Notes on George Orwell

June 28, 2017

I spent much of the long weekend recovering from my trip to the village (blog post coming shortly) and reading George Orwell. Thank you to BrainPickings who shared several delightful posts on Orwell’s birthday a couple days ago. Just what I needed to end my quarterly holiday.

His writing put me to mind of long nights in my village as a child reading Oliver Twist, Mill on the Floss and Agatha Christie mysteries. Like theirs, his writing transported me to England, a country I came to love through books long before I ever went there. Despite a predominant mental image of England as wet and grey most of the time (I saw a picture of London when I was 16, the sun was shining and I couldn’t help asking “You mean the sun actually shines in London?”) it always felt cosy.

Orwell wrote an essay comparing American and English crime writing – ‘Raffles and Miss Blandish.’ Growing up in the village I must admit my literary image of America was mostly built up by James Hadley Chase and the same can be said for many of my peers. Who doesn’t remember ‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish’? If you are my age anyway.

Orwell calls James Hadley Chase’s writing ‘realism’ – “the doctrine that might is right.” I think that’s the world view dominant in Nigeria. We worship “ power and successful cruelty.” That is why in Nigeria a Buhari can win a Jonathan and an Obasanjo and a Babangida and even an Abacha can be hailed as hero’s.

Orwell wrote –

English books glorifying crime (modern crime, that  is–pirates and highwaymen are different) are very rare. Even a book like RAFFLES, as I have pointed out, is governed by powerful taboos, and  it is clearly understood that Raffles’s crimes must be expiated sooner or later. In America, both in life and fiction, the tendency to tolerate crime, even to admire the criminal so long as he is success, is very much more marked. It is, indeed, ultimately this attitude that has made it possible for crime to flourish upon so huge a scale.

It’s obvious we are more like the Yanks than the Brits in Nigeria. At least some of us. And then there IS a whole section that are very much like the Brits (all the way down to the hypocrisy.) So in Nigeria one could say the Yanks and the Brits are again at war, for the hearts and minds of the people of Nigeria. The final battle ground? Who will win?

Orwell himself is so old fashioned and so proper, a purist defending all those British values I read about – courtesy, good manners, restraint, honour – a stiff upper lip. His nostalgia for that bygone time oozes through to me as surely as Agatha Christie’s did. I was infected with that nostalgia and a love for that empire even though I have no experience of that time in the early 20th century before it crumbled. Or a political thought in my head.

Living in the village in south east Nigeria with no library, no plumbing and no electricity reading about life in turn of the century Britain, the British Empire seemed like a conquering civilising force just like the Roman Empire. And to be a Commonwealth citizen was like being a Roman citizen (that was before they spoiled it all by introducing visa and immigration restrictions.)

The innocence of youth. But I digress.

Orwell’s ‘1984’ was not one of the books I read.  The tamer ‘Animal Farm’ was on our reading list. Hard as it is to admit I read it for the first time this weekend. I kept seeing images from Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’ with the words. And when that wasn’t enough I started mentally illustrating the words with dark gothic Marvelesque pictures.

In ‘Raffles and Miss Blandish’ Orwell wrote:

The inter-connexion between sadism, masochism, success-worship, power-worship, nationalism, and totalitarianism is a huge subject whose edges have barely been scratched.

He definitely did more than just scratch the edges in ‘1984.’ O’Brien seems to sum up that inter-connexion. I wouldn’t be surprised if O’Brien isn’t Big Brother. Wait a minute. Is he?

Orwell doesn’t completely absolve English crime writing of sadism and power worship.

But it is sadism after the English fashion: that is to say, it is unconscious, there is not
overtly any sex in it, and it keeps within the bounds of the law. The  British public tolerates a harsh criminal law and gets a kick out of monstrously unfair murder trials: but still that is better, on any account, than tolerating or admiring crime. If one must worship a bully, it is better that he should be a policeman than a gangster.

So we are back to the comparison with Nigeria. In Nigeria our policemen ARE gangsta’s and it would seem the people would rather worship the real gansta’s so much so that they elevate them to elective office. And make the police worship them. How is that for an Alice in Wonderland hypothesis?

Who won? The Yanks or the Brits?

The Yanks and the Brits are allies anyway (like Oceania and Eurasia or maybe Oceania and Eastasia but it can all change, who knows.) The battle isn’t between the Yanks and the Brits, its between Nigerians.  More than 200 tribal and linguistic groups, just 5 or 6 large ones and everyone is struggling to enforce their truth as the only truth.

“Might is right” or “the end justifies the means” politics, that is what Nigeria has turned democracy into, even the Americans are copying us now. Orwell would have hated Trump’s regime but he would have hated the cold war between the left and the right even more I reckon. They have squared off in a classic good vs. evil battle.

The common people, on the whole, are still living in the world of absolute good and evil from which the intellectuals have long since escaped. But the popularity of NO ORCHIDS and the American books and magazines to which it is akin shows how rapidly the doctrine of ‘realism’ is gaining ground. The average man is not directly interested in politics, and when he reads, he wants the current struggles of the world to be translated into a simple story about individuals.

Orwell seems abandon intellectuals and join the ranks of he common man when he excoriates Salvador Dali and surrealism in another essay titled ‘Benefits of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali.’

What he clearly needs is diagnosis. The question is not so much WHAT he is as WHY he is like that. It ought not to be in doubt that his is a diseased intelligence, probably not much
altered by his alleged conversion, since genuine penitents, or people who have returned to sanity, do not flaunt their past vices in that  complacent way. He is a symptom of the world’s illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out WHY he exhibits that particular set of aberrations.

That gave me a good laugh. See shade.

Obscenity is a very  difficult question to discuss honestly. People are too frightened either  of seeming to be shocked or of seeming not to be shocked, to be able to  define the relationship between art and morals.

At least Orwell was honest in his revulsion at Dali. Just as he was honest in his praise of Gandhi. At least as honest as you can expect a hypocritical Englishman to be (his words, about English hypocrisy, not mine.)

“How clean a smell he has managed to leave behind” Orwell wrote in ‘Reflections of Gandhi’  even though he described much of Gandhi’s philosophy as inhuman and atavistic.

My favorite quote from this weekend reading –

Sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings.

It has freed me from the chains of sainthood. There are too many wannabe saints in Nigeria already. As an Igbo-Nigerian I can tell you that our hero’s and leaders are no saints. They are more like the licentious Roman gods than saints. Our hero’s, gods and leaders have flaws – like lust or temper or gluttony. That way we can relate to them. And avoid hypocrisy.

“People worship power in the form in which they are able to understand it” – Orwell.

Sometimes its hard to remember he wrote all this in the 1940’s. I swear.

I had to look up the dictionary definitions of realism and surrealism. It is the difference between things as they are and things as bizarre. Well, we live in pretty bizarre times right now and have to accept them as the times as they are. And deal with them. They are not opposites. Neither one is good or bad. Neither are Dali and Gandhi.

I’m also more a Dali than a Gandhi. And thanks to Orwell now I know that’s alright too.  I wonder why Orwell hated Dali so much? I wonder what he would make of me featuring Dali’s work in this blog post about him?

“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.”

Fortified and inspired I can go about being my awesome self – Lesley.

Carry on.

(Find a collection of Orwell’s work including ‘1984’ here.)

 

Soft Watch At The Moment Of First Explosion Salvador Dali

Person at the Window by Salvador Dali

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A Review of Oluremi Obasanjo’s Bitter Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo (From The Archives)

June 25, 2017

December 10, 2008 at 10:25am

OLUREMI OBASANJO: PORTRAIT OF A FEMINIST POSTER GIRL?

By Lesley Gene Agams

A privileged idyllic childhood, a precocious adolescence and a striving dogged socially conscious woman. That is the sense I get of Oluremi Obasanjo from her recently released book Bitter Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo. Although she often comes across as naïve, gullible and coarse there is no masking the raw ambition and sense of achievement lurking covertly like a cunning animal.

Bitter Sweet offers a rare insight into a young girl’s life in pre independence Nigeria. Her story of going off to Lagos with only a female cousin was a surprise, as was her sneaking away from an event in Ibadan to visit her beau’s house. Even more astonishing was her un-chaperoned trip to London to meet Obasanjo before they were even married. It’s rare to hear such honest accounts about young women of that era enjoying such freedom. To hear it told by the social matrons, back in 1950 all girls were on chaperoned lock down till their bride price was paid and rings on their fingers.

Oluremi’s story also offers important insight for the Nigerian women’s movement and victim’s activists all over the world. It provides a rare viewpoint into the psyches of a high profile domestic violence victim and her equally high profile abuser. The question ‘why do victims stay?’ is one of the most contentious in academic and legal literature on violence against women globally. There is no agreement as to the dynamics but there is a growing recognition that victims cannot always exercise agency and walk away. This is a rare portrait of a narcissist, his codependent and their traumatized and troubled offspring.

Here we have the unfiltered voice of a victim and an abuser known all over the world. This isn’t the transcript of a case study interview where the interviewer asks leading questions or a counselor offers culturally biased speculation about the motives behind an anonymous patient’s experience. We have a cultural and social context that provides incredibly rich information. A number of commentators have compared it to a Nollywood script but this is not fiction. Why did Oluremi stay? Why does she still call this man her husband and ‘the only man I have known’?

Her story is significant because of who she was married to, her experience with Obasanjo is the experience of millions of Nigerian women. Thanks to her book we may be able to bring attention to their stories and begin a rational discourse on violence against women and domestic violence, two issues that have failed to enrage the Nigerian public or engage the Nigerian media. Oluremi is just one of the lucky ones. Apollonia Ukpabio endured 25 years of escalating violence till her skull was cracked open with a machete. Miraculously she survived. Her husband is on trial for the attack. Why did she stay? She believed God and church wanted her to protect and defend her marriage no matter what. Others have died.

The challenges of being married to Nigerian elites are especially made obvious in her narrative. It’s the story that does not get told, the male entitlement, the female consent and often the mutual infidelity. It’s really difficult to complain when living a really privileged life in a really poor environment. I know many a Nigerian matron that felt Princess Diana should have put up and shut up. The ‘old school’ belief is that a woman should marry for economic security not love, and if it’s companionship you crave find it with the women and/or your children. The wisdom of the matrons for a woman thinking of leaving her husband is territorial– don’t be foolish, why leave your turf for some other woman to take over? Fight for your matrimonial haven and sanctuary. Oluremi had a lot to fight for.

For me one of the more disquieting revelations of this book is how powerful and rich men are manipulated to accept and expect exploitation through their sexual extravagance. According to Oluremi, Obasanjo’s aunt became one of his ‘pimps’ and weak minded male that he was “he abandoned his Lugard quarters for five days because he didn’t want a divorcee, who was even a mother of two. Later, he gave in and the woman had a child…” I know people like that, they will never go to see a powerful man without ‘an offering’, usually a young pretty girl. The most disgusting personal encounter I recall was a middle aged couple that brought their 15 year old daughter dressed like a hooker to see a certain big man they wanted a favor from. I was there. I’ve often wondered about the ‘powerful’ men that fall for that one.

All families are dysfunctional and some may seem more dysfunctional than others but it seems too much of a coincidence that Obasanjo’s narcissistic, high risk behavior and mood swings only emerged after the civil war. Could he have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder? This is not uncommon in soldiers, even Nigerian soldiers. I handled a divorce case a while back, the husband, an armed forces man, had just returned from an active mission and was exhibiting classic symptoms of PTSD. The administration couldn’t offer him any help. He refused to admit he had a problem, his wife did not know how to handle it, his marriage collapsed under the strain. He reacted pretty much the way Obasanjo did, contesting custody, refusing to pay child support and becoming increasingly abusive; contemporary Okonkwo figures, tormented, paranoid and insecure, things falling apart around them.

All that being said there is a lot that makes me uncomfortable about this book, it’s no master piece but its not meant to be. I found Oluremi’s total lack of self consciousness very disturbing, she seems to be saying of course I slapped that girl and of course I bit that woman and of course I made embarrassing scenes and even fought a truck full of soldiers, like it’s all normal. I found that eerie. The scene on page 66 where she attacks Mowo Sofowora, like a frenzied mother hen and then having fended off the interloper, clucks protectively around her chicks is totally dissonating and disturbing. All narrated like it’s totally normal, there is no moral debate as to the appropriateness of action. She is not the only female (or male) I know that considers her response to this sort of ‘provocation’ perfectly normal and unquestionably right. I find that frightening and sad.

Even more disturbing evidence of a venal, anachronistic world view was her calling Murtala’s ADC the day after she was informed of her child’s death and being morbidly counseled to see the incident as some sort of answer to her prayers to be back in Obasanjo’s house. Just access to this ‘big powerful man’ who happened to be the-father-of-her-children-who-he-had-custody of had become a goal. Her disappointment and resentment towards her sister in law who precipitated her hasty ouster five days later seemed to coldly over shadow her grief at losing a child. Her insecurity is overwhelming; she is willing to forgive Obasanjo the death of her child but not his sister. Her apparent devotion to him despite everything borders on an obsession. Is she a cold ruthless woman or the traumatized victim of a narcissist?

Then there was the bizarre description of their courtship, she presents herself as a passive and entitled recipient of Obasanjo’s courting. He wrote her letters, sent her books and gifts and eventually she said yes. Surely that’s not the whole story. What exactly did the shoeless son of a village drunk say to the spoilt railway master’s precocious daughter that convinced her that Obasanjo was worth waiting seven years for? It’s obvious he was a man on the fast track to power but Oluremi’s narrative while indicating that does not provide any insight into the motivation for any of his actions. Why did he want to study geology? Why did he change his mind for a military career? Is she absolving herself of all responsibility or did she really not know? Or is she just not telling? Loyal to the bitter end?

Whatever her motives for staying or for telling her story now Oluremi did not deserve the treatment she received from her husband. No man or woman deserves abuse and violence, and all women deserve the right to say to the man they married ‘I can’t live with you anymore’ and still be humanely treated with their children as Nigerian citizens protected by a constitution. We need to stop the abuse. We need to break the cycle of violence.

I have reaffirmed or learnt a number of things from reading this gripping account of lives interrupted;

1. There is an urgent need to review the Matrimonial Causes Act and extend its jurisdiction to women married under customary law; it is an archaic piece of legislation that offers little protection to women considering divorce or separation and their children. The customary law systems that the majorities of woman have access to in Nigeria are heavily biased against women and make seeking separation or divorce traumatic and humiliating.
2. We desperately need to introduce parenting skills to our education curricula. Children are often at greatest risk of long term harm and damage from their parent’s ignorance. Teaching children parenting skills is as important as teaching them to say no, zip up, life skills or whatever else we choose to call sex education. Teaching them religion is not enough.
3. The Nigerian armed forces need to increase their transition support for veterans returning from war, especially the psychological support they provide. Wars are dehumanizing and brutalizing, veterans and their family members need assistance re-integrating after prolonged exposure to the violence and brutality of armed conflict and barracks life.
4. Nigerian media need to learn how to write more sensitively about women and women’s issues. Most of media commentators including female commentators brushed aside her story and condemned her for telling it. Stark testimony to how such tragedies can play out to an inevitably sad outcome while hidden in plain view.

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You Are What You Eat III

June 11, 2017

Breakfast is usually coffee and a cigarette. I know I know. I’m full of contradictions like that. An otherwise sensible healthy lifestyle and then coffee and cigarette for breakfast? Deal with it.  I even wrote a poem about it to capture the feelings of goodwill and joy my breakfast brings me. It sucks when your a poet and writer, because everything is an epic.

I keep a tin of Nescafe in the cupboard as a tribute to days gone by when it was all I knew otherwise its got to be freshly brewed. There’s nothing like freshly brewed coffee but avoid those American blends (like Folgers and Maxwell House). They’re rubbish. Lavazzo is good. Brazilian coffee IS the best in the world. Trust me. And learn how to prepare a Lebanese coffee from Najjar. You’ll thank me. Since my first cup of freshly brewed Lebanese coffee I have been obsessed about coffee and sample coffee from all over the world. (I also sample beers all over the world on my travels.)

While the most popular beverage in Nigeria is probably still Lipton Tea, coffee consumption is on the rise and more variety and competition is arriving on the market. We no longer have to drink Nescafe crystals in the name of coffee. Take a look at how instant coffee is made is made.

Because I’m mostly sedentary, after ‘breakfast’ I only snack on fruits before noon if I feel hungry (usually I don’t), when I mindfully prepare a generous brunch. Then I have a light easily digestible dinner around 6pm. I never eat after 7pm. Dinner used to be my primary meal of the day. It was my reward for a hard days work, and I because I was rarely at home at dinner time I often ate out. That’s all changed now that I follow the Ayurveda energy clock. I also work from home now and have found great joy and well being in cooking for myself. Its a ritual of self love.

I do this every day except at the Full Moon.  Or when I am travelling. Or appearing in court. When I’m travelling or in court I eat a nice filling breakfast, one that pacifies my dosha. I’m a vata and get easily distressed by travel and noisy crowded places so eating a nice soothing meal beforehand makes me less cranky and less anxious. It helps me relax and feel grounded. You can read more about feeding the vata here.

What’s this about the full moon you may be wondering. Well the full moon is the one time a month that I allow myself to eat foods that I enjoy but that are not recommended for my constitution and need to eat less of. Like bread, pasta, a full English breakfast, a double cheese burger with bacon and a fried egg, cheese cake, black forest, red velvet, pizza! Lasagne, a steak. Apple pie a la mode. Egusi soup. Ice cream! You catch my drift. I plan it very carefully. And I choose the accompanying wine (or beer) even more carefully. It is something to look forward to I tell you.

All that said I’m so glad I ate anything and every thing and at any time and had eating disorders during my misspent youth when my digestion was strong and could handle it (although it did fuck me up eventually.) Of course I heard some people age without these problems, good for them. I’m not one of them. If I eat two square meals a day I add weight. One square meal sef. Blame it on the Menopause. I tend to blame all the changes on the menopause nowadays. Must tell you that story.

Its either eat less or spend an hour or two in the gym sweating and huffing and puffing and I do not like sweating and huffing and puffing. Its a vata thing.

I look and feel better than I have in more than a decade. So I must be doing something right.

Photo on 13-05-2017 at 16.50

Travel in Africa – From The Archives

June 10, 2017
NOTES FROM GHANA – June 10, 2008

Having had a day to decompress and a day to catch up on dull routine office matters I can sit back and reflect on the past few days. Ahhhh…what a life! What a rat race. Rushing from pillar to post as my old folks back home would say.

First of all I am moving to Ghana as soon as possible. They took the pill, and now it all seems possible in Ghana in a way it does not in Nigeria. There is a confidence in the air; the desperation of Naija, that hard hungry prowling menacing edge, is absent.

I never could define it before.

There are about 23 million people in Ghana, we last elected a fellow there in 1995, that was 13 years ago, by Ashoka’s formula there should be about 20-26 social entrepreneurs at different stages of their life cycles just waiting for me to find them.

When I got to Ashoka fellow L’s house on my first day the power was out in her neighborhood. She kept on apologizing and saying ‘This sort of thing does not happen here; they tell us if there is going to be an outage’. Turns out there was a breakdown. No body in the neigborhood had a generator. They quickly ran out of candles at the local stores.

There was no lock on my bedroom door, not even a door handle actually. Now that was freaky. I know I sometimes I forget to lock my door at night but to not even be able to close it! And the gates didn’t have padlocks and the door opened to the outside. Eventually I shrugged and went to bed, this is Ghana I guess. Since I’m writing this now I didn’t get attacked by robbers or pyschos.

On the drive to Lucia’s office in the morninng I couldn’t help but notice Guaranty Trust Bank ‘s billboards everywhere, they were the largest on the streets, offering 4 types of VISA credit cards. I bank with them in Naija. I’m still trying to activate my MASTERCARD debit card almost 6 months later.

They even offered a students credit card. I remember some customer service clones at my Naija branch takling down to a teenage student that came to open an account. They were totally unhelpful, I think they sent her away. I remember telling Maya about it.

I find it a bit disturbing to see 21st century Nigerian bank workers, they tend to look like a witches at a murder inc convention or vultures at a feast maybe. Their painted on faces and their conservative uniforms inspire pity not confidence. At least when I worked ever so briefly for a bank we still expressed some individuality of personality and style.

I had scheduled 4 two hour interviews; one called to reschedule for Saturday morning. The first 2 went great then my hostess took me home and over fed me. Yes that’s right she held a gun to my head and made me clean my plate. Thankfully I had an extra 2 hours before my next interview. I took a power nap in her very comfortable armchair.

Site visit on Saturday took me into the market, where ‘the people’ are. The crowds were overwhelming but valiantly I waded through the press of humanity to get to the drug store where I would be shown this great new idea in action. People kept on dumping into me or me into them, I slung my laptop bag in front of me and marveled that no where else in Africa have I felt so comfortable lugging around a laptop.

I didn’t read a local newspaper till the last day, I’m not sure why, Lucia had them delivered at breakfast every morning but on Sunday after a long brisk walk and a cold shower I took one to read. The Daily Mirror had frontline stories of female gospel singers and their marriage troubles.

I was astounded reading the stories, they were woman friendly! They did not condemn these women for not enduring abuse and unhappiness! They did not say or imply that these were selfish women undeserving of heaven and the fruits of wedded bliss that endureth. A father was actually quoted as saying he was happy his daughters marriage was over.

I brought the paper back as a souvenir even though I used it to wrap the ‘black pepper’ sauce that Lucia had made for me. (Delicious!) Framing it might be extreme; one of our candidates this year that is creating exclusive communication platfroms for women to discuss politics and current affairs from their prespective starting in Ghana.

I remember my total frustration when I lived in south east Nigeria and wrote for a local newspaper. I wanted to write articles to inspire and sensitize women. The publisher/editor wanted me to cover the worst and best dressed at social events. I had one regular reader that I know of (she told me she looked forward to my column). She was a professor at the local university.

Another candidate (this time a Nigerian) is using humor in popular lingo, slang and even pidgin English to inform the people about thier legal rights. A lot of them don’t know that …your landlord can’t kick you out on the street without due process or that you can’t be arrested or searched without a warrant or that they can’t sack you becuase you are HIV positive.

Perhaps these candidates can collaborate. Perhaps I can inspire and sensitize in a style accessible to the many. Perhaps we can all acknowldege in deed and word that the majority in the developing world do not hold college or university degrees without treating them like simpletons. Perhaps we can change the world. As a matter of fact, YES WE CAN!

accra

Accra, Ghana (Photographer: Unknown)

So I Went To See Wonder Woman…I Wasn’t Impressed

June 10, 2017

Fine girl. Fine boy. Lots of reviews hailing it as a feminist revolution. And lots of reviews calling it a feminist flop. So why wasn’t I impressed? I’ve been looking forward to this movie since last year.

Apparently I’m not the only one. Christina Cauterucci at Slate wrote:

I wondered why I’d come into the movie expecting some energizing woke-feminist manifesto instead of a film that stars one sexy woman surrounded by throngs of horny men

Pretty much how I felt.

I was hoping Wonder woman would bring some extraordinary insight into our notions of masculinity  – I mean seeing as she had never seen a man before meeting Steven but all she had to say was ‘Are you typical of men?’ and apparently referring to his penis. Seriously? And then she falls in love with him. Why? Other than his pretty eyes and ‘above average’ penis?

The most feminist thing about the movie maybe its female lead, its female director and its female only screenings. It’s full of sexist comments by male actors while featuring no sex at all, very ladylike fight scenes and apparently it’s fuelling Jewish/Arab conflict because the Gal Gadot is Jewish even if Wonder Woman isn’t.

Diana herself is so naive I’m not even sure that she should be a role model for young girls. It plays to the female saintly but strong trope I find rather questionable and I find it hard to reconcile with the very overt sexualization of her image. Its still the old Madonna versus the Whore narrative, just slightly tweaked.

I read Zoe Williams’ review in the Guardian which promised me ‘a gloriously badass breath of fresh air’  before seeing the movie and I swear I will never read another review BEFORE watching a movie again. I think she set my expectations even higher than they were before.

Nevertheless, the fact I found the movie intellectually disappointing does not change the impact ‘Wonder Woman’ had on me growing up and creating my own female identity. I would have just told the story different.

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Internet Defamation in Nigeria

June 7, 2017

Under Nigerian law defamation can be treated as a tort or as a crime.

Under section 373 of the Criminal Code defamation is any statement, written, verbal, visual including photographic, audio or video recordings whether expressed directly or by implication that is likely to injure the reputation of a person by exposing him or her to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage a person in his profession or trade.

Defamation is either libel or slander, it is  libel when the false statement is published in written form and  slander when it is spoken.

A person, who publishes any defamatory matter, is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year; and a person who publishes any defamatory matter knowing it to be false, is liable to imprisonment for two years.

The Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention Etc) Act 2015 that became effective on May 15, 2015 also provides as follows:

24. Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that –

(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent:

commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

The only defence to defamation is that the publication, at the time it is made, is for the public benefit, is true or that the publications was privileged and made only to persons entitled to receive it as held in V. M. Iloabachie, Esq. v. Benedict N. Iloabachie (2005) 5 NSCR Vol. 2).

It has been established that when an individual posts something on social media they are acting as publishers and can be sued for making false statements or defamatory comments.

In order to succeed in a case of defamation, the plaintiff needs to prove that:

  1. the statement, the subject matter of action is defamatory.
  2. it was published to a third person other than the plaintiff.
  3. the words refer to the plaintiff.

Newsbreed Org. Ltd v. Erhomosele (2007) 5NWLR Pt. 979 p. 499, the court outlined the elements of defamation. It held that the words or statements complained of must be untrue, that they were made maliciously (without just cause) and that the plaintiff suffered damage.

In Egbuna v. Amalgamated Press of Nig. (1967) All NLR, 27 at 28, it was held that the statement must be defamatory in the estimation of right thinking members of the society and that the words complained of must refer to the plaintiff, no writing is libel unless it refers to a specific person.

In Dario v. U.B.N (2006) 16 NWLR 1059 p 99, it was emphasised that:

“…there is a publication of the defamatory material to at least one person not being the person defamed. Publication which is the making known of the defamatory material to some other persons is the cause of action in defamation and not the writing of libellous fact.”

Deji Olunlade had this to say on YNaija in 2014

A statement can be said to be defamatory when the imputation of the statement tends to lower the other party in the estimation of right thinking members of the society or cut him off from the society, or expose him to contempt, ridicule or hatred or  injure his reputation in his office, trade, or profession or injure his financial credit. Also, there must be no legally justifiable grounds for uttering or publishing such statement. This statement must be:

  1. Untrue and may
  2. possess the element of imputation of crime to the person referred to,
  3. imputation of certain diseases such as sexually transmitted disease or communicable disease e.g stating falsely that a person has been inflicted with ebola
  4. imputation of unchastity or adultery especially of a woman
  5. imputation affecting professional or business reputation etc.

It should be noted that these defamatory words must have been published either through books, newspaper publications, video or voice recording, social media outlets and must have been read and believed to be defamatory by a third party (reasonable thinker).

In Nigeria, Freedom of Expression is enshrined under section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Print, online and electronic media operations derive their existence from the fundamental right called freedom of expression. Freedom of Expression, which includes right to speak, tweet, write and publish, does not permit a person to defame another.

The recent decision of the Queen’s Division of the UK High Court of Justice in Monroe v. Hopkins [2017] EWHC 433 (QB) could prove highly persuasive in Nigerian internet defamation.

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You Are What You Eat II

May 14, 2017

My dominant dosha type, vata, needs warm, soupy, well cooked soothing foods. And my pita constitution needs cooling so me and my ayurveda therapist worked out a food plan that meets those needs.

Now I eat a lot of basmati rice. And mung beans. (I just made a pot of hing moong dhal.) And yam (boiled, fried in coconut oil or pounded.) And Afang. And Nsala. And Utong. And Oha. And Efo. Very tender lettuce smothered in virgin olive oil. Soft cooked vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, squash, okro.) Soft fruits (papaya, soursop, watermelon) Golden Milk (made with turmeric paste and coconut milk, yummmy and promotes sleep to. Read all the benefits here.) And a lot of mackerel and goat meat and lamb and ram. Vata is delicate and doesn’t need anything too hard and dense to digest. So no more akpu. Less cashew and ground nuts. No cabbage. Less ugu and bitter leaf.

I don’t eat much chicken. Or beef (only at the full moon and only marbled meat.) I don’t trust the chicken – local or foreign. Too many antibiotics and hormones involved in rearing them nowadays. Can’t wait till I can rear my own chicken, corn fed and free range. And I eat tozo, the marbled beef or top steak because its tastes so good and if I’m going to die anyway I might as well enjoy life first.

Same reason I only eat good old fashioned butter. By the way have you heard that margarine was developed to fatten turkeys sometimes in the 1930s or something but it killed all the turkeys and the company not wanting to lose the money they spent on R&D figured they’d sell it to humans as a superior bread spread.  I don’t know if its true. I read it on the internet long time ago. Internet don tey.

In ayurveda butter and ghee which is clarified butter are super foods. All milk products are. The Hindu’s worship the cow because they believe it provides complete sustenance to human beings. Nice story they tell about it. Read it here. And there is lots of research that suggests animal fats aren’t the evil, its the sedentary life style. Ghee is pretty expensive and only a few shops stock it but you can make your own when you need to.The only vegetable oils I use anymore are coconut , extra virgin olive and palm oil. Hydrogenated oil is like margarine. Hazardous.

Animal fats are essential for human physiology or something and I do believe I read some where once up on a time that the growth in the size of the brain that marked human evolution from homo Erectus and other early hominid ancestors coincided with an increase in animal protein in their diet. Who knows but it sounds good enough for me. And I notice that when I am really pushing myself mentally like when I am working against a deadline and my routine is in shambles I crave meat.

 

 

Requiem

April 28, 2017

My heart is a going pitter patter reading the letter again, reliving it all. No. My heart is racing like a jack hammer! Remembering. A sexual assault. By my manager. Samuel Musa. While working at Oxfam GB.

That was in August 2010. I wrote the letter below to Barbara Stocking in desperation more than a year later.

Just like I searched desperately for legal support in Nigeria and when I couldn’t find any I went to search the UK in 2012. I spoke to so many lawyers. Every last  one of them asked me whether I had worked in the UK.

“I was based in Abuja. The only time I came to the UK was for that country directors conference where the assault happened.”

And they all said –

“Sorry. You’re not eligible to appear before the UK employment tribunal.”

Eventually I found a UK lawyer that said she might have been able to help me  but….

…we were already just days away from the statute of limitations for sexual assault. There was no way she could prepare and file the paper work in time.

I let it go then. Focused on putting myself back together again. It wasn’t the first time that man woman palaver (as we euphemistically call it in Nigeria) had terminated my job.

So this is the letter I wrote to Barbara Stocking after they confirmed my termination, as I was facing the loss of my home – after losing my job, my dad, my cat, my dog, my self esteem, my confidence. 

I stumbled across it looking for something else all together and it all just came back. I’d pushed the whole incident to the far recesses of my mind.  (My therapist gonna have something to say about that.) At first I cringed thinking maybe I was whining in the letter but as I read it I started to feel kinda good. I wrote from my heart. I spoke my truth. That’s all. Nothing to be ashamed of.

 

 

 

April 28, 2012

Dear Barbara,

It’s over a year now since I left your employ. I don’t know if you even noticed. Oxfam GB is such a big place. I don’t imagine you could possibly keep up with all your employees and I wasn’t there long enough. It wasn’t till my orientation at Oxford office in August 2010, almost 10 months after I started working for you that I actually started to understand the organization and my role. One important lesson I take away from my experience at Oxfam GB is to orient employees quickly, capably and to install controls to make sure the system works.

But that’s not why I write you. I’m writing to you because I believe the woman I met in August 2010 is a just, fair and above all compassionate person. There was nothing fair, just or compassionate about the way I was summarily dismissed from Oxfam GB in November 2010 or the way I was treated during my subsequent appeal. I tried so hard to reach Penny Lawrence. I remember her telling us during the orientation that she was always available to help and advice us with our problems and issues. She never spoke to me.

The 2 week visit in August 2010, my first to the UK was also where my trouble started. My line manager Mr. Samuel Musa, deputy regional director for West Africa at the time sexually assaulted me in his hotel room. Worried that my job, my working relationships and Oxfam GBs reputation could be in jeopardy, I didn’t listen to advice of friends to report the incident to the police. Instead I went to Martin Knops to treat my own pain and trauma and on his advice reported the incident to Catherine Layton then in the Human Resource department. I told her I was reporting ‘just in case’ Samuel tried to victimize me I wanted someone to know..

I realize now I should have made that report for a number of reasons. After all it wasn’t sexual harassment I was reporting. I was reporting a crime; sexual assault is after all a criminal offence. Of course all of us worked for Oxfam. Neither Catherine nor Martin suggested I report to the police. Catherine actually advised I speak to Samuel. Which I did. Eventually. It was almost a month later before I was able to talk to him on the phone about it. I told Catherine about the call. Because I had asked for assurance during the call and he didn’t give any I followed up with an email. He ignored it.

It had taken a whole lot of effort on my part to talk to him about it in the first place. I wasn’t comfortable raising the issue with him again. I did discuss with Catherine how we could address institutional sexual harassment. I’ve seen and experienced a lot of behavior in Oxfam GB’s Africa offices that would easily qualify for sexual harassment in the west and UK. I wasn’t the only victim. I felt that as Oxfam GB’s gender lead in West Africa I could have a wider institutional impact on the matter instead of making it all about me. I also didn’t want to be the lone female shouting ‘rape’. I had a lot of confused feelings.

Of course I was deeply traumatized by the experience. It was difficult working with Samuel after that. I had flash backs every time I saw an email from him, or had to speak with him on the phone and when I saw him late September in Dakar. I tried to be brave and strong but I was really uncomfortable and jumpy. Still with Catherine’s question about whether he knew his attention was unwanted ringing in my head I reiterated to him again I did not want his attention and asked for assurance he would never try to ‘make a pass at me’ again. But he didn’t make a pass at me the first time, it wasn’t a seduction or a wooing or ongoing sexual harassment at work; it was a traumatic and unexpected physical attack.

I ignored my pain and stepped up my efforts at work with some idea that if I just did my best my job would be safe. With 20/20 hind sight I see my mistake. There is no way I could have spoken to him about the incident in the terms that I did that he could do other than try to get rid of me as soon as possible. Anything else would have been literally working under the threat of an imminent report from me. Still I hoped, this was Oxfam GB after all, an international humanitarian agency with rules, surely I was safe.

On November 23, 2010, a Wednesday, Samuel Musa arrived Abuja from Dakar and handed me a letter summarily terminating my contract without reason. He gave me 2 days notice to vacate the office premises and immediately repossessed all Oxfam GB equipment including laptop and handsets making it difficult for me to reach anybody within the organization. My employment contract governed by Nigerian Law says that summary dismissal is in accordance with internal guidelines. Under these guidelines I am entitled to a weeks’ notice that I am being considered for summary dismissal. Under Nigerian law I am entitled to two weeks’ notice.

The law wasn’t upmost on my mind when I received the letter of termination. I was distraught that I was about to lose my job at the hands of the man who had sexually assaulted me less than 3 months before. I was in no emotional state for the appeal and under too much emotional distress by then to focus on that. The entire process became a sexual harassment investigation rather than an appeal of my wrongful termination. At the end of the emotionally devastating process where I had to re-live my assault again I was informed there was no corroboration to my allegations of sexual assault and my dismissal was in accordance with Nigerian law. That’s all.

Kathleen McGarva who handled my sexual assault complaint and my appeal (I wonder if that was proper?) decided that the email I wrote to Samuel and my correspondence with Catherine Layton and Martin Knops were not sufficient corroboration of my story and chose to accept Samuel’s version of the story which had even less corroboration than mine. He admitted I was in his room but unsurprisingly denied the course of events or that we went up together. He further claimed he ignored my email because he didn’t know what I was talking about. After denying my appeal Katherine said Oxfam GB would talk to him to find out how he could have handled the situation better. That sounded a lot like I was the lying trouble maker.

In April 2011 I finally wrote Katherine asking about the outcome of that exercise with Samuel. Was he punished? Was he queried? Was he reprimanded? I received her response on April 6, 2011 a Wednesday and was considering my reaction to send the following Monday when I was informed on Saturday April 9, 2011 my father died. I never did get a chance to react to Katherine’s last email after that news.

Katherine’s April email suggested that Oxfam GB were not interested in getting rid of a sexual predator in their employ much less how his actions had affected me or what I was going through personally. Oxfam GB seemed more interested in protecting themselves and I was the villain not the victim but it happened to me so I know what happened. In August 2011 I came to the UK and filed a criminal incident report with the Thames Valley Police accusing Samuel Musa of criminal sexual assault. They believed me but needed corroborating evidence to successfully prosecute. They also said if I had reported earlier there could have requested the hotels CCTV footage for corroboration. Still there is an incident report and number that it may serve as evidence should anyone else report Samuel for a similar thing.

I’m sure I wasn’t his first sexual assault and maybe not his last. Maybe he has been sexually exploiting women he managed? It is interesting that the Africa leadership teams have so few women. It was curious that Samuel resigned abruptly shortly after the police investigators visited the Oxfam GB offices. It may have been a coincidence. Did somebody else report him? What could HR have done differently? The fact that there was even a hint of criminal sexual assault in which the preponderance of evidence, thin though it was nevertheless was on my side should have raised enough doubt to make him justify his reasons for summary dismissal.

After my experience with Oxfam GB I really didn’t want to work for any other organization. This is not the first time I have had to make a career move or lose a job because of man woman trouble as we call it euphemistically in Nigeria. I had thought that I would be safe working with an international organization that had rules about such things. I have been sadly disappointed, in the time since my dismissal I have met and spoken to almost a dozen women with similar experiences. Male managers at INGOs are getting away with sexual abuse in the workplace, women are wrongfully losing jobs, some get stuck in court for years and exhaust their savings, others just don’t want to talk about it in public, still others are too busy trying to make ends meet to fight a foreign Goliath.

I’m a lawyer by training. I opened a small law firm instead of getting another job in the international development field. My 1 year experience at Oxfam GB was exhausting both emotionally and physically. I figure that being my own boss will reduce my vulnerability to sexual assault in the workplace. My practice focuses exclusively on women’s right and expanding legal protection from violence through litigation and legal precedent. I’m building a social enterprise to sustain the practice and my reputation as a writer. Kathleen was right; Oxfam GB didn’t break any Nigerian laws. I was the one that sent that legal opinion on Nigerian labor law to Samuel in October 2010.

Still I found the internal procedure for summary termination on Oxfam GB site confusing. My contract says internal procedure will apply in dismissal yet the site refers back to ‘local laws’. Meanwhile, my contract already says Nigerian law applies. Without knowing the in house rules for summary dismissal that clause of the contract is misleading. When I read it while negotiating my employment terms I reasonably thought it meant rules other than Nigerian law applied. I thought I was protected from unfair or wrongful dismissal and sexual victimization a common enough fear in Nigeria under our poorly applied and interpreted laws. Apparently I was wrong.

Why am I writing to you now?

An executive coach and consultant I worked with advised me to write to you personally and let you and Oxfam GB know exactly what is going on with me before proceeding with any further action. He is optimistic that Oxfam GB will do the right thing. I am hopeful that you Barbara will. I feel I was bullied by a big bad corporation, except Oxfam GB is supposed to be a ‘humanitarian’ organization, one of the ‘good guys’. How could they preach global love and charity and leave me out in the cold like this? Are Oxfam’s values just corporate jargon? I still wonder how I can possibly engage in a legal battle with a corporate behemoth like Oxfam GB that has more money and more lawyers than I can ever hope to. I’m intimidated from even trying but feel the injustice keenly.

I’m sitting in the eye of a hurricane right now. I have suffered terribly because of the assault and even more during and after the loss of my job. I’ve lost almost everything because of Samuel Musa and Oxfam GBs actions; my job, my health insurance, my father, who was my dependant and couldn’t continue diabetes treatment after I lost my health insurance and now I am about to lose my home. My small law practice is young and growing but even that is under threat.

If Catherine Layton, or Martin Knops or any other Oxfam GB employee had advised me to report to the police as soon as I described a sexual assault there may have been CCTV footage showing us arriving and me leaving his room and maybe corroboration of my ‘allegations’. There may have been witnesses available for trained questioning by the police. Dozens of Oxfam GB people were in the lobby that night when we left. Samuel Musa himself would have been available for the police to interrogate. If Samuel Musa had not been allowed to dismiss me without reason after sexually assaulting me I may still have my father, my house, my cat and my life.

I am writing this to you now because I was grievously injured by your employees and former employee’s actions and summarily and wrongfully dismissed without reason from my position as CD Nigeria programs and I feel that Oxfam GB my employers did not do enough to protect me or prevent the injury and subsequent suffering. It has taken me this long and many hours of consultation with lawyers and counselors to get here. While I’m still suffering the fall out of that injury, emotional, physical and financial, I finally have the mental and legal clarity to seek the rdress I believe that I deserve.

I hope this letter speaks to the humane part of you and not just the corporate goddess. I only seek justice, for myself and for my silent, disempowered or disenchanted African sisters. We are also a humanitarian cause. We’re also humankind. Barbara please show me that we are safe working for foreign agencies, even the BINGO’s and that the same rules that protect our female colleagues in head office will protect us in our work spaces scattered in the dark spots for gender rights on the continent too. Do not unilaterally listen to our kinsmen who fill your senior leadership positions in Africa and tell you African women will lie against them about rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment in the workplace because that is the excuse our men give for not tightening rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment laws.

I was a good employee; innovative, result oriented, driven, participatory, nurturing and above all ethical. I was one of few in the region that understood the implementation of the SMS. I was planning a fast track career development in the sector. I was systematically rooting out graft and corruption in the Nigerian program. I was also under systematic attack by the forces of graft and corruption. I wasn’t only working for you, I was also working for my country, for your donors and especially those little old English ladies that have a standing order with their bank to deduct GBP20 every month from their pension check and send to Oxfam GB, even if they are no longer your biggest contributors. I don’t deserve this. It feels so terribly wrong to be dismissed so nonchalantly and left so broken and devastated.

I appeal to you Barbara as the Chief Executive of Oxfam GB with whom all decisions finally rest for some sort of justice, relief, closure, damages and permission to move on. I hope you consider my appeal with wisdom and compassion.

I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime I remain;

Yours sincerely,

LesleyAgams

Lesley Gene Agams Esq.

 

 

 

This was her reply

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 10:32 AM

Dear Lesley

Thank you for your letter of 28th April 2012 concerning your period of employment with Oxfam GB.

I was aware of the circumstances surrounding your departure from Oxfam and am deeply saddened to hear how you now feel, and that you attribute this to the way that Oxfam handled your complaint. As you are aware, Oxfam is very concerned about gender inequality and committed to putting poor women’s rights at the heart of what we do. With this in mind I can assure you that Oxfam did take your complaint seriously and followed internal procedures carefully to fully investigate the points that you raised. Unfortunately , like the police, we found that there was insufficient evidence to corroborate your allegation of events that had taken place, some 3 months earlier. The allegation of sexual assault is an issue which we take very seriously and although we could not find evidence to confirm that the assault did take place, the matter was followed up and appropriate action was taken in line with our procedures. I appreciate that you were disappointed by these findings.

I understand that you did speak to both Catherine Layton (HR Adviser) and Martin Knops (Oxfam’s Counsellor) about events that took place whilst you were in the UK. At the time you did not categorise them as a criminal offence of sexual assault but as an ‘incident in a hotel room where you refused to have sex with your manager’ and indeed had asked to speak to them both ‘in confidence’. This confidentiality was maintained by them both as you had requested. Had you allowed Catherine to take this forward on your behalf as one of the options she suggested to you at the time, or indeed expressed it in the more serious language that you are now using, then the situation may have been different. This was the decision that you made at the time and I feel that it is not appropriate of you now to blame them for respecting your request for confidentiality.

With regard to your termination of employment from Oxfam, I am aware that you raised an appeal against this in line with our procedures. The appeal was heard by Kathleen McGarva, the Deputy International Director, and she was satisfied that the termination of your contract complied with the law in Nigeria which is the law that governed your contract of employment and that the termination was not due to sexual victimisation from a senior manager of staff. Kathleen is an experienced senior manager in Oxfam, based in Oxford who had no prior knowledge or involvement of this matter. I am satisfied that she considered your case very carefully in a fair and transparent manner when reaching her conclusion.

I am satisfied that that Oxfam has acted fairly in fully investigating your complaints and allegations and your request for damages is not appropriate.

Thank you for writing to me about bringing this to my attention.  I do wish you the very best for your future.

Best regards

Barbara

Barbara Stocking 

Chief Executive, Oxfam GB  

 

 

Maybe she was right, maybe it was all my fault. Except I’m pretty damn sure I DID describe it as a sexual assault, EXACTLY  as it happened, in very vivid detail too, to both Martin and Catherine.  Whatever could have given them the idea that is was an ‘incident in a hotel room where you refused to have sex with your manager’? (How sleazy does that even sound? Ugh!) Now they would have me second guessing myself!

I thought I was really over it. Just a couple weeks ago I was telling my friend that I had finally recovered from it all except the jack hammering of my heart says maybe not.

How do I feel about it now? I still feel angry. And powerless.

“Honour you anger” Martin Knops said to me all those years ago.

 

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Some Highlights of Nigerian Labor Law Act Cap 198 Relevant for Small Business Owners

April 28, 2017

 

  1. Employees must be paid in cash
  2. Payment by check can only be made with the prior consent of the employee
  3. Employer cannot impose conditions on how or where an employee spends his wages
  4. Any advance on salary cannot exceed one month salary and minimum recovery time is 3 months
  5. If there is an outstanding advance employer cannot make a new advance except in necessity
  6. Employers can only make deductions in respect of fines for willful misconduct or neglect if employee has been previously notified and agreed in his contract
  7. Pension scheme deductions must be consented to by employee
  8. Overpayment deductions can only be made if discovered within 3 months
  9. Total deductions from employees salary cannot exceed 1/3 of monthly salary
  10. Contracts required to be signed within 3 months of employment
  11. Any change in terms of contract must be communicated within one month to the employee
  12. Employment contracts terminate on death of employee, expiry of notice or expiry of fixed term contract
  13. Statutory requirements for notice
    1. 1 day if less than 3 months
    2. 1 week if more than 3 months but less than 2 years
    3. 2 weeks if more than 2 years but less than 5 years
    4. 1 months if more than 5 years of continuous service
  14. Conduct that would enable employer terminate contract without notice

a. Gross misconduct such as fraud, theft, insubordination or criminal neglect

  1. Either party can waive the right to notice or to accepting payment in lieu of notice
  2. All wages are to be paid before expiry of notice
  3. Employer not liable to pay for days employee absent
  4. Payment in lieu of notice only applies to salary not overtime or allowances
  5. Normal working hours are fixed through mutual agreement
  6. Work in excess of working hours constitutes over time
  7. If employee is to work more than 6 continuous hours he/she is entitled to 1 hour aggregate break/rest interval
  8. Worker entitled to one day of rest in 7 days
  9. Workers entitled to up to 12 days of paid sick leave for temporary illness if certified by a registered doctor nominated by the employer
  10. After 12 months of continuous service employee is entitled to 6 working days of paid leave
  11. Sick leave and annual leave pay only includes salary (not overtime or allowances)
  12. Women are entitled to 6 weeks leave before birth and confinement and 6 weeks of leave after birth and confinement at 50% of salary
  13. Employer not liable for healthcare costs of said woman
  14. If you have more than 25 employees you are required to set up a pension scheme (Pension Act Cap 346)
  15. Employees in hazardous occupations (mining, heavy machinery etc) must be insured against injury (Workmen’s Compensation Act Cap 407)

You Are What You Eat

April 16, 2017

Only in Nigeria do people be eating like we eat and argue that after all their ancestors ate like that. Our ancestors also walked every where, spent 8 months out of twelve on the farm and generally burned more calories than they ate. Only the petit bourgeois elite had fat wives because it showed they didn’t go to the farm or the market. Just like the white elite too. Except in their case it was pale skin as a sign you didn’t have to work in the fields like a peasant. And the consumption of rare and rich food was equated with privilege.

All that elitist bullshit. Anyway, my point is we really shouldn’t be eating like our ancestors. We do not work like them. We probably have a sedentary office job and a driver. It’s not about ‘diet’ or ‘a diet’. Its a lifestyle thing. How much we eat and what we eat is all about what we do for a living but most of us are so programmed in our primitive brain stem that we need to feel full and comfortable. You know, in case you have to run from a man eating lion in the jungle. Or slave hunters. Or in case there is a famine. Who knows?

Then again as we age we just can’t eat as much as we did when we were high revving teenagers. The metabolism slows down and shit and things like beer guts and spate tyres and love handles tend to multiply. You just have to consume less calories. Even if you are one of those people that doesn’t add weight no matter what you eat, sensible calorie restriction is indicated in positive long term health outcomes.

Of course food is never just about food. Just like sex is never just about sex. Its comfort and nurture and reward and punishment and power. Most modern humans have a complex relationship with food and body image compounded through mass media. Then there is of course the social  and cultural significance of food (link to old post on food politics) Its a minefield.

We love Nigerian food but we know we just can’t eat it as much of it as we did when we were younger. And that’s cool. We adapt. And its easier to adapt than we think.