Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carlijn and the promises of dance therapy

Recently, my friend Daan Beekers and his friend, Carlijn, visited me. (See picture to your left). They were my first guests in the Netherlands. During the introductions, Carlijn told me that she was training to be a dance therapist. I was intrigued. Carlijn told me the numerous ways in which dance therapy can heal our hurting world. Dance therapy can be used to help people who have been traumatised and those having different forms of psychiatric disorders including fear and depression. Her mention of disorders reminded me of the observation by Mrs Farida Waziri, the current boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria. Mrs Waziri had observed that many political office holders in Nigeria had psychiatric disorders, madness. In her words: “... we have observed people amassing public wealth to a point suggesting madness or some form of obsessive-compulsive psychiatric disorder”. Then she recommended “that public office holders should be subjected to some form of psychiatric evaluation to determine their suitability for public office” (See Daily Trust, October 8, 2009; page 64). Nigerians need people with the training and passion of Carlijn. This is because of the growing list of traumatised people (Jos, Maiduguri, Bauchi religous riots; kidnappers everywhere), and also because of the growing list of politicians who, according to Farida, steal as if (or because) they are deranged). I did an article on this which may be published in a Nigerian newspaper soon.

Farida on Corruption

"Having dealt with many corruption cases, I am inclined to suggest that public officers (in Nigeria) should be subjected to some form of psychiatric evaluation to determine their suitability for public office. The extent of aggrandizement and gluttonious accumulation of wealth that I have observed suggests to me that some people are mentally and psychologically unsuitable for public office. We have observed people amassing public wealth to a point suggesting 'madness' or some form of obsessive compulsion" (Daily Trust, Oct 8, 2009; pg 64)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A scientific meeting and my anger

I just returned from a 90-minute scientific brainstorming session of my host centre, the Afrikan-StudieCentrum (ASC), Universiteit Leiden. The fulcrum of the discussion was an invited presentation by Professor Arie Rip, a philospher of science. I will skip the details--they are mostly in-house issues of research focus, team sizes and so on. One of the most contentious issues discussed was the tendency for politics and policies to want to interfere with research content and focus. Those at the meeting--we were just about ten--were passionately opposed to this kind of interference and decry the growing tendency. Rather than cooperate with research centres, they allege, ministries are trying to influence the focus of these centres and even the content of their research. They spoke with amazing vehemence and passion, with the kind of concern of someone whose territory, nay, life, is being encroached. For a while, I mentally left the venue and took a (mental) trip to Nigeria. Each time we hold meetings in my Department back home, we are preoccupied with a set of concerns completely different from those of these scientists at ASC. We talk about funding, electricity, salaries, a sick student, approaching strikes and ASUU meetings, deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines from the office of the Vice Chancellor--deadlines about results, deadlines about a report going to the NUC, deadlines about admission meetings, deadlines about a list to be sent to the NYSC, deadlines that you heard of only after they had expired. Deadlines often require typsetting and printing and you have to do all of that without electricity. I cannot remember that we ever discussed research focus or agenda inmy Department! The mundane matters of mere existence consume all our passion and energy. ASC scientists--do they know they are lucky that policy makers and politicians are trying to influence them? In Nigeria, policy makers and politicians don't even know we exist. We don't count. They don't need us. Our research counts for nothing. And that is why no professor of communication has been invited by the National Assembly (NA) to enlighten it about the Freedom of Information bill; no professor of law has been invited to the NA to help it out of the quagmire created by Yar'Adua's situation. Before the 2007 elections, no professor of medicine was asked to render his/her opinion on whether or not Yar'Adua's condition could prevent him from ruling. No wonder, even we do our research in Nigeria just to lengthen our list of publications and get promoted as and when (un)due. Nigeria--the most annoying thing is not that we are not there; it is that we aint even moving forward.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nigeria: what do you write?

I was asked by the Prince Claus Fund and the Mondriaan Foundation to give a 30-minute presentation on Nigeria: people, politics and culture. The talk comes up on February 3, 2010. For a long while, I was confused. What do you say about a country that you love so intensely but whose leaders let you down so much? How can you be fair about Nigeria without lying? The paradoxes of Nigeria became my heartache! A country so rich yet so poor; so big yet so small that Abacha kept her in his chest pockets for years... I was delighted when I later received a phone call from the organisers asking me to limit my presentation to Lagos. Ah! Lagos. Click here for the presentation and please leave your comments.