a program I ran at a UN school. In one of the modules, we were made to realise that building high-tech wastewater treatment plants (end-of-pipe solution) will not solve the problems of treating wastewater amid increasing volumes and complex qualities: Why should treatment plants be built to cope with more volumes and removing complex constituents from wastewater when these problems could be addressed at source?

Besides, it has been established that about only 10% of water treated to drinking water quality standards from our water treatment plants is actually used for the intended purpose – drinking! The remaining 90% is lost during distribution; used to flush our toilets; wash cars, clothes and dishes; for bathing, street washing, recreation, gardening and all other uses that do not require drinking water quality standards. As a result, we collect wastewater from various sources which generate too huge volumes and a complex nature for our wastewater treatment plants to cope with, hence we tend to build bigger and more complex plants. This realisation spurred me into a new thinking of social (re-)engineering.

During a fieldwork I carried out on a university campus water treatment/distribution system, it was found out that almost 50% of water treated and supplied for consumption was lost during distribution. Howbeit, the management complained of shortage of water supply complicated by an increasing population, worn-out plant equipment and inadequate funding, with a present annual expenditure of about 15 million naira (130,000 USD). The supervisor was made to realise that the first step in solving this problem was not sourcing for more money or high-tech plants. Since managers tend to grasp issues better from financial perspectives, he was told that with half of the treated water lost during distribution, it only means that 50% of annual expenditure (i.e. approximately 7.5 million naira) is money wasted, not including the man-hours and other resources invested. He was shocked!

Plugging the holes in the distribution system first (which will be at little or no cost) will deliver increased supplies to consumers and ensure more value for money. Plant expansion and high-tech facilities may come thereafter. As simple as this solution is, it is obviously not played out in our consumption pattern trends and the present approach in solving our global energy problems. Albert Einstein succinctly puts it: “If mankind is to survive, we shall require a substantially new manner of thinking.”

Two main issues are to be addressed: Production and consumption. While investments in high-tech researches are necessary, the first step in solving our energy problems is not an end-of-pipe but at-source issue. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Technology is not always the first step but a social re-orientation. After identification/awareness, the political/societal will to change should precede the technological will. This is the most difficult part – more complicated than developing new technologies. It is hard to change people’s mentality. More than half of the barriers to this new thinking will come from human motivation and attitudes backed up with arguments explaining why change is not possible. These mental locks usually kill innovation as witnessed in the Sally Fox’s cotton story.

Efficiency in production is usually thought to improve with an increased production. This is not appropriate in the light of increase in decline of resources. New thinking suggests: By using the same amount of raw materials and reducing wastes in production processes, more products can be realised. In addition, in order to buoy efficiency, only the type and quantity of material that is needed for production should be used. Moreover, our consumption patterns should be addressed through appropriate demand management.

William and Mary Cunningham and Barbara Saigo in their book Environmental Science: A Global Concern, suggest a number of demand management self-applications. These include putting off lights when not needed, using energy-saving equipment and hibernating or switching off computers when they are not in use. Others are brushing teeth using a glass of water rather than letting the tap run, shopping at a nearby location instead of far away and using coffee makers with a thermos can in place of one that needs heating. In supermarkets, operation of open cold shelves should be stopped. We should endeavour to travel the shortest possible routes to our destinations and take commercial transport rather than our personal cars. Garbage should not be disposed indiscriminately. “Waste” materials should be reused or recycled before considering the option of disposal. Waste is only a raw material in a wrong place and time. Lessons could be applied from the self-sustaining, zero-waste industrial park/brewery in Namibia which is operated on the proven principles of “Industrial Ecology”. As an example, “grey” water from bathrooms, kitchens, etc can be collected for gardening purposes.

Purchase less: Don’t buy or keep what you don’t use frequently. Ask yourself whether you really need more stuff. Avoid buying things you don’t need or won’t use. Use items as long as possible (and don’t replace them just because a new product becomes available). Use the library instead of purchasing books you read. Make gifts from materials already on hand, or give non-material gift. Reduce excess packaging: Carry reusable bags when shopping and refuse bags for small purchases. Buy items in bulk or with minimal packaging; avoid single-serving foods. Choose packaging that can be recycled or reused. Avoid disposable items: Use cloth napkins, handkerchiefs and towels. Bring a washable cup to meetings; use washable plates and utensils rather than single-use items. Buy pens, razors, flashlights and cameras with replaceable parts.

These self-applications may seem too insignificant to make any difference. However, it has been proven on many occasions how little, “inconsequential”, inexpensive, ordinary things have tipped society away from crises and degeneration towards sustenance, actualisation and rejuvenation. Technology can thereafter step in. Developing regions may consider these to be inapplicable since at the moment they hardly get enough to consume much less saving. However, this is the more reason why they should be conservative. Lessons should be learnt from the experiences of the industrialised countries. Moreover, if the global environmental/energy situation goes sorrier the less developed regions will be worse off. Howbeit, the G20 should play a more responsible big brother role.

In conclusion, man should see himself as a custodian of the earth, its resources and other cohabitants. He has a moral obligation to keep this planet sustainable while meeting his needs vis-à-vis ensuring the existence of a delicate ecosystem balance on which his very existence depends. Otherwise in his quest to meet his insatiable needs, not only will he send other forms of life into extinction but he will also self-destruct!

Monday, October 06, 2008

MTN Project 'Fake' and Sundry

I had the unusual opportunity to watch the TV last Sunday night (unusual, because I often end up doing something else). The programme which caught my attention was the first eviction performance of the 2008 MTN Project Fame West Africa – a singing competition that produced Nigeria’s Dare Art Alade as a second runner-up in a previous edition. Dare, incidentally is one of the duo anchors for this year’s edition. Fifteen contestants originating from four West African countries – Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone – are shortlisted to perform in the 9-week challenge.

MTN Project Fame is the Celtel’s (Zain’s) version of Idols Africa which is also drafted after the order of Simon Fuller’s Idols series. It is well understood that outfits in the same line of business sometimes have to compete with similar strategies and promotions which if otherwise neglected, might be to their detriment.

The first edition of West African version of Idols produced the likes of Timi Dakolo, Omawumi and Eric in 2007 – a crop of prodigies, Nigerians will not forget in hurry. Right from the auditions to the finale, it was evident Nigeria is endowed with legions of brilliant, young people.

I was chanced to watch this year’s edition of Idols East Africa from the gruelling auditions that spanned across many East and southern African countries, to the intriguing eviction performances which I must confess were excellent in content, organisation and delivery. The competition paraded some of Africa’s youngest and best musical talents. Eric, the marvellous and exceptional Zimbabwean bloke from Bulawayo clinched the ultimate prize.

What Idols West Africa 2007 lacked in eminence of studio/acoustics (which I learned was Planet One Studio in Lagos, Nigeria) it compensated for, in the superiority of contestants. Though the final competitors of Idols East Africa 2008 could not be compared with the top-notch finalists of Idols West Africa 2007, the Kenya studio in which the event took place was world-class and in the same league with that of American Idols’. This gave the event much grandeur, finery, grace and fun. Moreover, the contestants’ apparels were very well coutured. In general, the editing, previews, backstage tittle-tattles, interviews were likewise splendidly executed.

Sadly, not a few of the copious high-quality features of Idols East Africa show are conspicuously lacking in the 2008 edition of MTN Project Fame West Africa. The studios used for the auditions that cut across a number of major cities in West African countries were nothing different from music kiosks. Regrettably, the calibre of some of the audition judges beggars competence. This might have informed the quality of the eventual fifteen finalists whose renditions make the finale look like an audition itself.

While a couple of the final contestants tried to prove their own, the acoustics did more mayhem than suitably projecting the participants’ voices which made most of them struggle with their deliveries. Furthermore, the Ultima Studio compared to Kenya’s looks like a local government town hall installed with an obnoxious sound system.

The entrance pieces/intros of most of the contestants were tawdry and disastrous. Albeit, the contestants are being schooled in the Project Fame academy (where they are supposed to be groomed musically) however, their song choices and vocals question what actually go on in there. In addition, not a few of the contestants were ill-dressed for their performances.

Luckily, the first eviction show did not spell doom utterly. The anchors: Dare and Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi; the instructors and judges gave viewers some reason to enjoy the show after all (due to their impeccable expertise), though there were observably some moments of incoordination.

These developments raise certain issues about the entertainment industry in Nigeria. To begin with, the qualities of the 2008 MTN Project Fame West Africa finalists do not reflect the abilities of raw, untapped talents that congest the West African landscape. As a matter of fact, Nigeria alone harbours innumerable first-rate geniuses that will make the work of any recruiter daunting and anything but enviable. However, MTN either through the use of inept judges or inapt event/concept mangers, spent resources (time, human and money) busy recruiting infelicitous individuals into its Project Fame academy.

Secondly, while Nigeria prides itself to be the heart/giant of Africa, nonetheless there exists not on her soil, a single world-class, capacious, indoor entertainment studio (with a first-class acoustic system) for an event of this magnitude. From Lagos to Maiduguri, Calabar to Sokoto, it might be safe to say a state-of-the-art indoor entertainment studio only exists in our imaginations. If Kenya could boast of a magnificent and well-equipped outfit, Nigeria should lose count of such. We should begin to live up to our self-acclaimed big brother position not just in ranting but vivified and material actions.

Thirdly, the packaging and delivery of the 2008 MTN Project Fame West Africa from the outset of audition to the final eviction performances portray dearth of professionalism and required panache.

Finally, in recent times, the Nigerian entertainment industry is flooded with reality TV series, most of which are adaptations or outright reproduction of Western/foreign TV programmes. The growing list includes Idols Africa, The Apprentice Africa, Dragons’ Den, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Show Me the Money, The Intern, Celebrity Takes Two, the controversial Big Brother Africa, Gulder Ultimate Search, Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO), The Next Movie Star, etc.

It is pitiable enough to be uninventive and non-original; hence it behooves reproducers of these programmes to present same with equal touchstone. After all, what is worth copying at all is worth copying well. Nonetheless, kudos must be given to a number of the programmes whose deliveries have been commendable. In this league, mention can be made of Celebrity Takes Two, The Apprentice Africa and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Queer Things about the Women in Our Lives

I had the extraordinary privilege of growing up with girls the first two-dozen years of my life. I’d count myself (un)lucky having only girls as siblings – absolutely no brother! There were days I really wished I had one. Nonetheless, most times I never felt the absence of one, considering the characters I have as sisters – I call them the sweetest thingies in the world. There was never a dull moment.

I must not fail to mention the peculiarities I had living with ladies through out my teenage and young adult lives. Growing up, one of such has to do with my identity. If I were to be differentiated from colleagues bearing same name with me, I was without a second thought referred to as “Wale Obirin” (the female Wale) – explained by the fact I had a feminine disposition rubbed off on me, as a dint of growing up with ladies!

I left home to be on my own in my early twenties and when fate thought I’d enough of half a decade of self-government, I was convicted and sentenced to a life term of living with another woman (as a matter of fact, now increased to two)!

I’m not a chauvinist and this is not to tell you about my Ms. Fortunes, but to narrate things I still don’t understand about these peculiar people after my almost 30-year “professional” experience of living with them. Though not weighty, these witty, trifling behaviours are still beyond my understanding. Whether you have them as mothers, sisters, wives, relatives, friends, colleagues or whatever, you’ll agree that the under listed mannerisms are queer in no particular order. Thanks to contributors who shared their experiences:

a. I’ve always appreciated braids on ladies. The beauty of this exclusive coiffure when shrewdly crafted ceases not to turn my head yet against its volition. But, you may want to enquire: “What’s queer about braids?” To all sincere intent and purpose, there’s nothing curious about this hairdo but what gravels me is seeing ladies leaving a couple of loose braid strands across their face awkwardly obstructing their line of sight. They occasionally toss these aside. Why can’t the freakin' braids be packed in a lot?!

b. I’m not a shoe freak perhaps that’s why possessing more than a dozen pair of shoes all at one time, bewilders me. I discovered some men folks are likewise infected with this bug. What on earth is an individual doing with this number of footwear?! Most of them are worn occasionally – probably once in a year, after which they are no longer fashionable – while others end up being relics or mementos.

c. Have you ever peeked into a lady’s wardrobe? Most of the “wearables” look fit for folks a decade younger than their owners. It’s often implausible how they manage to put on these outfits. Remember White Chicks – when detectives Kevin and Marcus went shopping, disguising as Brittany and Tiffany.

d. Our ladies sudden switch (when the occasion demands) to the posh or impeccable (in local parlance called “forming”) is mind-blowing!

e. Now hold your breath (or sight) for this: Having a mirror behind the sunshade flap on the passenger side must be a criterion for choosing and purchasing a car! That’s how I spell Q-U-E-E-R.

f. Why do the women in our lives think a man who decidedly stays at home is akin to a complete handyman (plumber, electrician, gardener, carpenter, garbage man, driver, gateman and all – the fullworks, I must say). Someone should know I’m not complaining, just enquiring.

g. What’s that thing that infuriates women when one fails to follow the tenets of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner? Are you obliged to always show up at the table even when there’s no abdominal space to tuck meals in? More questions than answers.

h. A brain teaser: No matter how much more you earn than them, they end up having more than you do.

i. Another one that will boggle me forever: You take a strong stand concerning an issue. You promise ‘self even if Hitler bellows from h*ll or Mother Theresa sheds tears from Abraham’s bosom you ain’t gonna shift an inch. Nonetheless, the women in our lives find their way around, above, under or through this stance and our deportment falls like a pack of cards or melts like peanut butter by the hearth. Who if truth be told is indeed the weaker sex?

j. Whenever you do their bidding you’re a darling or a perfect gentleman. As a matter of fact, Denzel Washington is just trailing. However, when you don’t: You don’t know how to treat a lady!

k. When you have them as colleagues, they’re keen to show you “what a man can do, a woman can do battering.” Oops! I mean “better”.

l. A couple of times, I’ve tried to keep up with the Cadavers Kardashians, discovering why TV remotes grow wings (to reappear much later) when soaps like Paloma, Demented Desperate Housewives, Second Chance et al were aired. Each time, my eyes increased in weight and changed colour (means drooped with sleep).

m. In the bid of trying to impress (or avoiding to disappoint) the women in our lives, we end up accomplishing all but what we set out doing, even at our risk. I know a friend who almost electrocuted himself while trying to help a next door female neighbour who asked for his unknown slapdash assistance – the poor guy didn’t know jack about electricity and he never wanted to disappoint his housemate.

I guess I’ve to stop here for now.

Excuse me ladies, is it safe for me to come home?

Friday, September 19, 2008

It is Not in the Name!

A name connotes or expresses directly the identity of a person (or group of persons), place, event or being (inanimate or living). In certain climes and sects, a name goes beyond being a mere tag or nomenclature. Within most traditional African enclaves, the name an individual bears reflects either the circumstances of birth or a desired future. Moreover, in religious circles it is believed names do influence the fate of bearers – bearing an “unfortunate” name may compel the life events of an individual to be full of miseries and failures. Conversely, an auspicious name may from onset guarantee fortune for its bearer.

In contemporary times, names are still devised for identification purposes. In particular, organisations or groups of people are named in such a way to depict the purpose or activities of same. Howbeit, within corporate enterprises, while names may continue to remind stakeholders of or guide towards organisational goals, the role of leadership, content and character cannot be overlooked. Put differently, while the name of an organisation may spell its purpose, it is the people and not the name that drive the establishment to its destination of accomplishment or otherwise, failure.

Many Nigerian enterprises, particularly organs of government have experienced various (re)naming ceremonies christened “restructuring”, all at no small costs. Regrettably, such changes in names have only brought more miseries, wasted resources, misplaced priorities and loss of focus to such organisations.

The first villain on this list is the present Nigeria energy parastatal – the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). From the Electricity Cooperation of Nigeria (ECN) of the early 1960s to the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) of the mid 1960s, the PHCN (birthed in 2005) has served every other purpose but producing electricity. In point of fact, in recent times it seems PHCN is in the business of generating, transmitting and distributing darkness in “kilodark-hour” – a situation that has turned the Nigerian landscape into a dingy, sinister jungle with dispelled sparkles of light (made possible by generators) when viewed aerially at nighttimes. Aside the enormous bills incurred on fuel consumption to power their generators, neighbourhoods and homes have to cope with the additional agony of noise and fouled air. Many businesses are crippled or at the brink of closing down due to attendant high costs of generating their own electricity.

PHCN staff’s inclination to work and mind frame beg for reason – a rationale to confirm the rot in the system is actually people-oriented. Until the issues of leadership, content and character are addressed, billions of naira meant to revamp the energy sector will ceaselessly go down the drain – or more appropriately put, the pockets of some heartless felons.

Another malefactor on the list is the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). It was once proposed to change the name to The Nigeria Police (TNP). What this security arm of government needs is not a name change but a lineament alteration. The core and fabric of our police force reek of endemic corruption. It also appears this sleaze is uncontrollably contagious. The system has a knack for attracting the most uncultured, aggressive and otiose individuals from the society and if and when it fails to find one, it transforms the unspoiled to septic and the adept to effete. A modification of name and/or uniform guarantees little or no improvement of our police force. Rather, a comprehensive system overhauling is expedient which entails scrutinising the character and substance of personnel being recruited while doing away with the fetid.

The Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was created by the Babangida military government in July 1992 “to increase the government’s involvement in ameliorating the environmental and ecological degradation of these communities as a result of the exploration and exploitation of crude oil.”

However, according to Cyril Obi “OMPADEC, like earlier official policies towards the Niger delta, was a gesture of tokenism. It ended up as a conduit pipe for the federalist bourgeoisie and its oil minority allies, and portrayed a grand strategy of destabilising the oil producing communities of the delta through divide and rule tactics. Worse, the limited contributions that OMPADEC could have made were hampered by institutional instability and crisis. OMPADEC’s first chief executive was removed from office after numerous petitions and allegations of corruption, and he fled abroad shortly after.”

Sadly, the story has not been different even with a transformation into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000 by the Obasanjo administration – the more things change, the more they remain the same. Instead of developing the oil-rich Niger-Delta, the NDDC has only succeeded in stupendously enriching a few individuals particularly the commission’s executives. Recently, the NDDC chairman was arrested for paying half a billion naira to a sorcerer, to carry out unthinkable things!

On the continental stage, the name-change syndrome fails not to play. Established in 2002, the African Union (AU) was formed as a successor to the amalgamated Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and African Economic Community (AEC) both established in the early 60s and 80s, respectively. It would be expected the AU will truly unite its integral country members, while they enjoy gains of their union like their European counterparts on the platform of the European Union (EU). On the contrary, most African nations have only experienced resentment and hostility within territories and across borders.

Lately, indigenous South Africans took to the streets destroying properties and taking lives of fellow African non-indigenes in bestial, despicable manner, claiming the foreigners were denying them scarce job opportunities. The situation remains a template for most African sub-regions. Furthermore, most African nations have only known tyrannical rule and despotic forms of government. With Muammar al-Gaddafi holding sway for absolutism in the north; the Eyadémas, representing the league of monocrats in the west; Mwai Kibaki sitting tight in a so-called power-sharing deal in the east and the octogenarian, shogunal Robert Gabriel Mugabe in the south; one wonders what name change has to do with regional unity and delivery of the dividends of good governance to people.

Actualising genuine, tangible and constructive changes must be premised only on structural revolution which addresses leadership, content and character – in essence, the human element. Without these, the status quo can only get sorrier no matter the brand of risible, splendiferous names organisations bear.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Tribute to Professor M.O. Ogedengbe

At one time or the other, we meet individuals whose relationship with us indelibly impacts our lives. One of such is Professor Martins Olusola Ogedengbe. A civil engineering professor of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. (as he is popularly referred to) comes across as a personality with a docile demeanour. However, on closer association one would come to discover a man of strong will and seasoned character that never condones indolence and anything short of excellence. This stance almost always places him on controversial spots.

A man of witty, philosophical and insightful words, Ogedengbe never hesitates to smack an individual with his opinion often times, sarcastic while his facial expression might suggest otherwise. One of such occasions presented itself when he gave us an assignment after his first lecture during our penultimate year. I can remember clearly the comments he minuted on our various assignment papers. The research-based homework had to deal with writing about water-borne diseases and stuffs like that. Without much ado, I laid hands on a medical textbook and I plagiarised almost a couple of chapters like no man’s business – after all, what does a freaking engineering undergraduate know about coli forms, bacteria and viruses.

On receipt, our various papers were painted red with his interesting comments leaving all of us with points closer to 1 than 10. After reading through my “well-researched” paper, I think Prof. was overwhelmed with my over-dubbed argots. Sardonically, he queried:

“Can you explain all these jargons to Grandma in Yoruba (my native language)?”

His comments on Bolaji’s papers still remain a reference for most of us till today. A very intelligent chap though, BJ (nickname) never completed his assignments until a couple of hours to submission. Moreover, his works reeked with disjointed words or sentences and avoidable errors. Prof. summarily commented:

“The wife of a careless man is almost a widow!”

Today, Bolaji is married and we’re earnestly praying…

Ofuya (another brilliant but otiose colleague) was never on time either for submission of homeworks or lectures i.e. if he ever showed up! Our man Fusqo (nickname) deemed it fit to submit his first assignment a couple of days after the deadline and of course you can trust Ogedengbe – he succinctly concluded:

“People like Ofuya will never get the job.”

Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago Ofuya was one of the groom’s men for a friend’s wedding. As the procession commenced, Ofuya was nowhere to be found. He was called on phone and responded he was just around the corner. Ofuya wasn’t sitting in the pew until the tail end of the more than 2-hour church service! Talking about how people change (or do they remain the same?) more than seven years after graduation!

Ogedengbe does not tolerate remissness or any semblance of it. On a particular occasion, Paul (our class rep) and I accosted Prof. in his office requesting for an extension of deadline with regards to the submission of a term paper due to the prevailing conditions on campus (there was no electricity and water). Ogedengbe was appalled that a few considered “responsible” students could make such a request. He lamented:

“If gold would rust, what would iron do?”

He made us to understand that:

“Work will always fill the time allotted to it.”

No matter how short or long the deadline is, the Ofuyas of this world will never meet up. Thence, he lectured us on how to forge ahead in life in spite of adverse conditions. For the next couple of hours we stood sweating in the non-air-conditioned office, with forced rapt attention listening to the issues he was battling with – being a widower, his ill-health, unaccomplished goals – as he intermittently illustrated on the chalk board in his office, trying to drive home his point. For the most part, we remembered more the pains in our legs while standing than Prof.’s golden advice. Moreover, we didn’t get any deadline extension – instead, Paul and I were denied some two hours we could have ploughed into working on the paper.

Incidentally, Paul’s and Bolaji’s final year theses were supervised by Prof. I guess the twosome will not forget this life-changing ordeal – not in a hurry.

Prof. Ogedengbe is often misjudged by colleagues and his students. He comes to many as sadistic and often times unwavering. As a result, Ogedengbe is in many individuals’ not too white books. Howbeit, this is an extremely scrupulous man – he will never excuse the undotted i’s or the t’s that miss their crossings; not the Ogedengbe I know. He inexorably emphasises the need for an individual to demonstrate the three “I’s”: Industry, Initiative and Intelligence. Prof. has an overwhelming sense of profundity, aptness, organisation and orderliness. I consider him to be one of the “last of the academic Mohicans” – a rare breed of intellectuals already facing extinction. Particularly, his technical writing skill is impeccable.

This is not to portray a picture-perfect individual as many might wont to imagine but a thoroughbred fellow who’s only in touch with his essence. After all, to err is human whenever Prof. does.

A couple of years ago, Prof. Ogedengbe sent me a mail (for whatever reasons) he titled “If Wishes Were Horses!” It spotlighted an undiscovered part of this reflective man. It reads thus:

“At this point in time, as a professor of civil engineering I sometimes wish I could spend a typical 24-hour day something as follows, I might call it an Olusola Ogedengbe Day:

Conduct usual wakeup preliminaries, have some breakfast, give lectures to one undergraduate class and one postgraduate class; perform some administrative chores plus interact with undergraduate and PG students under research supervision in office and/or in the lab; attend and participate intelligently and intellectually in a seminar in my department, in the Faculty or elsewhere in the university. This in particular will include diverse disciplines/subjects/topics: Greek Mythology, Forensic Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology; possibly hear arguments among subject experts there as to how the early Darwinian view of evolution (the steady upward march from simple to complex, with man the crowning glory) contrasts with the modern view which is proving to be a more random, haphazard affair full of dead ends and bizarre twists; or on a comparative analysis of the philosophical bases of Aristotle, and two thousand years later, Lamarck, in their belief systems reflected by postulations such as for example, that 'all relatives are related'. And so on.

Back in my Department: Visit with my PhD student and his current setup in the lab on the study of electrophoresis in the treatment of industrial wastewaters. Lunch and/or supper take their proper places.

At sundown, go out on a little exercise, walking among trees, flowers, the brooks. Back home, take a shower. Go take a lager, likely a warm one (partly diuretic, you see) and while lingering on it engage others at the OAU Ile-Ife Staff Club 'Elders Corner' in discussions (arguments, really) on random/diverse issues: UFOs, Jingoism, POWs, Banana Peel Syndrome, Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's (boring old) Chair, AWOL, Where Babies Come From, Whether We are Happier than our Forefathers. And so forth.

Back home at night, hum a few hymns from my YHB (Yoruba Hymn Book) and reflect on a few passages in the Scriptures. Time to prepare for bed. In bed, light reading, maybe some old stuff: James Hadley Chase's 'Gold Fish Have No Hiding Place', 'An Ear to the Ground', 'The Guilty are Afraid'; Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart'; Sydney Sheldon's 'If Tomorrow Comes', 'Rage of Angels'; or Wole Soyinka's 'The Man Died' ('Igilango Geesi'). In due course switch off the light and listen to the sound of silence. A brief prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty God. For EVERYTHING. And then…That's it.

Life's Illusion Perhaps? No. Probable New Day Renaissance. In my beloved University.”

A couple of years ago, I made contact with his department to indicate my intention of carrying out a research/fieldwork using the department as a platform. I was informed Prof. had been ill and I decided to send him an SMS text since he seldom picked his calls due to his failing hearing ability. In his usual brisk and straight-from-the-shoulder manner, Prof. responded:

“Mr. Ajani, I expected your brilliant self to know I’m ill and on sabbatical. Anyway, it’s good to have you back. Looking forward to meeting you. MOO.”

During the course of the fieldwork, Prof. eventually granted me audience after a number of previously scheduled cancelled interviews. He received me with much warmth and appreciated my work. He informed me I had to shout during our discussion due to his ill-hearing. Anyone peeping through his office would have been confused seeing me sitting and shouting my lungs out, thinking Prof. and I were having a brawl while our disposition suggested otherwise.

My eyes glittered with both tears and pride listening to a man talked about his work, department and school with so much passion. My writing pad and voice recorder were busy downloading from this immense human archive. Prof. Ogedengbe was the pioneer of the 30-year-old civil engineering department – a mission that was daunting. In the face of an economic downturn that jeopardised the prospects of civil engineering in the mid 80’s (due to sky-rocketed cost of building materials) and lesser funds available to universities which successively resulted into human capital flight from the department, Ogedengbe stood by and with his brainchild.

With flourishing professional and biological offsprings that have proceeded from his loins and well-positioned on the globe, Ogedengbe is an accomplished man. ‘Kunle Ogedengbe and siblings do have a father to be proud of – so do some of us, his mentored progenies.

As he approaches three scores and ten years, and being an emeritus, what else could one wish the father of OAU’s civil engineering other than more years spiced with good health and an indescribable sense of fulfilment every achiever deserves.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Celebration of Life

I stumbled on a poem I wrote for one of the cultural ceremonies (African Night) during my PG studies. I just realised it’s been a while I wrote a line of poetry. I must confess it’s tough doing this part of creative writing. A couple of writer-friends have confirmed that. Nonetheless, I decided to post this poetry (the edited version) titled “Celebration of Life”. Hope it doesn’t read too tawdry ;-)

Celebration of Life
by Adewale Ajani

Greetings from the land of the Nubia
Home of the black, bold and beautiful
The cradle of life, poise and splendour
Where valiance and zeal reign supreme
Conquering all odds and disenchantment

The heat ‘though like a second skin
Warms up our ardent generous hearts
Fortifying the bonds of brotherliness
Healing the pains and gashes of history
Ushering in life, hope and rejuvenation

From the affluent beds of the Gold Coast
To the chilly pinnacles of the Kilimanjaro
From the alluring thrones of the Pharaohs
To the famous caverns of the heroic Zulus
Echoes this grand song celebrating our pride

Memorable and notable is our heritage
As you savour the grandest of all continents
A people of colour, elegance and history
Welcome to the oasis and dynasty of verve
Welcome to the “Celebration of Life”!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olórunsògo

Olórunsògo is the fading inscription written above the door entrance of the communal living quarters popularly called Face-Me-I-Face-You in local parlance, located at the end of Liadi Street. This derives its name from the layout of the facility: Depending on the magnanimity or rapacity of the landlord, this type of household may contain 8 to 14 rooms with a corridor that runs from the main entrance which leads to another door exiting into a backyard, with equal number of rooms facing one another on each side of the passage way. Occupants, irrespective of their number, share meagre essential facilities (if and where they are provided) à la kitchen (usually a shed with stone tripods for cooking), bathrooms and toilets (often one or two pit latrines), all located in the backyard.

Olórunsògo which literally means “God has done something glorious” obtains its name from the deceased owner, Alhaji Olorunsogo a small scale industrialist in wood planks business. He owned half a dozen of sawmills scattered around the city with scores of workers on his pay roll. A thrifty business man, Alhaji Olorunsogo wasn’t half sparing on the home front. With five wives living under the same roof, innumerable concubines catered for on Alhaji’s bills and twenty-three “official” children, Olorunsogo proved without doubt that he was a man of insatiable libido!

In spite of his numerous properties, the exit of Alhaji did not but cause a royal rumble in the apportioning of the Olorunsogo’s empire. After a hurried burial, extended family members (ranging from immediate step-siblings to fifth cousins) grabbed a chunk of Alhaji’s estates leaving his wives and two dozens children to share the leftovers. Matters were complicated by emergence of concubines and their wards that also came to lay claim on the residual largesse. The “might is right; eat or be eaten” phenomenon took over. Wives and their children alike sprang at one another’s necks and lives. Dauda, Alhaji’s third son from his second wife lost his sight in an alleged juju (voodoo) battle with one of his kin. This is still being investigated as the neighbourhood police is “working day and night” to unveil the evil-doer(s).

Owing to sheer strong-headedness and access to firsthand information, Morufu (Alhaji’s first son and second child from his second wife) was able to lay hold on the Olórunsògo papers; one of Alhaji’s few remaining real estates. Hence, he assumed the position of the new landlord and rent collector, a status that’s still being contested by Salewa (Alhaji’s first daughter and first child from his first wife), the heiress-apparent to the Olorunsogo throne.

Back to Olórunsògo.

The inhabitants of Olórunsògo could least be described as a collection of assorted characters and enigmas – a very interesting household indeed.

Starting from the longest staying tenant, Daddy Pastor (as he’s popularly called), the roll call can’t be more intriguing. Daddy Pastor as the name indicates, pastors a shanty church with a dozen members, down the street adjacent to where Olórunsògo is situated. A 53-year old father of eight, Daddy Pastor “received a vision” to be a minister of the gospel a couple of years ago. It’s often rumoured that this might not be unconnected to his failure as a welder when he’d hardly fend for his large family. To ascertain they fulfil the Old Testament tradition of paying tithes and to avoid any temptation of “eating” this portion of their income, at the end of every month Daddy Pastor makes it a point of duty to collect tithes, going from one church member’s house to another. He saves them the trouble of having to pay the tithes in church, before which many of them may re-consider payment.

Daddy Pastor’s wife automatically christened Mommy Pastor is a full-time housewife. Being married to the longest staying tenant she also by default qualifies to be the landlady-tenant. Therefore, she coordinates the women folk of Olórunsògo’s household on appropriate matters. Her position also gives her the right to occupy the veranda space in front of the house where she sells cooked beans and eegbo (over-cooked dry corn) served with fried fish stew to augment whatever her husband pays himself from the church coffers.

Daddy Pastor, his wife and eight children all occupy a “room-and-parlour” (two rooms with one used as a living room and the other, a bedroom).

Sisi Vero the 49-year old spinster appears next on the roll. Sisi means a lady in her teens or twenties. Why Veronica (shortened Vero) who’s almost striking her golden jubilee, insists to be called Sisi never ceases to amaze everyone. It was alleged that Sisi Vero once slapped an okada man (motorcyclist) vivaciously for addressing her as “Madam.” The two were taken to the police station and accused of “two fighting.” Sisi Vero, a woman (oops! a lady) that has had her fair share of failed relationships still believes she is young enough to marry a man of her dream (Would someone tell her to wake up before she does so in her grave?)! This informs her mode of dressing: From the colour-riot overdone make-up to the tight-fitting undersize dresses, buxom Sisi Vero tenaciously fights for space amongst contemporary and (in her own words) saucy girls.

Often times when she hosts a particular man for a long while, expectations are high as to her eventual “settling down.” Howbeit, more often than not when the man is no longer seen and Sisi Vero asked why, her scornful and hiss-ful response is one that’s always ambiguous and of the same leaning – it’s either the man doesn’t know what he wants or he’s married.

On many occasions, Sisi Vero disappears from home for days and at times weeks. No one really has an idea of what she does for a living.

Joe, the graduate and bachelor teacher lives next room to Sisi Vero. Joe moved into Olórunsògo after months of unfruitful job search. A graduate of Linguistics from one of the state-owned universities, Joe got wind of job opportunities acclaimed to outnumber job-seekers in Lagos. As a result, he moved in with a fellow town’s man who readily accepted to accommodate the new comer. However, after weeks of enjoying free food and accommodation with no prospect of securing a job, the wife of his benefactor deemed it fit to declare an end to the generosity bestowed Joe, with alacrity. Luckily for him, before he was sent packing, Joe got a job as a primary school teacher two streets away from Olórunsògo where he now resides. Oga Joe (as called by housemates) takes advantage of the beehive of children parented by Daddy Pastor and others in the neighbourhood by organising home lessons for a number of them. At times when payment is delayed, Joe barters food with Mommy Pastor for his home service.

Mr. Sunday, the electrician is a resource-tenant of Olórunsògo not because of what he gives but that which he saves the household. His expertise enables him to backdate the reading on their NEPA analogue meter, now and again. As a result, the household is able to evade payments of huge sums of electricity bills. On occasions when they are cut off from the mains supply by the authority, Mr. Sunday artfully reconnects Olórunsògo typically at night.

The conscientious electrician recently got married to Patience who everyone calls Iyawo (meaning “wife”). Mr. Sunday works for a small-scale local contractor. Occasionally, when business is on the gloomy side, he plies his okada (motorcycle) within the environs in order to eke out a living. On the other hand, Iyawo seems too otiose to complement her husband's efforts. All she is ever seen in is a filthy wrapper tied sloppily over her almost bare chest. All day long, she stays indoors watching home videos on Sunday’s 14-inch black-and-white TV. Patience's laziness doesn’t permit her to cook. Hence, she patronises food hawkers or Mommy Pastor depending on what her appetite dictates. Poor Sunday!

Another couple that occupies the “room-and-parlour” on the opposite wing is the aged Papa Nkechi with his wife, Mama Nkechi and their grand daughter, Oname. Papa Nkechi is a railway corporation retiree train driver while his wife sells ugu (a delicacy vegetable) at the community market. Years of accumulated pensions have impoverished the old man and his family. A civil war veteran, he always reminisces with relish the role he took in the “no victor, no vanquish” pyrrhic war. He lost an index finger, the stump of which he’s eager to show anyone who cares to listen to his tales. Indeed, ol’ soldier never dies.

Their only child, Nkechi is married and lives with a vehicle spare parts business man who resides at the other end of town. At 15, Nkechi was impregnated by a “friendly” neighbour vulcaniser, an act he wasn’t willing to take responsibility for. Painfully, she had to drop out of school in order to supplement support for taking care of her baby, Oname. After years of emotional dejection, Nkechi regarded herself fortunate when Nnamdi requested for her hand in marriage, but only on one condition – he’s ready to cater for Oname but not under his roof. Not wanting to jeopardise this rare opportunity and fortune’s smile on her, she dumps Oname with Papa and Mama.

The last on the queer list is Bovi – the neighbourhood Casanova. Bovi came into Olórunsògo as a Youth Corper almost three years ago and he still claims to be on the one-year programme, for this reason he’s either referred to as Bovi or Corper. Many a time, the adventurous young man has been the object of accusation from mothers within the neighbourhood who claim Bovi has tactically deflowered their young daughters. Adolescent girls have been warned severally to keep off the amorous Corper but he always has a way around them as they’re seen either leaving or entering his den frequently.

The highpoint of Bovi’s escapades came when he was sought for by the police a couple of months ago but (un)fortunately he wasn’t indoors. When accosted by Daddy Pastor and Papa Nkechi as to ascertain the undisclosed reason behind the visit from the “men in black”, Bovi denied any wrong doing and assured them the “case” was resolved. Truly, no one knows Bovi’s source of livelihood. Besides, he’s often seen with questionable characters spending hours in the neighbourhood cybercafé. It’s rumoured that he’s a yahoo yahoo boy (advance fee fraudster).

Today, I decide to drive through the gully-ridden Liadi Street not out of lacking serious business doing but, sheer curiosity seeing a crowd of people gather in front of Olórunsògo. I am told Salewa and Morufu (Late Alhaji Olorunsogo’s children) are having a showdown there. The uncertainty that surrounds the new landlord/lady has excused the not-too-willing occupants from paying their rents. Consequently, Salewa and Morufu converged at Olórunsògo to slog it out. Both came simultaneously to collect the overdue rents from the tenants, each claiming legal right to do so. In the process, I think ignominious words were exchanged as each challenged the other to a reloaded version of the clash of the titans. At the moment, I can see Salewa with a swollen eye and in tattered clothings attempting to hold the part covering her bosom. Sprawling on the floor is Morufu, with a head which has doubled in size oozing out blood, turbulently. By his side lies a metal pole – I guess this should be the pain-inflicting weapon used by Salewa. Despite his obvious awfully painful condition, Morufu held down by on-lookers and passers-by, still brawls at Salewa.

Wonders have decided to reside at Olórunsògo! Anytime you need a break from the norm, feel free to visit Olórunsògo. It’s at No. 18 Liadi Street.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Enter, “The Green Revolution” Series

I intend to begin a series which after much brain racking I’ve christened “The Green Revolution”. This is to analyse mankind’s invasion of his environment and how nature has responded with retribution in its various forms: climate change, global warming, famine, floods, hurricane, tsunamis, etc. More importantly, the GR is about creating awareness of these anthropogenic disasters, abating the consequences while forestalling future occurrences and educating man on how to amiably live in and with his environment, as time ticks away on his continuous existence.

I have a number of articles I’m yet to complete on the GR (ranging from the academic to the trivial). I’ve always wanted to finish them before I kick-off the GR. However, I just don’t seem to get around that bug everyone has to deal with from time to time. You know what I’m talking about – it’s one word spelt P-R-O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N. I hope posting this intro will help me hit the road, running – I sincerely hope so!

The GR series will draw contributions from various sources and individuals who desire to. The cynical, paranoid, nonchalant and optimistic views/opinions are all welcome.

A couple of acquaintances (both real and virtual/online) have shown much interest in the GR series. In fact, a number of them are excited about a couple of ideas I shared with them. Some want us to initiate the GR club, establish vanguards in schools……Wait! I’m already letting the cat out of the bag!

I’m contemplating creating a new blog for this purpose. Let’s see how it goes.

BTW: ”What a Waste!” will be the first in the GR series.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Escaping the Age Noose

The radio program was the Africa edition of the BBC Have Your Say. The issue bothered around age and its overbearing significance within the African context. As usual, the veteran anchor pitched against one another, Africans with opposing views on the theme.

It is by and large a slot for blistering, thundering arguments cooked in an ever-boiling cauldron of controversies. Tensions are raised; tempers lost and on occasions before opprobrious words are exchanged, the anchor timely intervenes to dowse the nigh tangible heat.

Incidentally, I chose to oppose the much-cosseted age leech that has eaten deep into the African mindset and character fabric. This rabidity seeks to equate maturity with old age, demand respect as a function of the number of years an individual as marked on earth and emphasise age instead of expected and commensurate achievement. It is this same frame of mind that lords the African man’s superiority over his woman counterpart (this remains a discourse for another day).

Just before I am labelled as an errant, ‘westernised’, neo-colonised and cheeky African or infuriate the ‘traditional’ African reader, it is expedient to say I am an uncompromised, thick-lip, bushy-hair black African, with crimson-red Nubian blood running through my capillaries. In the words of Segun Akinlolu, I was born and have always lived “where the sun never sets or rises…where the heat is like a second skin.” I highly regard only the bent-back and white-hair that has garnered the proverbial old man’s wisdom - who believes respect for age, should not be self-seeking or gratuitously accorded but earned and mutually granted to both the old and young alike.

Among the issues raised was one that sought the appropriate age for women to take marital vows. On my side of the heated debate was the legendary Yvonne Khamati (one of Kenya very young female politicians). I inexorably argued that “marriageable age” does not automatically correspond to “disposed age.” While the former might be society-imposed, the latter is self-attained. Africa and the world at large seem to believe there exists a “marriageable age” for individuals. This has placed immense pressure on the women folk, in particular. As aforementioned, this unjustified strain has made individuals especially women to hotfoot themselves into this bewildering union. Bearing in mind, this is the only institution where its students are awarded certificates before taking the final exams. How satirical!

Hence, proper preparation, self-application and maturity are essential ingredients for a long-lasting, successful marital life. “Marriageable age” is not a pre-requisite. Marriages premised on the “marriageable age” philosophy have failed in large numbers producing broken homes, adult baby daddies/mommies and wayward children as fall outs. In the African setting where divorce is considered to be an odium, extempore couples have continued to live in emotional prison cages, for face-saving sake. As a result, marital success should be a “status” rather and an “age” thing. If you are not “there”, do not dare it or you get your fingers burnt! Some may get “there” at 19, 21 or 23 years while others may in due course be matured enough for signing the dotted lines at 30, 35 or 40! Self-disposition (which includes character building, self-actualisation, maturity and self-discipline) preponderates any form of pressure either society- or self-imposed.

Howbeit, this stance threw up a couple of issues during the BBC Africa Have Your Say showdown. The 21st century African woman has come to a state of self-assertion unlike her primordial fellow. She now acquires formal (western) education even up to the tertiary level (Study periods are lengthened in certain African countries by epileptic academic calendar due to incessant industrial actions). Pursuing a professional career is also paramount to her. All these have made contemporary women to say "I do" at older ages. Moreover, it was said there exists a physiological threshold a woman crosses, age-wise which might make her medically unfit to conceive and/or deliver a baby.

Nonetheless, one wonders if procreation outweighs the gains of a flourishing matrimony (which demands fidelity and self-discipline, at all times) with its accompanied emotional and mental constancy, the absence of which can impair every other sphere of living. Why should one sign him/herself off to a life of misery, abject rejection and psychosomatic trauma when he/she is not equipped for wedlock, all because “time is ticking out”? Apropos, is marriage all about breeding? What happens to companionship and mutual connectivity?

Individuals must first be “single” before opting to tie the knots or they might end up tying the noose. Being “single” means taking an inward journey of self-discovery. There is nothing that precludes women from attaining just like men, before taking the sacred vows. Marriage is not an avenue for the other party to absolve one’s problems and indulgences. Rather, both partners must constantly seek the happiness and bliss of the other. In doing this, marital vows are kept; characters moulded; upright offspring raised and at large, the society’s sanity is maintained.

Let the criticisms gush in!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Going Brrrrrrh! on the Creative Side of Advertising

Advertising in plain terms is “the public promotion of a product, service, business, or event in order to attract or increase interest in it.” It is an essential trade tool required to create awareness, solicit acceptability and/or increase sales of a product or service, thereby reinforcing the "brand." As a result, advertisements at times blend coaxing messages with factual information.

Although certain isms believe that an excellent product or service should “speak for itself”, hence little of no advertisement might be required. Howbeit, publicity of such is usually the first avenue via which the existence of such a good or service is taken cognisance of, ab initio. Proponents of this school of thought seem to be unmindful of the various types and media of advertising that exist. Publicising a product could range from informal words of mouth, reference/advice to formal, contemporary, state-of-the-art techniques. Advertising (in its various forms) serves as an indispensable arena where promotion of goods and services can be jump-started.

Advertising dates back to historic times. With the invention of papyrus during the First Dynasty era (about 3100 to 2890 BC), Egyptians likewise ancient Greeks and Romans had created various forms of commercial messages and political campaign displays. It has also been recorded that as printing developed in the 15th and 16th centuries, advertising throve into handbills. In the 17th century, advertisements began to appear in English newspapers.

The advent of television and radio broadcasting completely revolutionised promotion of goods and services. Increasingly, cable television played an unprecedented role when introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The internet created new cutting-edge technologies and avenues for marketing purposes, with the boom of innumerable websites for businesses to interactively reach their legion of customers.

With the emergence of a materialistic 21st century world, business promoters are always at neck-and-neck rivalry - a fierce competition aimed at grasping the attention and better still, the pockets of a more cognisant pool of consumers. These, indeed are exciting times!

In present times, advertising via whatever means, has gone highly cerebral while scintillatingly appealing to all the senses of already captured or potential customers. This probably has continuously informed the extraordinary adverts placed by the No. 1 beverage company in the world – Coca-Cola.

The Coca-Cola company has established its brand worldwide. It is said the word “Coke” is among a couple of the most popular in the world that requires no translation to any language or form of dialect! – “Coke” in Luxembourg does not change its pronunciation and meaning in the Americas, Asia or Africa. Despite the fact that one can safely say Coca-Cola has crushed almost every form of competition, provided varieties of its products and captured a wide range of consumers, the Asa Candler-brand has not ceased to expand its frontiers in any possible manner. It has relentlessly “shifted the demand curve to the right” so that its consumers will buy more of its products at the same price. This is spelt out in its recent “Coke side of life” campaign.

In its various forms, one that readily charms is the “It’s Brrrrrrh on the Coke Side of Life” version. This parades a contemporary Negro chief (with his toothy, afro-hair, megaphone-holding page) experiencing a “vibration” after sipping some Coke. It also shows a parrot losing its feathers to the “brrrrrrh” phenomenon. The shake-up experience furthermore finds expression in a football fan that couldn’t brrrrrrh hitherto until the Coke substance gets into his digestive streams. “Brrrrrrh” is depicted to be a sensational thrill one experiences after drinking the more-than-a-century old soft drink. Coca-Cola has consistently trail-blazed advertising. Creativity is the key! And this is the essence of this write-up.

In spite of nouveau developments and exhilaration designed to aid advertising in all its ramifications, the advertising landscape in certain climes appears to be parched, colourless, monotonous and non-inventive. In recent times, some adverts have lost the tonic of originality and inspiring ingenuity. This is usually played out in copious ads as observed daily: For a number of industries, what is often seen is a “strange object” that suddenly appears in the sky. This catches the attention of various individuals – the market woman, the newspaper vendor, the corporate executive, the taxi driver, the shop owner, et cetera – as they chase this “object” (which is usually the company’s logo or brand) through market places, highways and byways, across streams, rivers and some times transoceanic! It’s either this or an adaptation of same. One could almost predict what certain adverts are about at first glance and after watching for moments.

Apart from creativity, another major problem with the present lack-lustre adverts has to do with the targeted audience/viewers or market. Most intended consumers often fail to understand or get the message about the product or service being advertised. I once watched an advert clip on a cable TV with a number of individuals as we waited in a banking hall. One of the viewers voiced openly he couldn’t understand the “nonsense”! Intellectually, it was light years beyond him.

Be it as it may, it is expected that advertisers and promoters need a “brrrrrrh” (in more concrete terms, a shake up). While it is not being required of advertisers to “re-invent the wheel”, it is expedient they make the use of the wheel further attractive. They should be more creative, imaginative, resourceful and original with their adverts.

It’s time to get some shake-up. Let’s go “brrrrrrh” on the creative side of advertising!
Comments are welcome.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Urban Legends: Fooling the Rest of Us

My phone rang.

Often, I am infuriated when someone calls me when I get to that threshold of being awake and drifting to sleep. It takes a considerable amount of mental effort to cruise back to this subconscious state.

Trying to conceal my indignation, I picked the phone.

“Hello Toun (not her real name), how’re you doing?” I grunted attempting to sound pleasant at the same time.

“’You got the SMS or did anyone tell you?” she alarmed.

“About what?” I inquired, curiously.

“There’s this news going around that XYZ (a GSM service provider) is asking everyone to switch off their phones due to an electrical vibration that might harm its mobile phone users during the night.” She poured out.

I laughed with gusto, as I lied in bed kicking my legs wild in the air.

“I know you won’t believe this. In any case, just switch off. It won’t cost you anything. I pray your rationalisation won’t put you in trouble, one of these days.” She sounded annoyed.

“Listen Toun,” I interjected. “This can’t be true. I’m sure you won’t get anyone to confirm receiving such a message from XYZ. Someone’s just being mischievous. It is an urban legend at work!”

“What’s an urban legend?” she queried.

WordWeb describes an urban legend as “a story that appears mysteriously and spreads spontaneously in various forms and is usually false. It contains elements of humour or horror and is popularly believed to be true.”

According to Tom Harris, urban legends are often false, but not always. A few turn out to be largely true, and a lot of them were inspired by an actual event but evolved into something different in their passage from person to person. More often than not, it is not possible to trace an urban legend back to its original source – they seem to come from nowhere.

He elucidates:

“The most remarkable thing about urban legends is that so many people believe them and pass them on. What is it about these stories that makes people want to spread the word? A lot of it has to do with the particular elements of the story. Many urban legends are about particularly heinous crimes, contaminated foods or any number of occurrences that could affect a lot of people if they were true. If you hear such a story, and you believe it, you feel compelled to warn your friends and family. A person might pass on (non-)cautionary information simply because it is funny or interesting. When you first hear the story, you are completely amazed that such a thing has occurred. When told correctly, a good urban legend will have you on the edge of your seat. It is human nature to want to spread this feeling to others, and be the one who's got everyone waiting to hear how the story turns out. Even if you hear it as a made-up joke, you might be tempted to personalize the tale by claiming it happened to a friend. Basically, people love to tell a good story.”

In addition, urban legends gain credibility when names of probably known people, locations, dates and times are mentioned. Besides, we also tend to believe close friends, relatives or colleagues when they narrate an incident to us, moreover when it is an admonitory one. In any case, why should we doubt their love and concern for us? Howbeit, urban legends defy simple reasoning and rational thinking. They appeal to our curious, inquisitive senses. Hence, we tend to believe and go to any extent to justify the most irrational, improbable and incredulous events, even when we are not witnesses of the same.

A very popular urban legend that went round in the early 90’s in Nigeria circulated rumour of a killer bean that caused mysterious deaths of its consumers. Households had to painfully get rid of this foodstuff (and anything that bore its semblance) from their already lean menu. It was tough for some folks like us that hold an undying affinity and affection for beans. Having to do without relishing a well-cooked meal of beans (seasoned and softened in red palm oil, which occasionally may be graced with the sumptuousness of fried plantain and other accompanying accessories) for a long while, was nothing short of atrocious, unpalatable denial. Interestingly, intriguing as the event was there were no documented or confirmed incidents of any victim – someone was always told by somebody that knew another that died eating the killer beans.

In addition to the aforementioned urban legend in my discussion with Toun, employment of the GSM communication did not but have its own fair share of these faux tales of horror which are typically cunningly devised to raise public temperature and blood pressure. It was reported a couple of years ago that a number of individuals dropped dead (some versions entailed the victims actually vomited blood before their demise) after receiving calls from “strange” phone numbers. Unsurprisingly, the ever-keen newsmongers could not confirm witnessing the incidents or having direct, personal contact or relationship with the victims. As usual, the news had been passed on not without various editions and captivating remix.

In recent times, our mail boxes are inundated one time or the other with tons of urban legend messages that heed us to watch out for rat faeces-infested coke cans, poisonous spiders in airport conveniences or HIV-infected pins at cinema hall seats. Many of us can identify with stories warning us about suffering a loss of our mail box if we fail to forward the same mails, because the service provider wants to shut down or encouraging us to participate in Bill Gates’ free cash giveaway spree. We get offline messages from a caring colleague or family member warning us not to accept any form of communication from a disguised virus-carrier. How about the mantra mails? – “Send this to ten people now, close your eyes, make a wish, take a deep breath and your wish will come true. Mine just did!”

Our mobile phones are not spared. Often, we receive text messages informing us to forward the same messages to a number of people in order to win some cash amount or automatic recharge from the service providers. Some even claim to have received such rewards!

Urban legends are completely different from spam or advance fee fraud correspondences as swindlers only scheme to defraud greedy, unsuspecting and gullible individuals. Their goal is to enrich their pockets with undeserving, financial reward. What do urban legend masterminds stand to gain? Nothing more than sheer fun and mischief poked at public intelligence as they fool the rest of us. They sit back to relish the extent to which their tomfoolery has traveled within the society while enjoying the enormity of humour or horror played out on their naïve, zealous newsmongers.

More about Urban Legends here: Urban Legends: Lies We Love to Tell , How Urban Legend Works and The Face in the Mirror

Comments are welcome.