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MY ODYSSEY WITH MATHEMATICS AND ITS NEPHEW AND COUSIN!

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CAVEAT: This will be a long read (but in a very simple English).

I cannot quite remember how and when exactly my predicament with Mathematics started. Or, how I came to hate Mathematics and anything with calculation with a passion, and how the subject (and its cousin and nephew — Accounting and Statistics) became my enemies in the academe. And while I remember vividly my fascination for English at an early age (an age when I actually lived in agbo ile — communal environs of brown mud houses and where 99.9% of people spoke Yoruba), I cannot recall ever having any interest in Mathematics. Ditto Yoruba. I still cannot read Yoruba smoothly and except when very necessary, I avoid reading Yoruba like a plague.

My sordid foundation and eventual divorce with Mathematics was further cemented by truancy while in secondary school. I was a typical absentee student and I was (with an accomplice) the headache of Maths teachers. I would do things that would make Maths teachers leave class in anger, or send me and my accomplice out.

I managed to survive until it was time for the final examination (West African Secondary School Certificate Examination — WASSCE). I knew I cannot pass Maths and sought the assistance of my brother’s girlfriend. The lady taught me Maths for about three months leading to the examination. I passed with a C5.

Something strange (to the Principal) happened the day the result was released. Though I passed other subjects, my English Language was withheld (till date) and the Principal didn’t find it funny that I was dancing with ‘incomplete’ result. Unknown to him, I was dancing because I passed Maths and I knew I would always pass English. Any time. Any day. I registered again because of the withheld English and passed as expected.

I shouted eureka, believing that I would have nothing to do with Maths again in my life since my proposed courses of study in university were Law and Mass Communication. I was patiently wrong.

Fast forward to Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife.

My first disappointment wasn’t having to meet Maths again, but the fact that my dream to read Law or Mass Communication was shattered. This happened because of dearth of mentors and advisers (remember I lived mostly with old, uneducated and semi-educated people). Educated brothers, sisters, uncles, etc. who could have guided me were mostly far away.

While my dream university was OAU, I chose the school as a second choice to study Law and University of Lagos (UNILAG) as the first choice to study Mass Communication. Unfortunately, OAU didn’t admit second choice applicants because the school had tens of thousands of applicants that chose OAU as first choice and passed. My initial interest in UNILAG and Mass Communication had waned even before the release of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board’s (JAMB) administered University Matriculation Examination (UME), now rechristened Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

I eventually opted to study History/English Language (the journey to that too was tortuous). But that story too is for another day.

Fast forward to my sophomore in OAU.

At the time, OAU had a course CSC 221 (Computer Appreciation) that was compulsory for all 200 level students (except Law students).

I was happy when I learnt we would study CSC 221 because it was about computer and because it was a period when PC was akin to spacecraft to majority of people in Nigeria. That elation went kaboom few weeks into the course.

After the initial one-on-one with PC and after being taught how to put it on, shut it down and some other things kids of today would consider mundane, the class veered into Theorem and whatnots.

I didn’t understand a thing again. I just stopped attending CSC 221 lecture.

I was lucky to pass because the test and examination have areas that weren’t calculations. I didn’t touch the calculations and I escaped with an E. I danced.

Fast forward again to Nigerian Institute of Management professional examination during my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) days. The calculations therein were very minimal and I survived.

My next big face-off with Maths and anything calculation came few years later in the same OAU.

Because of the need to hone my professional calling as an administrator, I applied for a masters degree programme in Public Administration. And yet again, I had to deal with Maths’ cousin and nephew (Accounting and Statistics) at the same time. It wasn’t savoury.

Accounting and Statistics were compulsory courses. No escaping them.

How I escaped Accounting: a class was ongoing one day and I didn’t understand a thing as usual. I summoned courage, raised my hand and told the teacher that all lectures so far were Greek to me, that my background is in the humanities, and that….

I hadn’t finished my statement when some other students joined me to say they too could not understand a thing. And being an adult class, the lecturer was magnanimous enough to listen to us. Eventually, he promised to ensure that the test would be devoid of calculations while examination would be mixed. I scored 23 out the possible 25 in the test. I hired a 300 level Accounting student to be my teacher twenty-four hours to the examination and crammed everything. I survived.

Statistics: I applied similar method I used for Accounting. Suffice to add that I bought so many books, particularly those that were elementary. I cultivated the habit of buying elementary books in areas I am not good at in my undergraduate days. I used this method to dismantle Pragmatics in 300 level when the course was proving intractable (the method is good in that it affords one to start from less difficult and gradually graduating to understanding difficult areas).

Fast forward to my attempt at a doctorate degree.

I applied for M.Phil/Ph.D in Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH) Ogbomoso, with concentration in Human Resources Management (HRM). Doctoral students in LAUTECH are required to attend classes, write test and sit for examinations for two semesters. That to me wasn’t a problem until Statistics was stated as one of the courses I must study — I later realised that these classes were mere auditing as no credits were given.

This brand of Statistics required every student to come to class with a laptop. (We even went to examination hall with our laptops). We were required to use some applications, prominent among these is STATA. You see, life can be confounding at times. Imagine me, a complete olodo in Statistics, being made to use applications to learn something I hated with a passion. I had no option. And I survived.

(I completed my two semesters with no hassle and proceeded to my thesis before I abandoned the programme after years of efforts, huge bills on hotel, books, journal, car fuelling, sacrifice by my wife, my employer then, etc. One single person put paid to that dream).

I have come to the conclusion that my ontology is not wired to understand anything calculation. Mere counting money is a huge task for me and I have lost substantial amount of money to bad counting in the past.

I lost substantial office monies to bad counting in 2006/2007. My former place of work where I worked as a lecturer, Acting Registrar and later the substantial Registrar was new then: banks were far away, the road then was bad and the Bursar and the Bursary were located in another town because of fear of armed robbers. So the Management concluded that we should assist the students and I became the emergency money collector. I was loosing money and was repaying it to the Bursar until I couldn’t take it any longer.

I went to my employer and told him that I have been losing and repaying money and that I would rather resign than continuing. He was surprised as the Bursar didn’t tell him of my ordeals. He directed the Bursar to return all the monies I had repaid to me and we subsequently decided that all fees must be paid to bank.

And while I cannot foreclose the possibility of coming in contact with Maths and its unwelcoming family members again, I am positive that I’ll always survive.

Thank you for your time.

 

 

Femi Olabisi is on Twitter: @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in True Life

 

THE NIGERIA GOD IS LAZY!

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Nigeria (as a nation) and Nigerians – herein summated as a collective conglomeration of occupiers of this clime – are wont to equating success in everything to prayers; prayers sans practical steps to achieving everything good.

This habit is so common that the leaders (and the led) most times start and end every discussion, public gathering and political statements with phrases like ‘by God’s grace’, God willing’, Insha Allah, etc. This sanctimonious dependence on the metaphysical being is never attended with certifiable and practical steps to achieving the desired results.

The lazy, work apathetic Nigerian god has some reprehensible injunctions: thou must make indolence a virtue; thou shall achieve everything without lifting a finger; thou shall pray and pray and pray (without working); thou shall desire good life but must not sweat; thou must not question or challenge a leader, etc.

This is why you will see a graduate who prays ceaselessly — visits pastors, alfas and marabouts — for a miracle job without actually job hunting, political jobbers who steal public money and still pay tithe or zakat, students spending quality times on social media and junketing around parties during lectures but relies on the power of prayers and phylactery during exams to pass, etc.

Most unfortunately, followers of the Nigerian god are so mentally bedridden to realise that decades of prayers and marabouting bereft of working and deliberate sacrifice to achieving everything good has always been a mirage.

Nigeria and Nigerians have forgotten that God — or Allah — (for those who believe in Him) worked to create our world and others worlds. And that Jesus of Christians, Prophet Muhammad of Muslims, and the various deities known today were not idle. That they wouldn’t be famous, revered and remembered today if they were an average, indolent and miracle-only Nigerian.

Except Nigeria and Nigerians divorce themselves from the miracle-minus-work and prayer-only mentality, the desired Eldorado will forever remain impossible.

Femi Olabisi is on Twitter: @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Opinion

 

‘DO-NOT-DISTURB’: THINK TWICE BEFORE ACTIVATION

  
DO-NOT-DISTURB (DND) implementation on GSM in Nigeria is a double-edged sword.

Yes, it is good to rid oneself of uselessly inundating SMS and calls from service providers. But one could also miss very important messages sent online (bulk SMS).

It is easier and far cheaper to send messages to as many people as possible and at once via bulk SMS, hence the desire of organisations and individuals to opt for it. 

But the service has been needlessly abused in Nigeria: everybody gets unsolicited and irrelevant calls and messages every time. Hence, the instruction by the National Communication Commission (NCC) directing GSM providers to implement DND. 

Of course, the service is meant to be optional. But GSM service providers just went ahead to place many on it without notice or option. I was a victim. It took me a long time before I knew that I had been placed on blanket Do Not Disturb.

The repercussion of such is missing out on very important information. That would be disastrous for job seekers, students, staff of corporations that employ bulk SMS to contact staff, etc.

It is incumbent on NCC to direct GSM service providers not to place people on automatic DND.  It is equally expedient that job seekers, students and others who may like get messages via bulk SMS to think twice before activating Do Not Disturb. 
You can never tell when the service would deny you of getting that important message.

Femi Olabisi is on Twitter:  @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2016 in Opinion

 

HIJAB IN OSUN:  MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!

The hijab ruckus in my State, the State of Osun, is unnecessary.

We have a constitution. It permits all citizens to practice their religions. This is exactly what the Muslims in that state is asking; their rights to use hijab in public schools. It is not a crime.

Meanwhile, all other religion-inclined people – Christians and traditionalists (generally encapsulated in Oniyemoja, Onisango, Eleegun, etc.) – shouldn’t be stopped from wearing religious accoutrements (or attachments) that depict their religious affiliations. Even Taoists, Jingoists, etc. should have freedom to exist, practice and be kitted in their religious attire while going to ‘public’ schools. It should not be a crime too.

(The only losers here will be atheists. And of course, they can also get Identification tags).

Rather than allowing religion to incite fratricide in the State of Osun, and elsewhere, let’s allow Christians to use choir robe, cassock or garments, Muslims to use hijab, babalawo to wear cowries, beads, etc. Even bandanas depicting religious affiliations should be encouraged. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

The only issue I see here is on the fact that some schools originally belonged to one religious group or the other. These schools should be returned to the owners as they were forcefully taken over by government of yesteryear.

Government should return Muslim schools to Muslims and Christians schools to Christians. It was irresponsible of the government to do this in the first place. They both have rights to determine and enforce whatever they deem permissible in their schools.

More importantly, returning these schools to original owners and/or allow all students to wear religion-depicting un-uniforn uniform will save us all from religious hellbenders who are fighting for their God(s) from setting us on the part of religious war.

Everybody has rights. Not just Muslims, not just Christians.

And why must we allow two foreign religions to divide us? Every Christian family has Muslim family members, and vice-versa.


POSTCRIPT:  

It would be interesting for Christians, traditionalists and adherents of other religions to similarly go to court on their fundamental human rights to wear their religious apparels in public schools. It would be extra interesting to have same Justice Saka Jide Falola presiding. The outcome would be super interesting.

I’m on Twitter: @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2016 in Opinion

 

PROJECT MAMA YEKINI:  SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT

   
   
Around 2pm on Saturday May 7, 2016, I woke up from the bed rest advised by my doctor to see a Facebook post in which I was tagged. The post was by Suraj Tunji Oyewale and it was about the mother of late football legend Rasheed Yekini, Alhaja Sidikat Yekini. Rasheed was a native of Irra in Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State.

Ordinary, I wouldn’t have taken the tagged post seriously because of my health but the calibre of tagger, the message contained and the good intention of the post made a huge difference. He titled it “PROJECT MAMA YEKINI”. It was less than twenty-hours to the time I was discharged from Nigerian Navy Medical Centre, Offa and the doctor had told me to keep off anything stressful.

The post in question was a reaction to a news reportage carried by Sahara Reporters to mark the fourth year of the demise of the football legend Rasheed Yekini. Mr. Suraj wanted her online friends and acquaintances to rally round in philanthropy gesture to assist the old woman. The headline and picture carried by Sahara Reporters showed that Alhaja Sidikat was struggling.

In the said post, Mr. Suraj commissioned me and one other person, Dr. Shefiu Adebayo, to visit the woman to confirm the veracity of Sahara Reporters’ news. Until that Saturday I have never met Dr. Shefiu — though we both live in and around Offa. Suraj requested for my phone number and sent it to Dr. Shefiu who promptly called me and I gave him the direction to my house as I live closer to Irra (Rasheed’s hometown) where we wrongly thought Alhaja Sidikat lives. Sahara Reporters equally wrongly stated that the old woman lives at Irra.

I jumped off the bed and called another young man to come to my house so he could drive me to Irra because of my feeble limbs occasioned by my indisposition. In between this time, Dr. Shefiu called that he was closer to my house. He came. But we eventually drove off in his car.

Just as we took off we concluded to apprise the police of our intention. I promptly put a call to the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Oyun Local Government Police Headquarters at Ilemona. (The nature of my job affords me the opportunity to know and work with the Police, DSS, SIB and NSCDC). The DPO didn’t pick the call. Ditto the SIB I called (I eventually spoke with the SIB later). We proceeded to the Police Station but the DPO was not available. But his men advised us to first go to Onira of Irra palace to make our intention known.

And off we went.

Onira of Irra too was away when we got to Irra but the Oba’s aids were of immense assistance. They took us to the house of Chief Mudasiru (the Eesa of Irra) who is incidentally a relative to the father of late Rasheed Yekini. We told Eesa our intention and he was happy. He however told us that Alhaja Sidikat that we sought was actually living at Rasheed Yekini’s house at Ijagbo. He gave us his phone number and instructed that we should call him when we get to Ijagbo so he could speak with Alhja Sidikat.

Ijagbo is in opposite direction and that meant we would pass through my house at Offa. We stopped at my house to pick my car — I didn’t want to overburden Dr. Shefiu will have to take me back since his would be returning to his place of work via same Ijagbo.

We got to Ijagbo, located the house, greeted people at the small shop attached to the front of the fence and went in. We barely entered when two men came and confronted us. They were angry that another set of journalists and opportunists had come to feast on mama’s story. We later discovered that many journalists and fraudulent people had visited the old woman with promises to do something. But nothing was forthcoming. We were even told of people who took photographs with Mama and used same to collect money on her behalf but kept the money for themselves.

To calm nerves we introduced ourselves and the job we do. They were surprised. My place of work is too close and public to lie about. We narrated the news Sahara Reporters carried, how a kind-hearted Lagos-based Suraj Tunji Oyewale is trying to raised money to assist the old woman, of our visit to the Ilemona Police Station, Onira’s Palace and Chief Eesa’s house. We equally told them that we were only on fact finding mission and that we need pictorial evidence to show the people who are willing to assist mama.

They were happy and opened to us. One of these men told us that his name is Alhaji Tunde and a tenant in the house. He gave us his phone number. We didn’t ask for the name of the second man. We are not journalists and we didn’t want to be too inquisitive.

Mama told us she needed help and lamented neglect the by government despite all her son did for Nigeria. We asked — in the presence of the two men who initially confronted us —  what help she needed. She said anything is welcomed.

We eventually concluded in her presence to stock her shop with soft drinks, biscuits and other comestibles in the house (the shop is probably a disused garage — it is located under the storey building and very big). We equally concluded to give her cash and that it must be in the bank.

The issue of cash created another logistic problem. The woman is too old for rigours of bank. Besides, there are no banks in Ijagbo, while those in Offa are nothing but hell. (Banking system in Offa and environ has been dysfunctional since 2013 because of armed robbery. They open at 9am and close at 12pm. Infinitely long queues at banking halls and ATM would discourage the most agile human being).
We were also told of how one person defrauded Mama of over one hundred thousand Naira through bank, of how the money left behind by late Rasheed Yekini was shared, of what becomes of her share of the money, etc. We were intimated of some family issues confronting Mama, of a Akeem Yekni (her son living in the same house with her), of her daughter who was taken care of her but also passed away later (and that she’s even supporting the children the late daughter left behind), of how a sitting senator who visited Alhaji Tunji (a tenant I mentioned earlier) gave mama one hundred thousand Naira and what happened to the money thereafter.

I cannot state everything Mama and these two men told us. It is not our duty and we didn’t go there to write stories. This little is just to disabuse minds of some individuals who has been rubbishing our good intentions.

I read of a story which stated that mama must be making over N500,000 annually from house rent in the house built by late Rasheed. That’s is a possibility but a doubtful one in that locality. I’ve been living in Offa for over ten years and I know that amount (particularly in Ijagbo) cannot just be possible. Besides, there are other interested parties to late Rasheed estate. Mama is just one of the many interested parties.

We took pictures with Mama before we left. These pictures have semblance to Sahara Reporters’. The main difference in the pictures is in the bread Mama is selling. Sahara Reporters’ showed some loaves of bread: there were just two loaves when we visited on Saturday evening. 

PS: A deadline of May 15, 2016 was hitherto scheduled for the delivery of our promise. Close to one hundred thousand Naira has been raised as at the time of writing this. And if the Coordinator and donators agree we may have to involve the police, local people and the press just to let people know we are no fraudsters. 

This is simply philanthropic. The rumours of sinister intentions being circulated on social media is unfounded.

Femi Olabisi lives at Offa. I’m on Twitter @Femiolas and Blog at http://www.femiolas.wordpress.com

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Opinion

 

CROSS RIVER: SAVE THE FOREST, MAKE THE POOR POORER

  
Only heaven knows how those in government think, and if they ever had the people they govern at heart when it comes to policy formulation and implementation. Cross River State comes to my mind.

The incumbent Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade is muting a ban on the use of wood to roof houses in that state to preserve the forest. He has probably forgotten that the largest percentage of that state is very poor and cannot afford using steel for roofing.

Same poor people are still suffering from the same ass-thought policy of his predecessor, Gov. Liyel Imoke. Imoke embraced United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) programme some years back. Loggers, timber traders, farmers, carriers, machine operators, landowners, etc. we’re forced out of their means of livelihood without alternatives in order to perverse the forest.

(Incidentally, same government granted concession to Dangote’s company Dansa Allied Agro on logging activities. Owner communities didn’t get any. It is a case of protecting the rich to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer). 

The state government willingly subscribed to be the pioneer state in Nigeria then. But as wont in this clime, the state failed to think of the many families and communities that would be affected; failed to provide alternatives for their survival and went on immediate implementation without adequate preparation.

Today, the ‘haves’ in those communities have become ‘haves not’. Families disintegrated, and poverty become more pronounced.

Yes, the policy of stemming global warming is in order. What’s wrong is disempowering already poor people to implement the policy. I bet those in governments in the West would not allow the policy — or any policy whatsoever — to impoverish their citizens. We pander to the wishes of the West, irregardless of the repercussions to our own people.

Now that Governor Ayade is pilgrimaging on a similar part of making the poor poorer through UN-REDD+ — a journey that may eventually exacerbate homelessness if undertaken — he should be reminded that government is meant to serve serve the people and alleviate their suffering and not add their their litany of problems.

Any policy that will take away means of livelihood of impoverished people without a buffer is nonsense. If steel roofing is made compulsory, the dreams of many to own houses will evaporate. Not many can afford it.

Femi Olabisi is on Twitter:  @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Opinion

 

YOUR OPINION, PLEASE!

(THE CULTURAL SPECIFICITY OF LANGUAGE)

Having excised highfalutin pleasantries that preceded the message, below is the transcript of what transpired on WhatsApp between my younger brother and I (he is actually my cousin: the Yoruba and some other ethnic extractions in Nigeria call everybody brother or sister, even when there is no blood – or paternal/maternal – homogeneity). 

Incidentally, my brother has first degree in English (and a serving Corps Member) while my first degree is History/English. (I have since moved on to other areas though).

He wanted to know the English translation for these Yoruba pleasantries:

  • 1. E ku inawo ana o
  • 2. E kaabo ana o 
  • 3. E ku ise ana o

MY RESPONSE (MODIFIED):
First, you need to understand that certain words and/or usage are culture specific and may not have English equivalent. In addition, English has no elaborate greeting system, as is the case with Yoruba and most African cultures and languages.

For the above, there is no one-to-one correspondence in English language system; what we have are mere equivalents.

For instance, “E ku abo ana” will be ‘How was your journey yesterday’. It cannot be *Welcome for (or on) yesterday* which would have been the direct translation. (Even that ‘correct’ answer: ‘How was your journey yesterday’ is semantically incorrect as direct meaning of “E ku abo ana”).

While the patently wrong transliteration (i.e. *Welcome for (or on) yesterday*) looks more correct it is equally wrong because we will just be translation Yoruba language directly to English language.

“E ku ise ana o”, as another example has no direct English equivalent. You can say ‘You did well yesterday’ (if the person actually did well in a particular assignment or task) or ‘How was yesterday’s work?’ (if you are merely asking).

You must have observed that none of the above really captured your Yoruba meaning. That is because the two languages – English and Yoruba – have distinct lexico-semantic structures.

Besides, the Whites do not have elaborate greeting system. You will find this very unusual when you travel to the West.

PS: All are welcomed to add more, correct me if I am wrong or express their opinions on this.

Femi Olabisi is on Twitter:  @Femiolas

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Opinion

 
 
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