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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Power in Just Being

In the last 3 millenia*, the human race still astounds archaeologists. We hear about the 7 wonders of the world, but they don't do a song and dance about the mundane lives they discover.

A popular joke to translators of dead languages is when a 'foreigner' discovers a tablet with ancient writing on it and find that it is a shopping list, an accounting entry, or (my favorite) a letter from a father to his son to face his studies. Sounds odd? Is it even possible? Well, this is true. It was a short entry I read in a book on cryptology in Ikom, Cross River in 2004/2005.

We often attribute the greatest value to the spectacular, the fascinating, but we forget the 'common and tedious' under-layer. Dismiss it, even.

For every great castle, there is an even greater foundation. That goes for houses, buildings, skyscrapers, industries, media, governments, nations, countries, companies, and the very means by which you're reading this now.

A joke that plays in my head (a lot of things humour me, I've heard and seen it offer a better quality of life) is tv series 'Spartacus'.

A tragedy window-dressed with sweaty and athletic men, beautiful slave-girls, lusty dominuses and dominas. And the swearing was comical.

But the truth is they were not as attractive, the sex was more or less like it is now, & the tragedy of Spartacus was more grave than spectacular.

The truth of the stories of Spartacus, Nat King(black american slave who pulled off a Spartacus), Toussaint L'Overture (his led to the independence of Haiti) the foundation couldn't take the weight from the top anymore. Abuse offends nature and natural order.

The slaves were the foundation of their empires, and literally supported the lavish life-styles of the 'ogas at the top'.

I wanted to save these thoughts for May 1st, but I decided that, like mothers' day, it is an everyday reality offered a 'token' of recognition, not a seat of honour or a means of recompense.

You work. I work. Bosses work. Your president works. Your government works. It is the quality of this work that determines the quality of life for all connected.

Your work is mundane, tedious, maybe even dangerous...but it is a foundation for great displays that will never be honoured fully. Like teachers, our reward is in the next generation, not just the next life. (Generations even as the 6,000 year-old canoe found in Northern Nigeria proves someone fished there to provide for himself/his family/community. It's design still astounds me because it was so ahead of it's time, but that's for another post...maybe)

So just being who you are* (I also mean being who you have to be) is powerful. You don't need a motorcade or an 'honourable' title to feel good about that.

Just 'be'.

*I am in no way advocating none of the following:
Lack of self-development
Absence of a sense of responsibility
Aggressive stupidity
Public displays of insanity
The use of lies to make the truth more 'bearable'
A disproportionate sense of self-importance
Sex with cooks, drivers, security men/women or other people in your employ.
It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well -- Rene Descartes

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fighting Bitterness

This will be short. Very often, we find ourselves facing people who ought to choose for the better, but they can't see past their immediate needs and fears. They're not the bad guys or the godless...they're just in a very deep need to control others so they feel some level of control that is 'healthy' for the human psyche.
Very often, they mistake their reflex actions as a means of meeting their needs.
You find them in every industry, every office, every family...and all so often, one concedes to them so there can be peace. But false peace does occur, but it requires one person to mistakes violent refusal to be the only way of battle.
The best battles are the ones with the fewest, if no, victims at all.

I'm facing mine, and it makes me think that private battles are called private for a reason.

I've come to understand why judging hastily is not lauded in freer societies. Many times, the first impression is wrong, or worse, the 'best' approach in theory is never really practicable.

So, I've put on my armor and I'm decided. The final decision is mine, and no one else's. I will live with it. I've decided...I can live with it.

This isn't like applying salve to a cut. It's more like deciding which limb to cut off so life can go on.

I've a lot of practice though. Ask anyone living in Lagos, Nigeria if they still expect a sympathetic government. They organise their own means of meeting the needs that they can not competently expect of the government.

From the provision of power, water, security and health to the simplicity of free or cheaper internet services.

I've cut that limb off, and I'm not alone.
Remi Olutimayin

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ok. So a-z challenge discontinued

Having a real life gets in the way of living...tweet the link if you agree.

Who do I blame? The blame game is lame by name because the same is the aim of the be lame.

If you didn't get that, don't worry. It's a flow thing. Some things are best heard, not read.

So what is this post about? It's about weights.

Not body building. 'Ahnold' has proved that it isn't permanent. But there are weights that do make a permanent improvement on your life, be it your outlook on life, your pain-threshold, your bullshit detecting abilities, your powers of observing calm in a storm...these do not leave you the same.

I'd like to share 3 with you in very brief form:
1) I'm the father of a love-child
2) I'm a writer in Nigeria
3) I'm a workaholic

1) I love my daughter. It doesn't look like it on the surface, but it is because I know that calm, not panic, is what the baby needs from her parents. There are costs that come with having her in my life. As a love-child, there are certain costs that are neither private nor welcome...but I compare it to making a $17tr deal (Sounds astronomical? Give it a year or two. The FGN always finds a way of humbling the astronomic). It won't be easy, but only you know what value you attach to the deal and it won't happen for a quitter. Trust me. HiTV? Quit just as soon as he started because of tunnel-vision. I'm not knocking him because he 'failed'. I'm knocking him because people wanted, no needed, him to succeed and he didn't put business before pleasure when he needed to. That's a sign of a quitter (acquire and squander).

2) I'm a writer in Nigeria and I can't explain how it is to a non-writer, even to my parents (who have more degrees between them than all my former senior colleagues in Zenith bank. How? Just believe. The rest is an unfair display of the short-comings of Nigerian society). Do I write brilliant work? I wouldn't say I don't, but I'm one of the myriad of strong talents of Nigerian blood.
I've had to exercise my creativity to venture my writing into (#NoLie) Advertising, Radio, Television, Documentaries, Short film, novels, short stories, magazine articles, New Media, News, publishing, production of electronic mass media content (this is different from writing, trust me or ask someone who knows), contributing to collections of short stories by new Nigerian writers (google comicbanditpress. Dem be badass guys led by a brother who knows the struggle), business plan design, song-writing, the Ghenghen (go to, team-leadership...the list isn't endless but I'm thinking of the people I have to thank for risking my involvement in their industries, them plenti no be small.
Writing wouldn't have taken these forms in my life but for the challenges in my life like rent, food, water, phone bills, BIS, etc.
I'm grateful for the battles lost and won, but I'm also grateful for the war itself. It defines me better than a desk-job.

3) I'm a workaholic.
I've been in need of a fully paid trip to anywhere outside of Nigeria for the last 3 years. Even if it is a writer's residency for when I wake up and smell that Lagos metropolitan air, I know that I have to defend my right-to-life for the next 6 months 'now'. It's like being at DEVCON-2 as soon as you wake up.
I intend to keep waking up though, just that it would be nice to wake up somewhere else that isn't 'in a 'state of war'.

So what do these weights do for me?
My daughter let's me know that any achievements are no excuse to believe I don't need to eat tomorrow.
Being a writer let's me know there is a better way to get my writing across, so it is my job to find it because I can.
Being a workaholic let's me know I can handle any work pressure within my field of competence.

Are there any other weights?
Well, I have a very decent BMI.
I'm lean of body, not of soul.
I have a huge appetite (for what? Don't ask, I can't tell you everything)
And like you, every day ends with me having a list of people I have to forgive.

To quote Ben Affleck: You can't keep a grudge.
Remi Olutimayin

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

B for Barçelona Football club

I'm a Jose Mourinho fan, and have followed him from Porto from his uefa cup win over Celtic FC to Real Madrid FC #shootme.
But many fans mistake the rivalry between Barça (pronounced BAR-THAH. It's Catalan, not Spanish or English) and Real Madrid to be about football. It's not. It's older than 90% of the world and it was caused by civil war, the worst kind of war.

Apparently General Franco the military dictator of Spain had a special beef for the non-spanish speaking Catalonians and did something so cruel to them, you'd be forgiven for imagining they had offended his forefathers who made him swear to never rest until all of Catalonia was a fading memory marked by traces of blood and ashes.

He banned their language (complete ban. No children may bear native names or speak the language in their homes or schools). He had an able lieutenant/vice-dictator named Santiago de Bernebau (that's right, the stadium is named after him) who thought the best way to get the people to support you was to present them with a 'spanish team' for the government. Real Madrid was chosen and still enjoys support from the Spanish government (PDP isn't the first or the last of its kind).

To top off the insanity of the period, a president of Barçelona FC was being driven in his own area only to be stopped at the 'check-point of death' where civilians would be marched out of their cars and shot to death off-road. Yes, he was killed for being Catalan. Apparently the soldiers involved didn't know who he was. Barça will always remind them.

Other things have added to the fire of Barçelona FC against the Spanish government like the clamor for an independent Basque state, the Basque freedom fighters, etc...and 2 teams have taken the brunt of the beef.

Real Madrid FC and the Spanish National team. Every player that left Barça directly to Real Madrid is always under threat when playing in Camp Nou. Portuguese football legend, Luis Figo, did that switch and could never take corner kicks in Camp Nou because the fans would stone him for wearing Madrid's colours in their stadium.
The second victim is of special interest to Nigerians. The Spanish National team's loss to Nigeria in France '98 has some interesting footage of a 'spanish-looking' man waving the Nigerian flag with more fire and pride than the Super Eagles supporters club. That's right. He was Catalan. In Barçelona, people were rejoicing when another underdog like them broke the back of Spain at the world cup.

Presently, tensions and rivalries between both clubs has become 'civil' and even 'friendly'.

Just so you know, if Jose moves again, I will follow him.

He ain't Jesus, but he certainly knows how to lead and that is by inspiring the inner legend in you to outshine your lackluster life you had before you met him. I'm yet to find any footage as moving as his exit from San Siro and Mazzeratti (a giant in no simple terms) wept like a baby because Jose was going to Madrid. Jose stopped his limo, got down, half-jogged to Mazzeratti and hugged him till he calmed down.

This was about Barçelona, right? Right

There you go. That's my 'B'.
Remi Olutimayin

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#A-Z challenge

I will start the first post with this challenge basically because it's there, but generally, I have to know if there are indeed enough cool 'true' stories that I can link to every letter in the english alphabet (better than trying for the russian, greek, or turkish alphabets...I won't try myself).

A- Akure, Belo.
Once upon a time in German East Africa during World War I, there was an extraordinary man named Belo Akure. I can't begin to tell you how much this man's simple stories inspire me.
He was with the Royal West African Frontier Force (now called the Nigerian Army) fighting for King and kingdom (you can tell me Nigeria was formed on the eve of WWI, but you can't tell me the average man in Nigeria knew we were kicking the ass of the guy who shared our continent into 'unnatural' geopolitical zones...his name was Otto Von Bismark, but more on him another day).
By the end of WWI, company sergeant-major Belo Akure was awarded
(1) the West African Frontier Force medal for Distinguished conduct in the field
(2) The Military Medal (highly coveted by english officers)
(3) A clasp (I'd pretend to know what that is, but I find it hard to lie, so...)

He got medals, so what? There's got to be a medal for anything, right? Wrong.

The first medal was for being cool and courageous...essentially the average soldier, regardless of nationality, would have shit themselves before thinking about doing what he did.
Apparently the british officers made an military-miscalculation near a river and ordered him to 'retire his company' (today, we would call it a retreat).
Imagine crossing Oshodi expressway. Now imagine dodging bullets aimed at you and 7 primary school students while crossing the expressway. Your job is to get all 8 of you to the other side and then find cover. Got that image in your head? Good, because that guy did a whole different kind of brave.
He and the remaining company found a canoe which was important because the river was too deep to 'ford' to the other side (you could only swim across, you couldn't wade through it). As you can imagine, swimming makes you a sitting duck, so a canoe makes for a much 'safer' crossing.
So the men all get into the canoe and Sgt. Akure attempts climb in only to discover there is no room for him.
Pay attention because the story begins here.
He gets out, tells them to row across to the other side, when they're on their way, Akure hugs the river bank and proceeds to return fire on the advancing German forces. He gets hit in the sleeve but he continues to give cover fire to his fleeing company.
Like a mother hen, he confirms they are on the other side, he then 'orders' them into the trenches dug there.
Once they are safe and under cover, he shoulders his rifle and dives into the river to swim across. He makes it.

Maybe he had a deathwish now mistaken for a cool and courageous mien? Maybe. But before you decide, check out exploit number 2.
He captures a german officer who is being aggressively sought after by his army. 'Inspite of a determined rescue effort' was how it was described in his citation.
I still shake my head when I wonder what sort of mountains you have to defeat 'in your heart' for you take initiative intelligently and shine in such a bleak and dead era?
Have I met my own and failed without knowing? Will I want to face them again, so I too can shine, when this era is both without luster and just a few untold stories away to the coming generations?

Well, that's my 'A'.
Remi Olutimayin