Saturday, 10 March 2012

Another African Adventure goes Awry!

Condolences to the families of Christopher McManus and Franco Lamolinara who while working in Nigeria found themselves embroiled in a nightmare beyond imagining. It is unfair and tragic when innocent civilians who are going about their daily business, end up getting murdered at the hands of kidnappers.

It is difficult enough in a developed country, for the authorities to conduct successfully, the rescue of a kidnapped victim. The logistical and operational demands that have to be met are numerous, timing has to be exact and the element of surprise is usually the only advantage the rescuers will have going for them.

Maybe with time, the reason why this rescue mission was attempted at all will be explained. In my view, the attempt at rescue was doomed to failure, especially in a country like Nigeria where in a lot of cases, nothing is ever what it seems, where tribal and ethnic loyalties can outweigh the other considerations of being a good citizen and where political allegiance has a price tag. Money and bribes (in this case at least) would have been a much better way to go.

If the rescue attempt had been successful, the people who made the decision to go ahead and those who took part in it would by now be taking credit for it's success. Because it failed, I fear it may just be filed away as just another african adventure gone awry.

The whole exercise at rescue I fear, was a gamble I would not have taken, if it was my family member that was at risk especially in Nigeria. Caution and money would usually do the trick in Nigeria, even in the northern states, there would be within the community where the hostages were held, even headed individuals who could have assisted the authorities without having to call in special forces from abroad.
Some amongst the security forces in Nigeria, would have seen the presence of British special forces as a lack of confidence in their own abilities and this could even prove counterproductive.

From reports, the element of surprise, seemed to have been lost and gunfire was exchanged for quite a considerable time, giving the kidnappers time to kill their hostages. Would it not have made better sense, if there had been a pro active method to solving kidnappings such as these, where the search for and rescue of victims were done by the local law enforcements with one or two overseas experts present as advisers/observers.

My thoughts go to the family of these victims. It is so easy to say "sorry for your loss", but I really am.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Land of my Fathers!

In my last post, I spoke about my ancestral warrior blood. This part of my african lineage is a common trait in the Egba people who were known as fierce warriors. The capital of Egbaland was and still remains the city of Abeokuta in Nigeria. Amongst the distinguished Nigerians whose origins can be traced back to Abeokuta city is former president of Nigeria General Olusegun Obasanjo who happens to be celebrating his 75th birthday this week. The late Fela Kuti musician extraordinaire and loads more distinguished Nigerians come from Egbaland.

The traditional ruler of this part of the country is the Alake of Egbaland and is highly respected by all. He is in effect the custodian of the cultural heritage of his people. Up till the present day, certain ceremonies are still performed in the same way as in ancient times,.Certain elements within jazz music were taken from the talking drum patterns of this area and the west african region as a whole.

Drummers are an integral part of royal ceremonies. The drummers announce the Alake's proclamations and decrees. Drummers assemble prior to a royal court of chiefs and while each chief arrives at court, the Alake is informed via the unique gan gan sound (Talking drum) which will be exclusive to each chief arriving while the Alake (King) sits in his second storey throne room.

The ironic yet fascinating fact is that the first recognised sounds of jazz evolved from the secret supernatural cults of West africa. Olumo rock, a monolithic landmark of Egbaland with it's foreboding crevices and dark caves became a shrine after the Yoruba - Dahomey wars of the 19th century which had been going on for centuries.

Dahomey wars raged for hundreds of years. This empire was surrounded by the Ashanti, Egba, Benin, Ayo and Ewe empires. As the yoruba and dahomey wars raged in 1727, Agadja and his elite army of female virgin warriors tried to invade the Egba city of Abeokuta. Olumo rock, a symbol of Egba power protected the egba people and was an ideal sanctuary from attack. Those who pursued the Egba to the rock fell under it's curse and their skin and orifices would ooze blood and pus. As this happened, the Dahomey troops would turn and flee.

Even today, many africans from other tribal groups refuse to venture up Olumo rock for fear of their lives. Even foreign missionaries acknowledged these powers but would usually put it down to satanic and evil spirits. An american baptist missionary in the Cameroons claimed to have driven out devils which had possessed some Africans (i.e. Exorcism). When asked to reconcile his beleif in african rituals and demon possession, he said, the bible says "Satan and his evil spirits shall prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls". The witchdoctors have satanical powers, he said.

The land of my fathers is probably no worse or better than other lands where people live out their lives with the best expectations for themselves and their families. Communities where there is joy, laughter, sadness and tears. The drummers from our lands are similar to south american shamans who use sounds to acknowledge their ancestors. There is nothing evil in the sound of these drums from Egbaland but they are used to announce births, deaths and everything in between. Hearing these drums, you will have no doubt you are hearing the sound of joy and celebration.


                  (First published on 6/03/2012)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Memories that Shape Us (A Tribute to my Grandfather)

On facebook the other day, I came across a picture of my grandfather's funeral. My whole family was present except me. The memories came flooding back, it was the funeral of the man who had raised me exclusively from the age of eighteen months till I was five years old. Even after my parents and siblings joined me in africa, I delighted in going to spend time at granddad's whenever I could.

My grandfather and I had a special bond, I loved being around him. I knew every nook and cranny of granddad's house, the whole household and the community at large took very good care of me.

The saddest part of this story was when my grandfather passed away, I was in boarding school, my dad was in Austria at some medical conference. The family must have decided to wait for my dad to return from abroad (him being the eldest son) and in the ensuing brouhaha and confusion, everyone forgot about me, the old man's favourite grandson.

I found out about my grandfather's death and burial from the newspapers. I was thirteen years old and without the skills and experience to handle the grief of losing my grandfather, I got into a lot of fights and a lot of trouble throughout the remainder of that term.

The pain of not of not being able to say farewell to a loved one who has passed is a kind of pain that sorts of makes you feel restless. In my case, the close support of my immediate family, mum, dad, brother and sisters enabled me to heal and get over the loss but I never got to say goodbye properly.

The facebook photo, brought memories of my grandfather flooding back and the fights I got into at boarding school the week my grandfather was buried are very vivid in my mind. I took on everyone. I battled the giants, the midgets and everything in between. My grandfather comes from a tribe of fierce warriors and although he had long ago discarded that aspect of his lineage at the time of his death. He  was a sophisticated, educated and quite urbane man. Oh how that warrior blood boiled! 

Now much older and more experienced, I now know how to keep that warrior blood in check and have also learn't that you cannot fight the whole world. We achieve more if we work with people toward a common good. That is one lesson I learn't from my granddad as I played around his feet when I was a child and visitors came to consult with him. It is one of the memories that have shaped me.

This is my way of saying goodbye to Papa that the love and the bond we shared, keeps him resting in eternal peace.


The Laziest Writer

On The Planet Is sitting up in his bed. His mind is in a turmoil, whirring in a hundred different directions all at once. H...