Archive for Opinion

Physician, heel thyself

Physician, heel thyself

Pittsburgh USA.
It was morning rounds in the hospital and the entire medical team stood
in the patient’s room. A test result was late, and the patient, a
friendly, middle-age man, jokingly asked his doctor whom he should yell
at.

Turning and pointing at the patient’s nurse, the doctor replied, “If you want to scream at anyone, scream at her.”

This vignette is
not a scene from the medical drama “House,” nor did it take place 30
years ago, when nurses were considered subservient to doctors. Rather,
it happened just a few months ago, at my hospital, to me.

As we walked out
of the patient’s room I asked the doctor if I could quote him in an
article. “Sure,” he answered. “It’s a time-honored tradition — blame
the nurse whenever anything goes wrong.”

I felt stunned
and insulted. But my own feelings are one thing; more important is the
problem such attitudes pose to patient health. They reinforce the
stereotype of nurses as little more than candy stripers, creating a
hostile and even dangerous environment in a setting where close
cooperation can make the difference between life and death. And while
many hospitals have anti-bullying policies on the books, too few see it
as a serious issue.

Today nurses are
highly trained professionals, and in the best situations we form a team
with the hospital’s doctors. If doctors are generals, nurses are a
combination of infantry and aides-de-camp.

After all,
patients are admitted to hospitals because they need round-the-clock
nursing care. We administer medications, prep patients for tests,
interpret medical jargon for family members and double-check treatment
decisions with the patient’s primary team. Nurses are also the
hospital’s front line: We sound the alert if a patient takes a serious
turn for the worse.

But while most
doctors clearly respect their colleagues on the nursing staff, every
nurse knows at least one, if not many, who don’t.

Indeed, every
nurse has a story like mine, and most of us have several. A nurse I
know, attempting to clarify an order, was told, “When you have ‘M.D.’
after your name, then you can talk to me.” A doctor dismissed another’s
complaint by simply saying, “I’m important.”

When a doctor
thoughtlessly dresses down a nurse in front of patients or their
families, it’s not just a personal affront, it’s an incredible
distraction, taking our minds away from our patients, focusing them
instead on how powerless we are.

That said, the
most damaging bullying is not flagrant and does not fit the stereotype
of a surgeon having a tantrum in the operating room. It is passive,
like not answering pages or phone calls, and tends toward the subtle:
condescension rather than outright abuse, and aggressive or sarcastic
remarks rather than straightforward insults.

And because
doctors are at the top of the food chain, the bad behavior of even a
few of them can set a corrosive tone for the whole organisation. Nurses
in turn bully other nurses, attending physicians bully
doctors-in-training, and experienced nurses sometimes bully the newest
doctors.

Such an
uncomfortable workplace can have a chilling effect on communication
among staff. A 2004 survey by the Institute for Safe Medication
Practices found that workplace bullying posed a critical problem for
patient safety: rather than bring their questions about medication
orders to a difficult doctor, almost half the health care personnel
surveyed said they would rather keep silent. Furthermore, 7 percent of
the respondents said that in the past year they had been involved in a
medication error in which intimidation was at least partly responsible.

The result, not surprisingly, is a rise in avoidable medical errors, the cause of perhaps 200,000 deaths a year.

Concerned about
the role of bullying in medical errors, the Joint Commission, the
primary accrediting body for American health care organisations, has
warned of a distressing decline in trust among hospital employees and,
with it, a decline in the quality of medical outcomes.

What can be done
to counter hospital bullying? For one thing, hospitals should adopt
standards of professional behavior and apply them uniformly, from the
housekeepers to nurses to the president of the hospital. And nurses and
other employees need to know they can report incidents confidentially.

Offending
parties, whether doctors or nurses, would be required to undergo
civility training, and particularly intransigent doctors might even
have their hospital privileges — that is, their right to admit patients
— revoked.

But to be truly
effective, such change can’t be simply imposed bureaucratically. It has
to start at the top. Because hospitals tend to be extremely
hierarchical, even well meaning doctors tend to respond much better to
suggestions and criticisms from people they consider their equals or
superiors. I’ve noticed that doctors otherwise prone to bullying will
tend to become models of civility when other doctors are around.

In other words,
alongside uniform, well-enforced rules, doctors themselves need to set
a new tone in the hospital corridors, policing their colleagues and
letting new doctors know what kind of behavior is expected of them.

This shouldn’t be
hard: Most doctors are kind, well-intentioned professionals, and I
rarely have a problem talking openly with them. But unless we can
change the overall tone of the workplace, doctors like the one who
insulted me in front of my patient will continue to act with impunity.

I wish I could
say otherwise, but after being publicly slapped down, I will think
twice before speaking up around him again. Whether that was his
intention, or whether he was just being thoughtlessly callous, it’s
definitely not in my patients’ best interest.

(Theresa Brown,
an oncology nurse, is a contributor to The Times’ Well blog and the
author of “Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything
in Between.”)

© 2011 The New York Times

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FOOD MATTERS: Big fat discourse

FOOD MATTERS: Big fat discourse

The first time I
read that taking a tablespoon of coconut oil in the morning, and
another in the evening will help you lose weight, I did a double take.
Many truths about food still take me by surprise because I realise I’ve
been indoctrinated into so many contradictions about what I eat. The
oils in my cupboard aptly reflect my confusion. I have a keg of corn
oil that I use to sauté potatoes and fry plantains. I have some canola
oil that I sometimes stir fry vegetables and fry rice in. I have some
olive oil in a beautiful rectangular bottle that I am pretty sure is no
virgin. There’s a cloudy greenish Lebanese version of olive oil that
somehow feels more authentic, but you just never know.

I have coconut oil
from my secret West African country source that is the real McCoy;
dirty, yellow, explosively aromatic and beautifully flavoured. Last but
not least is my 50-litre jerry can of palm oil from Ikom: foggy dusty
orange in the face, not red, with a mild smooth flavour and no sediment
whatsoever.

Anyone who wants to
test my generosity can come and ask for some palm oil. My answer will
be an unflinching no. On the other hand, I wish someone would come and
ask for some canola and corn oil so that my conscience and cupboard
will be free of these refined, bleached overrated containers of toxins.
I believe I bought them under a strong misconception that they were the
best oils to eat. For about eight months, I have eaten mostly palm oil
that constitutes the base for my ogbono and okro soups. And I have
anxiously watched for the weight gain that palm oil is rumoured to
cause. I haven’t yet felt that uncomfortable prodding of the waistline
of my jeans. I am still waiting.

In the interim, I
have read that virgin coconut oil and palm oil are two of the best oils
to eat. Virgin coconut oil can be heated up to 170 degrees and not
oxidize; this in layman’s terms means it doesn’t turn into a form that
harms the body. Likewise palm oil can be heated up to high temperatures
without its chemical properties adversely changing. If there is
something nutritionists worth their salt agree on, it is that the body
needs fat, but of the right kind. Never mind those supermarket brands
touting “No Fat” this and that. The right kinds are those as naturally
extracted as possible keeping their most natural forms. When these oils
are ingested they actually help the body to burn the bad kinds off.

Virgin, unrefined
coconut oil has innumerable benefits. A large percentage of its
saturated fats are a special kind called MCTs that do not require the
liver and gall bladder to be digested; this means instant energy and
less toll on the liver. Half of the saturated fats in palm oil are made
up of palmitic acid that supplies energy, is easy to digest and does
not cause a rise in blood sugar or insulin. The medium chain fatty
acids of coconut oil lower cholesterol, improve diabetic conditions and
reduce the risk of heart disease. They also help us (wonder of wonders)
to lose weight.

Coconut oil
contains high levels of immune enhancing lauric acid, which is also
found in breast milk. Lauric acid has been proven to be antimicrobial
and antiviral, boosting the immune system. The work of biologist Mary G
Enig is seminal as regards coconut oil. Enig claims that the body uses
an ingredient in the oil to make a disease fighting substance called
monolaurin.

Our beloved palm
oil is rich in beta carotene, and Vitamin E antioxidants. It supposedly
contains a healthy balance of all kinds of fats in a combination
similar to that of fat tissue in the bodies of most people on an
ordinary diet. It is naturally resistant to rancidity, does not contain
toxic trans-fatty acids contained in refined hydrogenated oils and has
a comparatively higher content of antioxidant nutrients that protect
the body against cellular aging, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s
disease. Its Vitamin E content is said to prevent against heart disease
and strokes, as well as lowering cholesterol.

On the other side
of the fence are reports generated by the likes of the United States
Center for Science in the Public Interest that claim that palm oil
promotes heart disease because of its high content of saturated fats.

My research
continues. I hope no one takes this as license to drown some bokoto,
abodi, shaki, roundabout and goat meat in palm oil soup, accompany it
with semovita and a bottle of coke and claim that Yemisi Ogbe said palm
oil is good for you!

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POINT BLANK: Will Nigeria ever stop cheating?

POINT BLANK: Will Nigeria ever stop cheating?

Baron Pierre De
Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, would have been laughed
to scorn were he alive in present day Nigeria.

Coubertin’s ethos
emanates from a purist’s conscience, one acutely aware that triumphs in
sport are pyrrhic, if not built with the fundamental blocks of
integrity and diligence.

His honourable
view, that “the important thing in life is not the victory but the
contest”, does not resonate in the consciousness of our sports
administrators. If it did, they would know that we, as a country,
should bury our heads in shame and have nothing to celebrate over
“winning” the African Youth Championship in South Africa.

Our “victory”, on
May 1st in Johannesburg, is a tragic testimony to our persistence in
folly, as the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and Taoheed Adedoja,
the sports minister, hosted a lavish gala for the Flying Eagles that
“won” the championship with over aged players.

Two years have not
even passed since the Golden Eaglets fraudulently earned a silver medal
at the 2009 U-17 World Cup, with the Nigerian Football Federation
knowingly including two twenty something year olds – Fortune Chukwudi
and Stanley Okoro – in that squad.

Adokiye Amiesimaka,
an elder friend and learned colleague, presented incontrovertible
evidence to the country proving this. And, unsurprisingly, it has not
been challenged to this day.

His revelation,
made whilst that tournament was on, as I functioned as a member of the
official FIFA delegation, stirred the hornet’s nest, as the NFF
unleashed their rabid attack dogs on Amiesimaka.

“How can a sane person write something like that at this time?” asked Taiwo Ogunjobi.

It is ironic that
Ogunjobi, one of Amiesimaka’s detractors at the time, whilst a board
member of the NFF in 2009, is the one squirming under a criminal
indictment in a Federal High Court that could see him end up in jail.

In contrast,
Amiesimaka, a 1980 African Cup of Nations winner, served Nigeria with
distinction, dignity and honour. And the man certainly has cojones. He
is not shirking away from the onerous task of reminding us that
Nigerian football’s marriage to falsehood continues, making prescient
remarks about the current Flying Eagles class.

“Stanley Okoro, for
instance, has no business in that team. He cannot be anything less than
33 or 34 (and yes, he is the same player that was in the 2009 U-17
team!).”

“Olarenwaju Kayode
was my player in the Sharks feeder team in 2002, and played alongside
Fortune Chukwudi, so he cannot be less than 29 or 30…”

“Abdul Ajagun was
one of the highest goal scorers in the league. He was in Command
Secondary School in Kaduna and dropped out of school, in SS2, in the
1990s, and so cannot be U-20,” Amiesimaka points out.

A culture of silence

Six years ago,
whilst still a BBC journalist, I had documentary evidence, derived from
two different passports, that Obinna Nsofor, currently on loan with
English Premiership side West Ham, falsified his age whilst playing for
Nigeria at the 2005 African World Youth Championship in Benin.

Privately
confronting Ibrahim Galadima, the erstwhile Nigeria FA chairman, with
the evidence, he ordered – and ensured – that the player be dropped
from the team that went on to win a silver medal at the 2005 World
Youth Championship in the Netherlands. It was a rare moment when truth
prevailed.

Rather than engage
in hard graft and create teams from the depth of talent available in
Nigeria’s secondary schools – the only place where you can find players
genuinely within the U-17 and U-20 age bracket – national coaches
regularly pick ‘teenagers’ playing league football, when it is a
rarity, even in the most advanced football nations, for a 16 year-old
to be playing against seasoned pros!

The euphoria – and
the spoils – of victory, has seduced Nigerian officials into becoming
complicit in a poisonous, insidious culture of cheating, which steals
the opportunities of genuine teenagers, with the talent to make a
successful career out of football and build a great future for Nigeria.

Our culture of
silence or, at best, inaudible discontent on age cheating, which is
eating away at the fabric of Nigerian football, does us a terrible
disservice.

It is time for those who really care about our game to stand up and be counted.

As Usman Dan Fodio, the 19th century Islamic scholar succinctly
pointed out, “conscience is an open wound and only truth can heal it.”

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PERSONAL FINANCE: Don’t miss out on opportunities in the stock market

PERSONAL FINANCE: Don’t miss out on opportunities in the stock market

Far too many people
are still sitting on the sidelines and are hesitant about investing in
the stock market. Because of their strong aversion to risk and the fear
of loss, they are watching opportunities pass them by. The stock market
can seem intimidating for the new investor and for those who have had a
bad experience in the past; but it needn’t be. Here are a few tips as
you consider investing:

Set yourself clear goals

Before you put any
money down at all, set yourself clear goals. These may include funding
your children’s education, making a down payment on your new home or
saving for your retirement. The best way to navigate the investment
environment is to have set goals in place and a clear plan on how to
achieve them. If you have set yourself clear goals, your focus will
largely be on accomplishing them and your plan will provide you with
direction on how best to invest your money. Investing is a journey
towards achieving your goals.

Build your knowledge

One of the best
investments you can make in yourself is to take the time and trouble to
improve your knowledge of investing. There is a plethora of information
and research by professional analysts and experts, which will be a good
guide. Investment seminars are also available that can develop you and
point you in the right direction. Resolve to take some time to educate
yourself. You will be surprised to see how much you can learn in a year.

How much risk can you take?

How much risk can
you endure without staying awake at night? Sometimes you do need nerves
of steel to sit tight when the market dips sharply. It is important to
be aware of your attitude to risk and that stock market investing comes
with risk. Stock market investments are not guaranteed. This means that
although you are likely to make money over the long term, you can lose
your investment.

If you can’t bear
to take much risk and would be devastated by any loss, it is best for
you to put only a small portion of your investible funds in the stock
market and the balance in money market investments.

Invest for the long term

How much money can
you really afford to put away for say five years and beyond? When you
think of investing in the stock market, adopt a long-term strategy
rather than looking to make a quick profit. Avoid investing more than
you can comfortably afford to be without during your time horizon.
Historically, stocks have generally outperformed other investment
classes over the long term. However, in the short term, the market can
be unpredictable and carry a greater risk of loss.

Diversify

“Don’t put all your
eggs in one basket!” Don’t put all your money in one stock and don’t
invest in stocks alone. When it comes to buying shares, diversification
is essential. Instead of investing all your money in just one or two
companies, its best to diversify by buying shares in different
companies and sectors.

Get professional Help

Most of us do not
have the time or expertise to make sound investment choices without the
help of a professional. Professionals have the expertise and an
enormous amount of information with which they can make well-informed
decisions and guide you appropriately.

Don’t jump on the bandwagon

When you make an
investment, you should know your reasons for doing so. Relying upon
every rumour or tit bit from your friend or neighbour is tantamount to
gambling.

Invest regularly

Allocate a part of
your investments in a systematic investment plan. Instead of trying to
time the market, invest on a regular basis say monthly, or quarterly in
an appropriate vehicle, and even when your finances are stretched.

Invest in Mutual Funds

If you are new to
investing or don’t have that much money to invest, a mutual fund may be
the most convenient way to invest. A mutual fund pools investor’s funds
and manages them in stocks, bonds, money market instruments, etc. The
benefits of mutual fund ownership include the wide variety of
investment types to choose from, having a diversified portfolio of
stocks, bonds and cash, and having access to professional management,
usually the prerogative of substantial investors.

Buy low-sell high

This seems so
obvious but many investors often do the exact opposite! They jump on
the bandwagon and invest when the market is already rallying. Once it
reverses, they panic and sell. If anything, this should be considered
an opportunity to invest in strong companies at bargain prices. A
market decline is not the time to panic and sell, but rather to take
advantage of the lower prices.

Be realistic about
your expectations of the stock market. If you set reasonable long-term
profit expectations for your investments, you will be more accepting of
the inevitable periods of volatility. If you stay the course and
continue to build upon the foundations of a sound investment strategy,
you can come closer to your financial goals. Depending upon your
particular circumstance, your age and time frame and your overall
financial plan, do consider putting at least some portion of your money
in the capital market; it still offers the best prospect of real long
term growth.

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DEEPENING DEMOCRACY: Elections and political futures in West Africa

DEEPENING DEMOCRACY: Elections and political futures in West Africa

In the 80s and
early 90s, authoritarianism and militarism in West Africa led to
serious political crisis and civil war. The restoration of democracy in
the region in the 90s, however, led to a reduction of tensions and the
return of political stability. The tide seems to be changing over the
past decade as the restoration of electoral democracy is today
generating or reviving structural tensions and political instability in
the region.

One element of the
return to democracy crisis is the re-emergence of the old habit of
authoritarian ruling incumbents or their families simply refusing to
leave power as and when due. When Gnasingbe Eyadema of Togo died in
2005, his son simply took over in total disregard of the Constitution
and it took enormous pressure and threats by ECOWAS under the
leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo and Mamdou Tandja to force him to step
down and organise elections.

Mr Obasanjo himself
nearly precipitated a major political crisis in Nigeria in 2006 when he
tried to change the Constitution so that he would not have to step down
after his two terms in office. In Niger, President Tandja refused to
step down in 2010 when he finished his two terms, precipitating a major
political upheaval, and was finally forcibly removed from office
through a coup d’état.

At the heart of the
rising tensions provoked by elections is the unwillingness of ruling
cabals to cede power democratically. This is best expressed by the
12-year-old crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. In December 1999, Robert Guei
carried out a coup because he was afraid that Muslim northerners would
win the elections programmed to hold in 2000. The greatest danger to
Cote d’Ivoire, he argued, was that Alassane Outtara might win the
elections, so he banned him from the contest and declared that he would
run as military head of state.

General Guei
organised the 2000 elections without Outtara and to his shock
discovered that it was Laurent Gbagbo, not him, that was winning. He
tried to rig, it was too late; Gbagbo’s party, the FPI, were in the
streets protesting, and in the free-for-all riots, Guei was
assassinated and Gbagbo emerged as president. He took over Guei’s
policy that Muslims and northerners must never be allowed to rule in
Cote d’Ivoire. The result was civil war in 2002 when northern Muslims
in the country declared war and the country was split into two,
following the outbreak of hostilities. When Laurent Gbagbo’s term in
office ended in 2005, he too refused to organise elections on the same
grounds as General Guei — that Alassane Outtara might win. He delayed
the elections for five years, ruling without an electoral mandate until
he was forced to hold elections in 2010 through international pressure.

To confirm his
worst fears, Alassane Outtara did win the 2010 elections and he refused
to hand over power until war returned to the country and a combination
of troops from the northern patriotic forces, the French army and the
United Nations forces marched into Abidjan and arrested him in his
bunker. That process consumed thousands of innocent lives.

The surprising case
in which elections have not led to political crisis is Guinea. Guinea
never knew free and fair elections between 1958 and 2010. The 2010
elections in the country was a direct contest between the rich and
powerful Fulani elite under the leadership of Cellou Dalen who had been
excluded from power since 1958. The Fulani thought that 2010 was their
year; they gave 100 percent of their votes to Dalen who got 43 percent
in the first round, double the percentage of the second person. They
were confident; they needed less than 7 percent more in the second
round to win.

In the second round
however, all the minority ethnic groups ganged up to support the
historic opposition figure and Malinke power broker, Alpha Conde, who
won with 52 percent. The ethnic minorities felt the Fulani had economic
power and adding political power would make them too dominant. Rather
than complain about 50 years of oppression and marginalisation during
which about 50,000 Fulani leaders and cadres had been killed by the two
bloodthirsty dictators — Sekou Toure and Lansana Conte — Dalen, the
Fulani leader congratulated Alpha Conde for his victory and announced
that he would concentrate on preparing for the 2014 elections. Thanks
to his statesmanship, the transition was smooth.

The April 2011 Nigerian elections in which Goodluck Jonathan, a
southern minority Christian defeated a northern Muslim, Mohammadu
Buhari, led to riots and the massacre of hundreds of people,
reminiscent of the 1966 killings that led to the three-year civil war
in which one million people lost their lives. The return of very strong
ethno-religious and regional tensions related to electoral outcomes is
the most serious threat to West Africa’s political stability. We all
have a responsibility to promote political cohesion and avoid fanning
the embers of hate and division. We must be conscious that religious
insecurity is particularly insidious and dangerous because it makes
people feel threatened. Nigeria and indeed West Africa must remain
steadfast on the path of deepening democracy and maintaining peace.

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Technology comes to town

Technology comes to town

For a few days last week, some of our country’s
most engaged, cutting edge – mostly young – technology entrepreneurs,
advocates and innovators were gathered in one location in Lagos’s
Victoria Island for what some would call a long overdue meeting of
minds. Themed G-Nigeria, about a thousand – organisers say – young
Nigerians bent over laptops and whatever new technology you can lay
your hands on these days, sharing ideas and resources about ideas,
trends and possibilities.

Of course, Nigeria didn’t need Google to open our
eyes to the abundance of human resources available when it comes to
technology, or more specifically Information Technology. We are
surrounded by men and women who have been able to manipulate these
various technologies as they have emerged – whether for good of society
or simply to deprive unsuspecting foreigners of hard earned money.

In the past few years, thanks to the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission as well as a slew of public spirited
initiatives, both the incidence and prominence of those kinds of
activities have been on the decline. Instead, Nigerians have been
developing applications, applying software or finding ways of
integrating the different technologies into trends and lifestyles. New
Media companies, web development and management firms, and online
portals have flourished over the past half a decade. The fact that most
of the activity around the media, entertainment and fashion is driven
by technology is testament to this.

The tragedy has been that most of this growth has
happened in spite of lack of support or, at the least, vision. Many of
these entrepreneurs and innovators have found themselves working alone,
without any kind of private or public sector driven institutional
support.

Many Nigerian corporate organisations, even those
who pretend to a bias for technology or to being globally competitive
in terms of cutting edge technology, have been unable to provide any
kind of strategic support to drive expansion or build capacity. As
always, not a lot of them have been ready to take a risk on an emerging
industry or emerging entrepreneurs.

It is also a necessary, even if fruitless,
exercise to point a finger at a government that has many times
acknowledged, verbally, the potential and possibilities of this
catchment, but has yet to – despite a ministry dedicated to this at the
federal level and many copycat agencies and arms at the state levels –
evolve policy that will take advantage of this passion, channel it and
ensure sustenance.

For a country that needs to channel all its
potential in order to be competitive in a world that is now largely
driven by and towards technology, this is a tragedy by itself.

Organisations like Google have managed to make the
point that there is a critical mass of driven and equipped Nigerians –
young and old – with the capacity to drive our economy upwards with
technology. The good news is that these young people can take credit
for having led where their supposed leaders failed to. Nigerians
followed and eventually the leaders had to. Well, at least, they
finally caught up.

Over the next year or so, our country is on the
edge of technological explosion, bolstered by everything from
investments by multinationals like Google to the much-awaited Main-One
cable. These will boost capacity such as the nation has yet to see.

It’s now time for the authorities to take the
responsibility. Nigeria can be a technology hub, not just leading
within the continent, but also competing properly on the global stage.
There’s no longer any excuse to lag behind.

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ART OF THE MATTER:A competition without integrity

ART OF THE MATTER:A competition without integrity

“Dear Colleagues,
this is a solidarity call to all members to shun the LBHF painting
competition as the organisers are unprofessional and disrespectful to
artists.” That was a snippet of fury from the Lagos State chapter of
the Society of Nigerian Artists to withdraw the entirety of its members
handpicked to participate in the second edition of the much
talked-about Lagos Black Heritage Festival painting competition,
organised on behalf of the Lagos State government by Foluke Michael, a
principal partner of the Caterina de’ Medici of Africa, which organised
a very successful maiden edition last year.

This call,
according to Oliver Enwonwu, chair of SNA Lagos, became the last option
as the competition was found to be fraught with “insincerity and total
disregard to professionalism.” That the participating artists, who are
meant to be key factors in the competition, were not respected by Ms
Michael and her team, easily triggered a wave of raging fury from the
artists and their professional association.

From the start,
all processes preparatory to the organisation of the competition were
set on a wrong footing. The requirements and attached incentives also
run at variance with those of last year’s competition. Competitions of
international standard, after which the LBHF painting competition is
fashioned, are often endowed with adequate publicity that provides a
level playing field to all contestants and participants. All of that
happened last year when the preliminary panelists finally shortlisted
50 participants from over 200 entries. It was the biggest participation
of professional artists in a competition in Nigeria. Out of 50
shortlisted candidates, only 30 were selected for the competition. This
year, instead of publicising the competition to attract many interested
artists, the remaining 20 candidates dropped last year were secretly
handpicked to become competitors!

A letter sent via
internet to each artist and signed by one Kayode Olorunsola reads in
part: “The selection procedure was based on your performance during the
last year’s edition of the LBHF Painting competition selection’s
process.” The third paragraph reads: “The painting competition takes a
new, experimental format, with 20 artists inevitably interpreting – or
maybe none at all – themes that will emerge from the symposium:
ANIMATING HERITAGE.”

Disrespectful

Due to the
emergency nature of the letter, only 14 of the invited 20 candidates
could show up at the Vintage Hotel, Lekki, where they were camped for
the competition. According to most of the participants, they waited in
vain for adequate information on the competition vis-à-vis the
procedure and the prize money. Ms Michael, who had the information, was
not willing to meet the artists; nor could her representatives handle
the situation other than taking the participants out for feeding at
eateries.

The artists
insisted on meeting with Ms Michael, but their request was rebuffed; so
they decided to reach out to the chair of their professional body, Mr
Enwonwu, who immediately sought to iron out issues with the organisers.
The response he got from Ms Michaels, according to him, wasn’t pleasant
to the ear. “That was disrespectful to us and our noble profession,” Mr
Enwonwu fumed.

Ghetto prize

Meanwhile, unknown
to the organisers, some of the artists had logged on to the
competition’s official website where they discovered, to their chagrin,
that the prize money, which they consider “extremely ridiculous,” had
just been posted online. This was coming more than 24 hours after they
had all resumed camp. The prize money was the straw that broke the
camel’s back, and one can only understand better if compared with what
obtained last year. At least there were cash prizes for five winners
last year, in the following order: 1st prize – $20,000, 2nd prize –
$15,000, 3rd prize – $10,000, 4th prize – $7,500, 5th prize – $5,000.
The cash prizes, which attracted such crowded participation last year,
was drastically reduced to scratch this year. It wasn’t surprising that
the organisers had decided to keep it secret until the artists had
resumed camp and discovered it on their own.

For this year’s
cash prizes, check this out: 1st prize – $2,500, 2nd prize – $1,500,
3rd prize – $1,000. While the organisers believed the artists should
appreciate their participation outside of the prize money, the artists,
who are all professionals, believed otherwise. To them, the prize money
was ridiculous as one of their paintings would be worth more than the
1st prize money. “Why can’t I stay in my studio, produce a painting of
the same size and get it sold instead of subjecting myself to this
modern day slavery and monumental fraud?” one of them quipped. The
raging disagreement resulted in the ejection of the artists from their
hotel rooms, while the organisers sought alternative means of carrying
on with the competition.

SNA bites back

This, among other
degenerating issues arising from the “ridiculous” prize money,
compelled SNA Lagos to withdraw its members, and this was communicated
to the media. The press release, signed by the chapter’s public
relations officer, Ola Balogun, reads: “The Society of Nigerian
Artists, Lagos, wishes to express its displeasure with the organisers
of the art competition of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival over their
unprofessionalism and the shoddy treatment of artists, including their
ejection from the hotel accommodation provided for the duration of the
competition, over their agitation for professional management.”

He further states
three reasons for the society’s action: “One, entries for a competition
of this nature should be announced publicly and participants should not
be hand selected; two, criteria and prize money should also be
advertised beforehand; three, non-recourse to the registered
professional body for visual artists in Nigeria.” The release
concludes, “While applauding the efforts of the organisers to promote
the visual arts in Nigeria, we insist on professionalism and the fair
and proper treatment of artists.”

If the competition
had been thrown open and the prize money announced in earnest, there
could have been a different level of participation from interested
artists who may not necessarily be professionals like those
specifically invited. In Nigeria, art competitions are organised with
the notion that the prize money does not matter. Most of the organisers
erroneously regard competitions as a way of helping the artist. They
never see the point of appreciating and rewarding creativity and
originality. It is a similar case with some art patrons who believe the
only reason they buy artwork is to help the artist – as if the art
works in question do not command any value.

Not in Soyinka’s name

Last year’s maiden
competition, greatly influenced by the editions annually organised by
the Caterina de’ Medici of Italy, was roundly applauded. The prize
money had attracted many big names to participate, with many of them
travelling in from outside Lagos. It also resulted in the high quality
of works that won prizes, a few hiccups notwithstanding.

This year, the
organisers tried to blackmail the artists by constantly using the name
of Wole Soyinka, who was instrumental to the grand success of 2010.
Unknown to them, the artists had made their findings and had discovered
that the globally-acclaimed professor, known for his integrity and
credibility, had advised the organisers not to hold the competition
this year, especially due to lack of funds. The reason was corroborated
by Ms Michaels: most of the sponsors are only willing to play ball next
year.

The organisers may look inward and do a better job next year,
bearing in mind that when the integrity of the Nigerian artist is
dragged in the mud, ire is also drawn in the process.

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FASHION BLOG: Film’s fashionable reach?

FASHION BLOG: Film’s fashionable reach?

Movies have long played an important role
in setting new fashion trends, while also serving as inspiration to
legions of designers. However it’s very rare to find real fashion in
the movies or, more specifically, to see current films that create much
of an impact on the world of style.

A generation ago, movies had an influence
so powerful, they drove designers and garment makers to rush knockoffs
into production. As recently as the 1970s and ’80s, stores and catwalks
swarmed with adaptations, mostly literal, of Hollywood’s greatest
wardrobe hits.

Locally speaking, I would like to say that
Nollywood classics like ‘Living in Bondage’ and ‘Igodo’ have had an
impact on the fashion revolution even in Nigeria but sadly, I can’t.
Our movies haven’t gotten to that extent or maybe because there is more
to be concerned with in the making a Nollywood movie than ‘mere’
fashion. Or maybe it’s because, like a lot of other sectors, we are so
far behind that there really is no need to catch up.

Having said that, Nigerian celebrities
have taken a cue from foreign films and film stars. It is not uncommon
to spot similar silhouettes and shoes from movies like ‘Sex and the
City’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ on Nigerian screens. Nigerian
starlets and socialites are doing more than just storming the red
carpet at every Lagos event, they are imitating fashion directly from
their TV screens, re-inventing it and working it just as well as their
foreign counterparts. These individuals can definitely hold their own
next to an international celebrity when it comes to style.

To further illustrate my point, I took the
liberty to research the internet and have compiled a list of movies
that I strongly feel have revolutionised the face of fashion.

10. The Wild One (1954)

Marlon Brando’s iconic look of cuffed
jeans, leather cap and that ever-masculine black motorcycle jacket
created a look so cool, generations later everyone is still rocking
them in different shades, colours and sizes.

9. Annie Hall (1977)

Diane Keaton in ‘Annie Hall’ received
cachet mostly because of her style. Ralph Lauren helped create Keaton’s
signature look of cheeky, chic menswear. Her hat, man’s tie, shirt,
waistcoat and wide-leg trousers appeared elegant yet casually thrown
on. The look became a ‘70s sensation as women opted for
masculine/feminine style, keeping menswear in vogue to date.

8. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

Every woman had thought about it, but it
was Madonna who made the thought a reality. Madonna’s wardrobe included
black dresses paired with leggings, men’s pants with exposed lacy bras.
rolled-down, rhinestone boots and men’s boxers. She was always
accessorised with beads, crosses, bracelets and all that
bleached-blonde hair. Madonna was so uber-sexy and bold, that her looks
translated to mega-watts of influence.

7. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Disco was already a phenomenon by the time
‘Saturday Night Fever’ arrived, but the megahit propelled its style
into the mainstream. Hip-swaying John Travolta’s blow-dried hair,
tight, shiny polyester duds, platform shoes and that famous white suit
created enough of a sensation for everyone to start take disco lessons.

6. Blow-Up (1966)

Its representation of London was a perfect
foundation for the mod fashion that would later take the world by
storm. The mod, Mary Quant-looking duds favoured by London’s youth were
donned by all the film’s characters, from the top model to distressed
heroines and everyone in between. Miniskirts, go-go boots, A-line
dresses, colourful or patterned tights and knitwear were all fused into
the movie, creating a mod masterpiece.

5. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Uma Thurman’s style in pulp fiction was so
simple, she was the definition of hip-simplicity. Her black pants,
crisp white shirt and blunt, banged black hair (a china doll wig)
became a trend from 1994 onwards. You can still open up a fashion
magazine and find a spread on the crisp white shirt or walk into any
wig store to purchase that exact same hair style.

4. And God Created Woman (1957)

In an era of perfected girdle-free blouses
and tight skirts, Brigitte Bardot’s nubile nymphet sported long,
unkempt hair and flaunted her bikini-induced sex appeal, making many
women develop an instant desire to look like her. Swimwear
manufacturers began to market bikinis for the sun-loving American woman
because of the film’s popularity. To think that, six years earlier,
they were banned from the Miss World contest!

3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The fabulous black suits worn by the
fast-talking, amoral gangsters became an instant hit. The basic black,
skinny tie with white shirt and sunglasses worn by all the Mr Colours
were so popular that suddenly suits became a sign of major cool.

2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1938)

When it comes to Audrey Hepburn’s style,
it’s almost hard to pinpoint a specific movie because she was so
defiantly iconic. So revolutionary was the Belgian-born Hepburn, that
decades after, the LBD, pencil skirt and Capri pants are still staples
in the wardrobe of fashionistas the world over. That scene where she
was looking through the show glass of Tiffany & Co in her little
black dress is simply one of the most iconic fashion moments of all
time.

1. Sex and the City (1994, 2008 & 2010)

This movie is a modern example of how
movies have had a tremendous influence on our fashion choices. From
stilettos to trench coats and ballerina skirts, the women of ‘Sex and
the City’ have unquestionably made their mark on the world of fashion.

In my opinion, ‘Sex and the City’ appears
to be the last of its kind in terms of fashion influence from this
generation onwards. Some people argue that the reason the movie was so
influential is because of the weight it pulled in the ‘90s with the
television series; fans were expectant of its influence even before the
movie was released.

Sadly, most movies made in the past few
years are by no means fashion-revolutionary. Dare one hope that there
will soon be a turn-around of some sort? After all, film and fashion
once enjoyed a relationship so intertwined as to border on incestuous.
Today, that statement scarcely registers. Maybe it’s because every
style wearable has already been invented, so-to-speak. Whatever the
case may be, clearly, the long and fabulous love affair has lost its
sparkle.

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Untitled

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RED CARD: Cheating as national pastime

RED CARD: Cheating as national pastime

I
have asked this question several times in this column and I ask it
again: are we a nation that is inured to cheating? Are we irretrievably
sold on the idea that the best approach is the short cut route?

These questions
have been prompted by recent developments on our sporting scene, one of
which is our recent triumph at the Africa Youth Championship, which
ended recently in South Africa.

For a lot of
Nigerian football fans, slaying the Camerounian bogey felt even better
than lifting the trophy itself. Expectedly, officials of the Nigerian
Football Federation (NFF), have been beside themselves with excitement
engaging freely in backslapping and chest thumping.

But as we have come
to know with almost everything that has to do with our participation in
international youth football competitions, the victory in South Africa
is decidedly pyrrhic. It has come at the cost of national honour and
integrity.

For as we gloat
over our triumph, the foul smell of corruption pollutes the firmament
and dogs our every step. The use of players who are clearly over the
age limit in prosecuting a tournament, for which lads are supposed to
participate, certainly diminishes us.

For the second time
in two years, Adokiye Amiesimaka, the respected former commissioner for
justice in Rivers State and a former member of the Super Eagles, has
drawn attention to the use of players clearly too old for the teams in
which they have been fielded. In 2009 he pointed out to us the folly in
fielding Fortune Chukwudi, a player he said was 18 years old, seven
years earlier, in the Golden Eaglets squad.

This time around,
he has picked on Kayode Olanrewaju pointing out that the player was in
the same Sharks feeder team with Chukwudi nine years ago.

What has been the
reaction of the NFF and the larger Nigerian society to the disclosure?
Indifference. While the football federation has pretended nothing has
happened, one of its senior officials is alleged by a journalist to
have threatened his life for daring to draw attention to the fact there
are indeed more players in current Flying Eagles squad over the
prescribed 20 years age limit.

Now, before anyone
thinks that this practice is the sole preserve of the NFF, he or she
would do well to consider recent developments in the Athletics
federation of Nigeria (AFN). This week in Botswana Nigeria will be
participating in the African Junior Athletics Championships. The team
has been chosen and visas obtained. Sadly, we are confronted yet again
with allegations of use of overage athletes.

The danger of shortcuts

Last week, Olajide
Fashikun, one of Nigeria’s leading investigative journalists wrote that
some of the athletes in the Nigerian contingent are actually older than
they are making out:

“Nigeria, through
her athletics federation, has perfected a massive but criminally
fraudulent measure to go the next African athletics championships
holding in Botswana to cheat again.

“The latest is the
massive importation of 30 year olds to participate in championships for
17 year olds. In this team, we have a quarter miler whose personal best
by the records of the AFN is a 48 seconder! Can a 16 year old return
such? Haba AFN! One of your juniors was in the world universities games
in 2005 and in 2011 is a junior. This is obviously senseless cheating.
I have the three Nigerian passports of this single athlete all changed
at the AFN’s instance.”

If this revelation
does not disturb us then something is fundamentally wrong with our
values. No society survives or gets ahead through cheating. If anything
shortcuts, rather than help us along on the path of progress, actually
distract and makes us lazy.

For truly, it is
laziness that has continued to feed the desire of our sports officials
to field overage athletes in age grade competitions because it is so
much easier for them to do so than engage in the mental exercise of
devising programmes that would identify and groom youngsters to become
the elite athletes of the future who can win laurels for Nigeria.

No nation follows this path and succeeds and Nigeria will not be
different. True greatness in sports cannot be attained via the back
door. The potential to succeed exists; the resources to actualise it
are overabundant. What are lacking are integrity, commitment and plain
commonsense.

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