Monthly Archives: February 2014

Visit to Ghana: From the Airport

Getting to two weeks now I have asked myself whether to write about my visit to Ghana or not. It was one of the most relaxing and pleasurable weekends I have had. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t much to write about. In fact, the plane ride to Accra itself was interesting that I wrote about it. My hesitation is that I felt there was more to be written about had I more time. So I plan a second visit to Ghana InShaAllah!

I enjoy travelling to new places but the biggest obstacle I have is applying for Visa. Let us just say I hate that. I would forfiet many travel opportunities if it requires me to apply for Visa, especially the tough ones. Thanks to ECOWAS, perhaps the only benefit of ECOWAS to me, I don’t need a visa to go into Ghana.

This was my first time in Ghana, Accra. After an interesting flight that left me a little drained and disappointed, I assumed I wouldn’t be amused by Accra until the following day; after all it was dark when we landed. How wrong I was. Either I underestimated the points of interest in Accra or overestimated my sadness. I got a good wake up call at the airport, may be that was what got my senses alert.

“Can I see your Yellow Card?” I heard one of the airport officials ask one of the passengers from my flight. Yellow WHAT?! This is not South Africa is it? I knew there was a debacle between Nigeria and South Africa concerning yellow cards (which are proofs of vaccination for yellow fever) used by Nigerians, even though I didn’t know the details at the time… that was an embarrassing moment for Nigeria. Anyway, why is Ghana asking me for Yellow Card? I didn’t even need a Visa to come here… why on earth are they asking me for the more obscure Yellow Card? Apparently Ghana takes the issue of Yellow Card seriously; I suspected it is a special treatment for Nigerians. What I know about other countries like Malaysia is that if you are missing a Yellow Card, you get quarantined in the airport for a few days before you are allowed to proceed. That would not have been an issue but I was in Accra only for the weekend! Do I return to Nigeria simply after being quarantined in Accra Airport? How was I to proceed? Would I ever see Accra? At this point let us just say something of God’s intervention saved me. I actually went through without showing a Yellow Card. How it happened? How dare you ask about God’s intervention?!

I was out, unscathed, luggage safely in the car, and on my way to my destination. The radio station in the car was discussing Serbs and the Bosnian war. Ghanaians must have too little on their plates to be dedicating air time on local radio for such international events. It had to be a local radio because it was crystal clear, which means it must have been an FM station. The radio host is undoubtedly British, sounding like one of those BBC presenters. I bet he even worked with the BBC in the past. Even the guests were British. Or do Ghanaians speak British English? We have been taught in primary school that Ghanaians have a good command of English Language; this is probably what they meant. So I asked the driver what station that was and he said it is BBC. BBC in Ghana?! Nigerians too listen to BBC services but it is on AM radio and not half as clear as this. What secrets to Ghanaians know that Nigerians don’t? I found out that BBC has a local FM station in Accra. That is interesting. I wondered at how welcoming the socio-political climate of Ghana is to be attractive to the BBC. Would the BBC, or rather did the BBC, try to put up a station in Nigeria; the most populous African Country?

There was also sanity in the driving. It was difficult to place a finger at what, but there was sanity in the driving. For starters, it didn’t feel like anyone was trying to overtake another. Could it be that sanity was incorporated in the design of the roads, or is the average Ghanaian driver thinking differently from their Nigerian counterparts? Ghana drivers actually have options on the size of plate numbers they fix on their cars. There are two sizes; the rectangular and the square-looking ones for smaller cars. Does Ghana road authority care about the little man who can only afford a little car? At least owners of little cars know they can have plate numbers that fit their cars. Even if you can’t afford a good quality jeans, there is nothing better than jeans that fit just right!

The billboards on the roadside seemed more organized than Nigeria’s. I bet there is a management authority regulating the how it is erected. I couldn’t help but notice how clean the roads were. Clean Clean Clean… I shall come back to this issue in the future. Another interesting thing was that I did not come across a single Mosque on the road as I move to my destination. Understandably Muslims are not majority in Accra. However it took us 15 minutes of driving before coming across a billboard for a Church! No way that is possible in Nigeria. And it seems that church (after later discussions), the one with a billboard and grandiose facade, is set up by Nigerians. I reserve my comment on whether that is a positive thing (relating religions with grandiosity) or not, but Nigerians sure know how to place their marks.

It is convenient that where street lights were absent on major roads, there were reflectors on the ground to guide you. How thoughtful. The drive continued until we reached our destination. A little tired. So was my trip from the airport. If I make another post on this trip, I shall do less writing and more photos.

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A Thought Experiment on Polygamy

Imagine five people tied to a train track and a train fast approaching such that there is no time to reach the people and free them. On a separate train track to the side of those five people, there is one person similarly tied. In front of you is a button which if pressed, would divert the moving train from the path of five people to the path of the one person. Death is inevitable, time is running out! Would you press the button?

Alternatively imagine a similar situation however this time, there is no button and no track with one tied person. Instead the one person is standing beside you, far from the five about to die. But the train has to pass you to reach those helpless five. The person beside you is fat enough that if they were to happen to be hit by the train from your position, the train would slow down to a stop and not hit the five people ahead. Of course the fat person would die as a result. All it takes if for you to push the fat person. Would you?

This is a rendition of a classic thought experiment in (western) philosophy under morality. People vary in their answers, even though there are just about two options, because their reasons for selecting the same answer may be vary considerably. Thought Experiment is a tool of Philosophy which science cannot afford; even though psychology borrows often.

Some days ago, while discussing the issue of polygamy among Muslims, I came up with a thought experiment which I thought I should share. I had my motif for designing that experiment. I would like to present the experiment as simple as possible, however the issue of polygamy in Islam has deep ideological and cultural sentiments attached to it. Therefore I shall try to create a fair ground (objectivity) in the experiment by providing neutralizing information to the simple experiment. Here is the experiment, simply:

A Muslim man who is married to a woman meets another woman and is overcome by passion for this new woman. This passion can be anything; sexual, intellectual or spiritual. He would do anything to get married to her. It turns out she is available for him to marry, and even inclined to marry him as well. He is certain his life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this woman. Should he marry this woman? Keep in mind one thing: that Shari’ah allows for men to marry up to four wives at a time.

Now the second question

A Muslim woman who is married to a man meets another man and is overcome by passion for this new man. The same passion applies in this situations and she would do anything to marry this man. It also turns out that the man is inclined to marry her were she not bounded by marriage. She is certain her life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this man. Should the woman marry this man?

The following are what to keep in mind (The neutralizing information):

  • The Shari’ah does not allow for a woman to have more than one husband at a time.
  • The Shari’ah allows for a woman to initiate a divorce, and effect it with the approval of the court or the husband.
  • Men and Women are considered equal in Islam because they are essentially souls that will be judged not based on the bodies they were given but based on how they related with the bodies they were given(e.g. how did they respond to their passions; which love falls under)
  • For this experiment, disregard the societal unfairness weighed on women where men can effect a divorce even by slip-of-the-tongue, whereas women would have to go through societal hurdles, juristic restrictions decided by males, and even stigma before succeeding in their plead for divorce. Disregard this in our fair world of thought-experiment.
  • The verses in the Qur’an (Q2:229, Q4:128) that talk about a woman’s right to divorce can be interpreted to empower women much more than it is often presented, while remaining faithful to the spirit of the Qur’an (actually I think it would be more faithful)
  • It is on record that The Prophet (acting as the Islamic Court/Judge) granted the request of a woman who wanted divorce from her husband, not because he lacked in character or his religious duties but because she feared she would continue to “behave in an un-Islamic manner” if she remains with him (Bukhari 63:197). I’d like to think that covers all situations where dislike of the husband festers the mind of the woman to an extent that she wishes evil on him for nothing wrong he has done.
  • A woman who has been married to a man for some time should be able to bring up so many cases to buttress her point of making her “behave in an un-Islamic manner”. Just as we cannot ascertain the sincerity of the man who says he is adding a wife because she is well behaved; not simply out of passion.

It is interesting to note that what men give as reasons for having another wife varies depending on their community and what is considered as acceptable. Some proudly boast that they marry more wives because they like more women and find pleasure in that; that is because their community accepts such statements. Others however would give other reasons. The point is that reasons given are likely no more than justifications, culturally variable, rather than the sincere reason that prompted them to marry extra. Similarly a woman only needs to justify herself properly in the court of the thought-experiment.

I reiterate the situation of the woman:

A Muslim woman who is married to a man meets another man and is overcome by passion for this new man. This passion can be anything; sexual, intellectual or spiritual. She would do anything to get married to him. It also turns out that the man is inclined to marry her were she not bounded by marriage. She is certain her life (spiritual and otherwise) would be greatly enhanced if with this man. Should the woman marry this man even if it means orchestrating her divorce with the current husband?

Whatever your answer, how is that different from your answer for the situation of the man. Remember, in this world of thought-experiment, women and men are essentially equal in Islam because they are essentially souls that will be judged not based on the bodies they were given but based on how they related with the bodies they were given. Should the woman seek divorce in order to marry the other man?

If you haven’t guessed by now, my motif for this thought experiment is that I think simply wanting a different/variety of spouses is not a good enough reason for men to marry more than one wives. Reason here is referring to the sincere reason that may be only known to the person and God, not what the person claims.

 

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Predators On A Plane – Part 2

Like a true Nigerian movie, this movie has a Part 2, and the part one might as well be unnecessary. Read the first part here if you haven’t. This is Part 2. Action! True Life Story continues.

 

The Beginning

I came to the airport early. Luckily there was no queue in getting into the main entrance. Two men and a girl were ahead of me and they delayed me because they had a few boxes to put through the scanner. Only the girl had a flight ticket, so it seems the two men were escorting her. We passed the first screening. At the second screening one of the men decided to wait while the other man and the girl went through. The escorting man explained something to the security officials and he was allowed to go with the girl to the check-in counter. I was still behind them at the check-in counter. Close enough to the girl now, I figured she should be about 15 years old returning to school by flight. Dam da dup dada (remembering a song we sang in primary school) Leaders of tomorrow.

 

The Prey

A girl, or is it a lady? A young lady. She is at that stage of her life where she want’s to be seen as a woman, not a little girl. You could tell from her outfit. Having two men (brothers or cousins it seems) escort her to the airport like a minor would have been embarrassing for her except that she has a lot of luggage and she knows some of the tricks to public life; which is that with the right demeanor, she could make men escorting a minor look like servants taking luggage for a lady. She did that well because I was surprised to find that they were not her servants. Returning to school, obviously. I was curious to find out what she studies but I figured it is better to let it go because talking to her in her womanly mental state could have repercussions, which was more than I was ready to do damage control for.

 

The Predator

Sitting on the plane now, the girl and I were seated on the same row. Between us, there was a man who seems to be in his forties. At this point he was just an ordinary man, like any other passenger. There was another group of travelers, three men, seated close to us and they were quite fascinating to sit by. They were funny in their remarks, “careless” in their use of language, and quite impatient with the cabin crew because according to them the cabin crew helped in delaying the flight. The group were raising their voices, making loud jokes so that all within earshot would share the laughter, even sharing their phone conversations by speaking loud and letting everyone know what “big” businesses they are into… generous I thought. They were almost like the typical unruly testosterone-filled high school football team in American movies. Soon enough I found that the man between the girl and I is actually part of the group. However he stood out from the group; he was hiding more than the cool demeanor he presented. It seems that he would ordinarily join them but he wants to keep his cool for God Knows who… certainly not me. Could it be for the lady, I mean the girl?

 

Th Encounter

There is no reason to suspect him of predation simply on suspicion of him pretending to be more responsible than his friends. Not until he, like me back on the queue, noticed the womanly recognition the girl wanted. He gave her his attention. They greeted and started a conversation. I had my suspicion that would happen but seeing it happen made me uncomfortable. But I thought, may be he is just having a conversation like I considered having with her back before take-off. But there is something unsettling about seeing a girl acting “womanly” with an old man who talks to her like an attractive woman, with prospects of taking the conversation beyond the flight.

Yes, flirting! that is the word; that is if you can tell flirting from a distance. No need to go into details of the evidences of flirting here. In observing the flirtatious engagement, the effortlessness of it all, especially from the man’s part, was chilling. It showed finesse and experience in flirting, but of course he is much-much older. The eagerness to encourage the conversation from the girl’s part was heartbreaking. She was enjoying his validation of her woman-ness, and he was about to bag this one.

We were soon to land, as announced. Then they exchanged phone number. Actually it was only she that gave him her phone number. I wondered the psychological implication of having only one party give their phone numbers for future correspondence. Then they exchanged BB pins. I wondered how the girl would someday casually chat with a BB contact, and giggle, and be emotionally invested with messages from the BB contact. Who would know that behind a flirty BB contact of a girl, using all those emoticons, is a 40+ years old man chilling with his unruly friends doing who knows what?

 

Contemplation

I wonder now, should I have spoken to her. Perhaps then I would ve been able to interrupt their conversations. If really he was a predator, he wouldn’t attempt to pounce when he assumes she is not alone (with me). Then, I might not have written this post.

This experience raises an important point of consideration when minors (or any disadvantaged group) are travelling alone along paths where predators may be lurking. Not long ago, I was told about how an older girl had to cancel her trip because her travelling buddy could not make it as planned, even though she had a driver but her parents would not allow her alone with the driver. It makes sense now. I am not saying it is the solution though.

If I were a credible religious scholar of repute, I could see some Muslims using this incident to buttress their point that women should not be allowed to travel without a Mahram (who in this case would be a male travel companion). This incident would be cited as a relevant example to make a case for today; because the proof lies in interpretations of religious texts. That is assuming the story I narrated is accurate in assessment of the man (like I said, the truth of the story is not important, my experience is important). This is not the time to go into the debate of a Muslim woman having a (male) companion on any travel, but it suffice to say that I do not agree with that position in light of today’s means of travel. However I encourage people to travel in groups, at least two, especially young people that could be taken advantage of. This solution posits that having two girls travelling together could repel predators. After all in Nature, animals move in groups to defend against predators.

 

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Predators On A Plane – Part 1

Perhaps the scariest flight I have been on. Not for the usual reasons; especially being from Nigeria where plane crashes appear like quarterly bulletins on news. Honestly, I’d prefer to be scared of plane crashes than what I went through; an experience I might have had alone on that scary flight. It was a thrilling experience.

Thriller movies can be distinguished from horror movies by watching out for a few things, even though the two genres are often mixed for optimum viewer experience. Horror films are more likely to have Thriller in them than the reverse. Horror films scare viewers with WHAT HAS HAPPENED. Thrillers scare viewers with WHAT COULD HAPPEN. Thrillers take advantage of your imaginations while Horrors express the imagination for you (even your worst fears). Thrillers can take casual situations, then mess with you mentally and psychologically. I found myself in Thriller movie last flight. Being both actor, producer and director, I can call it whatever I want; I call it Predators On A Plane!

My experience is a spinoff of the movie Snakes on Plane (acting Sam L Jackson). For those who don’t know what happened in the movie, here is a one-sentencer: A plane is hijacked by releasing lots of snakes on the plane and invoking their killer instincts by exposing them to a gas/chemical, until the snakes kill a particular passenger.. The movie is Horror in its essence by showing HOW passengers were killed, and Thriller only in WHO was to die next? It is important to note an underplayed aspect of the movie which is that the snakes had to be excited (with chemical) to get them to become willing killing machines. That is because snakes, contrary to common opinions, are not predators to humans. Humans are actually predators to snakes. Snakes to humans, are more than anything, a lethal nuisance; just like a sting ray and other poisonous nuisance. During my flight, there was actually a predator to humans on board! (at least that was what I saw) It was a carnivorous beast, which is often sighted in the Kenyan Safari. You would find this beast in groups… taking pictures of nature’s beasts. The predator on my flight is Human! Humans are perhaps the most dangerous predators to humans.

The predator was a man who looked 40+ years old. The prey was a girl who looked between 15 and 18 years old. So the predator I refer to has a sexual context. What evidence do I have for these assertions? To answer, I ask what evidence does one need to make a movie? A good Thriller is not about its factuality, it is about the emotions it invokes. A good movie gets us to reflect on all the emotions we experience and perhaps even make some adjustments in our lives. What follows is the thriller, as I saw it through my eyes.

Continue reading the second part here.

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Death of Depression

What is the point of death? Theist and Atheists differ on the answer from the perspective of the dead person. It must be cherished then that they both agree that death’s significance to others is to trigger introspection and collective questions whose answers may change the course of history for individuals or even communities; answers ranging from worldly achievements to preparedness for the hereafter. History, both your family’s and those studied by scholars, are rich with examples.

I just received news that someone, a friend of people close to me, whom I might or might not have met, committed suicide yesterday. This post is not to give details of the very unfortunate event, for that may invoke empathy, condolence remarks, or tragic entertainment (after all people pay to watch tragedies since the time of Shakespeare). This post is to highlight the tragic event by underplaying the identity of the victim because it is enough that he/she is a friend of people close to me, whom I might or might not have met. That said, my deep condolence to the family and acquaintances of the victim.

The circumstances of the event, as I heard it, suggests depression has played a significant part in the turn out. This is the question that this death has challenged us with: How are we dealing with depression? Another question ought to have preceded, which is: what is Depression; a mood or a disease? In the sixties (or seventies), psychologists thought that mood and psychological diseases were the same, and so flourished the era of mood controlling drugs; which culminated in Designer Drugs that are fashionable today. In the last decade (or so) this point of view is being adjusted as disconcerting statistics stare at people (mostly Americans) revealing the startling percentage of children and adults on mood controlling drugs. Therefore the last decade saw the re-acceptance of some “psychological diseases” as “regular human emotions”. The result of this adjustment spurred another radical branch which not only believes depression is a disease, but preaches that depression is a disease! Like any preacher of Gospel, they are also convinced that their Gospel is the truth, and in it is the salvation of humanity from the Hell of depression.

From where I stand, depression is real. It cannot be ignored. People of the past interacted with depression using myths and superstitions; this persists even today. Some people of today react to depression by taking drugs; both narcotic and Designer Drugs. Some psychologists examine depression until depression fails. The spiritually inclined explain depression as the effect of distancing oneself from God. Some of the religiously inclined explain depression with fatalism; which is surprisingly an efficient way to recover from depression. All these are options that could be argued as “tried and tested”, in so far as their success is measured by the seizure of depression even if momentarily. That raises the question of whether depression is simply a symptom of internal imbalance in an individual, which all the above make disappear. Imbalance of the chemical, the psychological or the spiritual?

Back to the question. How are we dealing with depression? Whatever the answer is, it can’t be working since it has lead to suicide. Deaths ought not to be the yardstick for measuring the effects of depression, but death is not only a poignant questioner, it is a distracting answer. How are we dealing with depression? Are we supposed to deal with depression, or is it supposed to deal with us gracefully? There is no right answer for the wrong question.

This question that is so important, death itself was made the messenger. A message so important you can’t kill the messenger even if you wanted to. As we attempt to answer this question, and pave the direction for our future, I implore that we be weary of taking the path of depression as a disease resulting from chemical imbalance. Frankly I would like us to do away with the drugs option if possible because we know most drugs treat symptoms more than they treat diseases (some drugs are said to only keep you comfortable until your body treats/heals itself).

Small Pox was eradicated with evangelic zeal. Polio remains a challenge due to counter religious zeal. Should preachers of depression as a disease succeed, would that lead to the Death of Depression?

Who is susceptible to depression? In a society rife with drug abuse and overflowing with faith in the gods of consumerism, it could be anyone. Referring to the case of death that prompted me to write, the victim could be someone you know, a friend of people close to you, whom you might or might not have met.

 

 

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