We squabble, they suffer

I wanted the perspective of a doctor on this latest strike, and Dr. Chijioke Kaduru has obliged. I thank him for this contribution. Feel free to add your two cents below.


Doctor and healthcare worker strikes are a global phenomenon with the potential to negatively impact on the quality of healthcare services and the doctor-patient relationship. Strikes are a legitimate deadlock breaking mechanism employed when labour negotiations have reached an impasse during collective bargaining. The right to strike is considered a fundamental right whose derogation would be inimical to the proper functioning of employer/employee collective bargaining in democratic societies.

According to the World Medical Association (WMA) Statement on the “Ethical Implications of Collective Action by Physicians” adopted by the 63rd WMA General Assembly in 2012, in Bangkok, “Physicians may carry out protest action and sanctions in order to improve direct and indirect working conditions that also may affect patient care. If involved in collective action, National Medical Associations should act to minimise the harm to the public and ensure that essential and emergency health services, and the continuity of care, are provided throughout a strike.”

In essence, it is both legal and ethical for Physicians to go on strike, contrary to what many claim. Physicians are however encouraged to minimise the harm to the public, where a strike has been embarked upon. This writer however, puts doctors on a pedestal, and therefore finds it difficult to swallow that doctors would take up industrial action for the reasons stated for this current strike, (though within their legal & ethical boundaries).

Our Complex Situation

The Federal Government (FG), the Nigerian Doctors and the Nigerian Allied Health Workers are appear to be blindsided by one of Nigeria’s worst kept secrets – Our health system is on the brink of total collapse. How else can one explain this mire of incompetent handling of negotiations by the FG, and recurrent strikes from both doctor and allied health worker groups?

The Nigerian health indices are among the worst globally, and our health services in the public sphere, are not nearly as good as it could be. Whilst recognising the efforts that have been put in by the FG and all healthcare workers, over the years to strengthen our health system, the current warring of the factions, does more to undermine the efforts of all these groups over the years, whilst leaving us with a huge gap that still needs to be met, in our health status.

The current industrial action by the Nigerian Doctors, is part of a complex situation broadly involving four stakeholders, that has been on-going for longer than some of us care to chronicle. This four-way situation involves the Doctors, the Allied Health Workers, the FG and the Nigerian Citizens. The complexities of this situation make any attempts to simplify it, laughable.

The FG have botched the debate, every step of the way. They have made some agreements that are difficult to implement, especially in the context of current practise and existing policies. They have made promises to both sides. They have left a lot unratified. They have underinvested in Health. The FG have ultimately not done what is expected of it, in ameliorating this conflict or in fostering the health of citizens.

The Allied Health Workers want better recognition, better entry levels and navigation within the civil service, and ultimately, the opportunity to also lead the tertiary hospitals and the health sector. Arguments have been put forward on the mismanagement of the health system by doctors in leadership over years, as well as examples of the leadership models of other countries, many of which do not have doctors at the helm, but are ultimately doing well. The Allied Health Workers blame the doctors for everything wrong with the Health System and blame the FG for always indulging doctors.

The doctors want to preserve their statuses as leaders of the tertiary hospitals and the health sector, want to limit the use of certain terminologies that connote ownership of patients to doctors alone, want to preserve a salary relativity that structures earnings within the health sector, want the FG to provide better financial support to working doctors, and are making certain key demands that will uplift health service delivery in the country (including passage of the National Health Bill). The Doctors accuse Allied Health Workers of trying to undermine their ownership of patients, leadership in the provision of care to the patient, and for most other issues surrounding the conflict. They also blame the FG for indulging the Allied Health Workers.

The FG gets the blame from both sides, obviously. And no one else is willing to take responsibility for their own shortcomings.

The Nigerian Citizen, the fourth stakeholder in this complex situation has become little more than mere collateral damage. I would like to point out that there is significant evidence, that contrary to popular belief, withdrawal of services or strike actions by doctors and healthcare workers will not automatically lead to an increased number of patient deaths or total failure of healthcare service delivery. However, all the research that provide this evidence, were conducted in mid-to-high income countries, with well-established emergency services and relatively advanced health-seeking behaviour. In context therefore, it is within reason to say that the Nigerian citizens are at risk of loss of lives and deformation, in the event of strikes by any of the groups of healthcare workers.

The citizen, who all the health workers swore to look after, has become collateral damage in the squabble. This is, at best, completely unacceptable.

Leadership in a Crisis

“We understood perfectly that the life of a single human is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth. And we learned it; we, who were not of the working class nor of the peasant class. Social medicine demands that it be well understood that far more important than a good renumeration is the pride of serving ones neighbour. That much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people. And each doctor, within the circle of his activities, can and must accumulate that valuable treasure, the gratitude of his people.” Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara

As a Physician in training many years ago, I was magnetised by the will and wisdom of Dr. Che Guevara, a doctor who became part of a revolution, following his experience as a doctor, witnessing illness, hunger, and poverty. He became a man defined by his need to push for the benefits of the masses. Such need to help the masses, continues to drive many to become physicians today. While recognising that we cannot create a utopia, it is important to point out that being a doctor is more than just a job and doctors, must remember this.

Doctors, are stakeholders in this society. Doctors cannot absolve themselves of all responsibility, in the mess that is our health system. They cannot pitch the people against the Allied Health Workers and Government, in the hope that they will come out of the situation smelling of roses.

When we decided to become doctors, we made a choice to live a life of sacrifice, with the intent to foster humanity. I hope we never lose sight of that. I hope we can take leadership of the health sector, and be the example. I hope we can look past the squabble and see the big picture, with a focus on building a better health system for our people. Our demands, no matter how reasonable they may seem to some, should not have to come at the cost of the lives of the poor, who are the ultimate victims.

Let us lead, in a crisis.

Attempting to define ‘stomach infrastructure’

In the first week of April, 2013, the warning signs were already there.

Over a year ago now, I attended a symposium organised by The Future Awards in Ikogosi, Ekiti State. At the session attended by the governor, Kayode Fayemi, one Ekiti indigene after another got up told the governor to pay attention to ‘stomach infrastructure’. That event is significant in hindsight, because if there was one danger sign ahead of a re-election push, that was it.

Now, people all over the country are trying to pick through the wreckage of a campaign that seems to have been dead on arrival. Instead of congratulations, there are post-mortems. The post-mortems are necessary because Fayemi was widely perceived as a governor who was performing. Some have even described him as the best pound-for-pound (apologies to boxing fans) governor in Nigeria. Why then did he lose?

The events on June 21st have confirmed to me that, were Gary Chapman to write the Nigerian political equivalent of ‘The Five Love Languages’, ‘Stomach infrastructure’ would be the top love language.

It is not like Nigerians do not appreciate good roads, hospitals, and other amenities. It is that there is something that matters to them a bit more than that. There was a lot of debate on social media about sharing rice to potential voters in the days before the election, but to restrict the idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ to food, whether cooked or raw, is naïve.

Stomach infrastructure is simply the system by which political patronage is dispensed to various groups in a particular society. This patronage can take many, many, forms. For instance, putting in a good word for the relative of a high ranking party chieftain, approving a contract or an appointment for a close political ally or their relative, and so on.

Stomach infrastructure means honouring an invitation to an important social club in Ekiti, and ‘declaring’ for its members. It can also mean turning a blind eye to a racket, or several rackets, for that matter. Other times, it is simply dispensing hard currency.

I am sure by now you begin to get the point. Grassroots politics, as far as Nigeria is concerned, is more or less a fancy term for building and maintaining stomach infrastructure. Having a strong ‘political structure’ is more or less the means by which this political patronage is consistently dispensed, the means by which it reaches the ‘masses’.

It is this (infra)structure that sustains you when you try to do unpopular things like take on the teachers and civil servants, as well as reform the civil service in general. It is this structure that enables you to call in favours on election day. It is this structure that enables you to ward off challengers like Ayo Fayose, backed as he was by a rejuvenated PDP.

Ibrahim Babangida, to name just one example, understood this idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ very, very well. MKO Abiola understood it too. Both men were famed for their generosity and people skills, traits which kept them relevant in Nigeria’s power play for decades.

My best guess about what happened, is that the culture shock of moving from the governance style of Niyi Adebayo, Ayo Fayose and Segun Oni, to the style of Kayode Fayemi, was so great that it produced a backlash. Overnight, the people of Ekiti went from experiencing one extreme to another, and they just could not take it. Then, along came a familiar face at just the right time, with just the right people skills, who had just the right party behind him.

The reason why Ekiti cannot be used as a barometer for the rest of the country, is that what happened there was a perfect storm. It does not take just one factor to bring about the defeat of an incumbent, especially by such a margin.

Fayemi took on the teachers over competency tests, and implemented the results, leading to the demotion of some who had served for decades. The rest of them never took the tests and punished him at the ballot box. This fight may have been better left for a second term. There was also a lot of friction over the payment of the new Teachers Salary Scale, which he said the government could not afford. Again, scaling back on ambitious goals to focus on ‘bread and butter’ issues could have saved the situation.

The biggest fall-out of this election is that it might cause many who want to seek political office to pause and wonder what the point is, if someone who is performing can be so summarily rejected. The best thing to do is learn. The majority of Nigeria’s electorate are preoccupied with basic issues of survival, and this affects everything else. No amount of political correctness can change this.

Democracy remains a popularity contest, and for as long as everyone above 18 can vote, then the wishes of the majority must be taken into account to a significant extent. If the people in a particular place want to be governed in a certain way, then that must be accommodated, even if it means deviating a bit from a pure focus on the traditional indices of governance.

 

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Getting into the World Cup groove

The World Cup starts in 2 days, 20 hours, 42 minutes and 30 seconds. Make that 29. 28. 27. 26. 25.  As is usual with these things, everyone wants to get in on the act of predicting how far all the teams go.

I have watched the application of statistics to quantify football over the last few years with great interest, primarily because I am a lover of both.

One thing that strikes me in all the models I have seen so far, is how nearly all of them are united in the conclusion that Brazil will win the World Cup. It is not even really close, as Brazil are about three times more likely to win than anyone else.

As far as Nigeria is concerned, the pre-tournament prediction models make for slightly disturbing reading. Only one model, done by EA Sports, has the Super Eagles qualifying for the second round. Incidentally, it is that same model that has Brazil not winning the World Cup, losing to Germany in the final.

You can see the EA Sports predictions here. The others, by Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, Five Thirty Eight, and a chap called Andrew Yuan, whose work was cited by the Economist, can be viewed here, here, here, and here.

Also, if it is your thing, you can play World Cup Fantasy Football here. Picking 23 players from 736 is insanely hard.

In addition, there are very, very good previews from FourFourTwo, WhoScored, and the Guardian UK.

I really can’t wait.

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Homeland, Person of Interest, and the limits of impunity

Now is the time to expose the truth to our fellow citizens

The truth that has been lurking beneath the shadows for so long

That their country is no longer theirs

That their freedoms have been stripped away

One camera, one cellphone, one megabyte at a time

Now is the time to pull back the curtain

Welcome to your trial ladies and gentlemen

Welcome to the trial of the United States government

Court is now in session

 

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but two shows I have always kept up with are ‘Homeland’ and ‘Person of Interest’, because of their relevance to the times in which we live. I will have to do a quick summary of both shows for those who may not be following, in order to make my point. Stick with me.

Homeland is about a US Marine by the name of Brody, who switched sides while in captivity. The event that led to his ‘radicalisation’, was the killing of his host’s son in a drone strike in Iraq. Brody had developed a bond with the son of Abu Nazir (the man with whom he was staying), and Nazir used his son’s death to first, convince Brody to wear a suicide vest, which didn’t go off, and eventually to kill the Vice President, who authorised the drone strike and eventually its cover up. Up to that point, Homeland was essentially a critique of drone warfare, which eventually became slightly overshadowed by a love affair between Brody and Carrie Matheson, two of the show’s main characters.

Moving on swiftly to Person of Interest, the main theme of which is the good and mostly bad sides of a surveillance state. The American people are watched over by a surveillance programme called ‘Northern Lights’ created by Harold Finch. This machine churns out Social Security numbers of people linked to all kinds of violent activities, including, but not limited to, acts of terrorism. Finch takes it upon himself to help people in mortal danger, with the assistance of a couple of others. The dialogue has a particular brand of humour which I quite like.

This takes me to the opening lines of this post, said by Leslie Odom Jr’s character, Peter Collier, in the final 45 seconds of Episode 22, Season 3, of Person of Interest. A few episodes earlier, Collier’s group ‘Vigilance’, no doubt with a nod to that famous quote widely attributed, incorrectly as it turns out, to Thomas Jefferson, exposed the existence of Northern Lights to the world. Those revelations led to a cancellation of the Northern Lights programme, opening the way for a privately owned surveillance system called Samaritan, to be put at the service of the US government. The pitch for Samaritan was being made to a top presidential adviser when Collier and his group took them hostage,with the aim of putting them on trial and broadcasting it on the internet.

In that same episode, Collier’s motivation was also revealed. He had an elder brother who was a recovering alcoholic, and had been sober for nearly two years. While at dinner with him one evening in 2010, his brother was arrested on grounds of ‘national security’ and detained for weeks. After his release, he lost his job and took his life. Collier went looking for answers, and was presented with four photographs showing his brother talking to an Arab man, whose cousin was linked to terrorist activity. That Arab man showed up at the funeral, and  told Collier that his brother helped him on his own journey of sobriety. It turned out that there was no reason whatsoever to detain him. Filled with a desire for revenge, Collier joined Vigilance and resolved to expose the government that took his brother from him.

That is that for the background. The common thread running through both shows is a government that suffers serious consequences as a result of hurting one too many people, and not providing any means to seek redress. In a word: Impunity. It is that impunity that was foremost in Edward Snowden’s mind when he released information exposing the extent of America’s surveillance apparatus. It is that arc of impunity that every government and corproration, left to its own devices, ultimately bends toward.

In another example, the drone programme which has gone into overdrive during the Obama administration, could be creating as many enemies for the US as it eliminates. There is yet to be adequate transparency and reform in the ways targets are chosen, disclosure about innocent people who are killed, and most importantly, accountability for those deaths. While both shows contain messages about the need for thorough reform in the US drone and surveillance programmes, other countries, like Nigeria, also have lessons to learn.

Extra judicial killings and unlawful detentions in Nigeria are a way of life. These crimes are committed by the Army, Police and other security agencies, and the victims of these crimes have no recourse. For example, no one was ever brought to justice for the killing of the Ogoni Nine in 1995, just as no one ever went to jail for authorising a reprisal attack in Odi, Bayelsa state, in 1999. To what extent did these and other events lead to the violent militancy and costly amnesty in the Niger Delta?

The current violent strain of Boko Haram can be traced to 2009, with the extra judicial killing of then leader, Mohammed Yusuf. To what extent did his killing, along with many others, by the police, lead to the situation we have today? In trying to fight the insurgency, several crimes have been committed by the Nigerian Army against innocent civilians. Many people have been unlawfully detained and killed, with no one answering for these crimes. Such events inevitably lead to sympathy for terrorists and obstruct moves to resolve the insurgency.

It is this same impunity which makes it possible for soldiers sent to the front lines to be treated in the worst way, paid pitiful amounts of money to put their lives on their line and are poorly equipped to boot. If they get injured or killed, they and their families are on their own a lot of the time. Yet, no one answers for it.

There are only so many wrongs a nation, a government, can commit before the chickens come home to roost. While the world rightly screams ‘Bring Back Our Girls!’ from the rooftops, it is merely a manifestation of several atrocities over many years. I for one would like a trial of the Nigerian government. It would be prime time stuff.

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The Truppr 5k

I love to run, and this may not be a surprise to some people. I often run by myself and though it was hard at first, I have been able to keep up with running on a regular basis, twice a week at least. As the months have gone by, I have witnessed more and more people take up exercise on the streets of Lagos. Some run by themselves, some run in a group. It always makes me happy because exercise confers real benefits, and as many people as possible should enjoy them.

When enough people begin to undertake a particular activity, it is inevitable that communities will form. Bosun Tijani, a co-founder and CEO of the Co-Creation Hub and a prominent member of Nigeria’s growing technology community, is also the founder of Truppr, which aims to create a community of fitness lovers across a number of sports, like football, running, tennis and general aerobics.

The 5k run held today, and being a fan of long distance myself, it was a no-brainer for me to take part. I also knew it would be fun to meet up with good friends and make new ones. A Fitbit Flex was up for grabs too, so that was added motivation, quite apart from the desire to be first and beat my last time. It was a great turnout, and there was some celeb support there too. Kate Henshaw was in attendance and ran the full race. Esta Morenikeji took the pre-race warm up, and by the time she was done, I really couldn’t wait to get started.

The key, as always, is to start a little slowly then storm to the finish. It almost worked, but for Opeyemi Balogun’s resilience to pip me right at the finish line. Oddly, I met him for the first time exactly a week ago, and had no idea he is such a strong runner.

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Answering some questions after the race

So, no Fitbit Flex for me. I am dying for an activity tracker/smartwatch though, and I fancy my chances next time round, which should be next month. The event itself was very well organised, and a big thumbs up to everyone involved in the planning and execution.

The Truppr 5k was a lot of great fun, and I am happy it will be a regular event from now on.  I encourage you to sign up for the next one. The more the merrier.

View all the pictures from the event here.

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Ferguson’s choice

The brooding figure of Alex Ferguson at every United home game is by now a familiar sight. This was no more obvious than at the game against Liverpool, where he watched the players he used to coach – and the man he appointed to take over from him – display their collective impotence against a Liverpool side who were brimming with confidence, despite their occasional penchant for individual errors.

As good as Liverpool have been this season, there are moments when, under pressure, they commit errors. However, their hosts on Sunday never came close to applying such pressure on them. Inside 9 months of lifting their 20th league title, fired to it as they were by Robin van Persie, Manchester United have become a car being driven in reverse by David Moyes.

Last summer saw handovers at a number of Europe’s biggest clubs. Pellegrini came in at City, Martino at Camp Nou, Ancellotti provided a welcome relief to what had become a toxic Mourinho circus at the Bernabeu, while The Special One went back to Stamford Bridge for a reprise, which is not going too badly. Bayern, the European champions, replaced one treble winning coach with another, and just when it seemed impossible to imagine FC Hollywood going into another gear, they have done just that.

Of all these changes, the one at Old Trafford has been the worst by some distance. Manchester United have their lowest number of points after 30 games in Premier League history, and will finish behind Liverpool for only the second time in 23 seasons. It also looks likely that Spurs and Everton will finish ahead of United for the first time since 1990.

A lot of those defending David Moyes have talked about how he needs time to shape the squad in his image. David Moyes has already shaped the squad. Alex Ferguson inherited a team who were 19th out of 22 teams and had not won the league in 19 years. David Moyes inherited the Premiership champions and put them out of the Champions League places inside 7 months.

So, it is not so much a decline as it is a dead drop, and it is perfectly fitting that Alex Ferguson has a front row seat. It was he who, coming from a trophy laden spell north of the border with Aberdeen, woke up the sleeping United juggernaut and turned them into a powerhouse club and true global giant. It was he who, after over 25 years of building a dynasty, personally handed it over to a fellow Scotsman of very modest achievements. It is he who must ultimately take the blame.

His achievements with Manchester United have seen Ferguson invited to speak in several places about leadership and management, and rightly so. However, the ultimate test of a leader is leaving behind a structure that will outlast him. Events at Old Trafford are yet more proof of how much easier it is to destroy, of how easy it is to reverse in a few months what took years to put together. What makes it worse is that this happens under a man anointed by Ferguson, and who, by all accounts, still enjoys Ferguson’s support.

It is time for someone close enough to Sir Alex to tell him that he is on the verge of destroying his legacy, or at least tarnishing it to a significant extent. Things will not get better under David Moyes, and if this season is any indication, United have less margin for error than at any time over the last two decades. There is no longer a top four set in stone, but a top six, with Liverpool and Spurs closing in all the time. Abroad, in addition to the traditional European powers, clubs like PSG and Monaco can compete at the top end of the market. Some are of the opinion that United can afford two seasons outside the Champions League places, but they forget that Liverpool are ahead of schedule in their evolution, that Spurs will eventually get it right in their choice of manager, and Arsenal are more willing to splash the cash these days, plus they still have Wenger. Players are driven by money to a large extent, but they also want to be on the biggest stages. An inability to offer CL football means the club will have to pay a premium.

In addition, United’s success on the commercial side, which the Glazers have gleefully exploited, is hinged entirely on serial victory. Once that exterior begins to come apart, revenues will be hit. For a club that has been either the most valuable or second most valuable in world football for years and years, the decision making process regarding Ferguson’s successor has been a clear disaster.

How could it be possible that the next coach of such a big club was between just two candidates? Why was a thorough search not conducted in order to make the best possible choice? Why was the biggest decision in nearly three decades at Old Trafford, essentially left to one man? This practice of simply pulling names out of thin air appears to be common in football according to this article, but it is probably compounded by the fact that the Glazers don’t know a lot about the football side and just outsourced that part to Ferguson.

The time has finally come for both the Glazers and Ferguson to admit that this experiment has been a failure, and use the summer to make amends. It would be a huge mistake to hand over significant transfer funds to ‘rebuild’, when 65 million pounds has already been used to acquire Mata and Fellaini, but the team still play like zombies who have never met before.

The most important signing United can make right now is a new coach who has a clear, progressive plan that gets the best out of the players already at the club, and those who will be signed. Under David Moyes, Manchester United are going nowhere fast. The time to cut him loose is now.

If this does not happen, Alex Ferguson will continue to watch many more games with a grim look on his face, in circumstances mostly of his own making. He may yet live long enough to see everything he worked for utterly rubbished by a man he handpicked. God forbid.

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City’s record breaking scoring season.

On Saturday, Manchester City scored another 4 goals to beat Watford 4-2, to avoid an embarrassing exit from the FA Cup. This now brings the number of goals they have scored this season, in all competitions, to 110 goals in 36 games.

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This brings their goal average to just over 3 goals a game. If it feels like a lot, it certainly is. Manchester City have the added distinction of scoring the most goals by any team after 22 games of a 38 game Premiership season.

22 games

I created both those graphics with Datawrapper, but could not import them here, hence the need for screen shots. Both graphics are here and here.

If you notice from the last graphic, the team with the second most goals after 22 games are the City side of 2011/2012, coached by Roberto Mancini. Last week, he took some of the credit for the exploits of the Citizens in front of goal this season, since he brought in the core of the side Manuel Pellegrini has used to such devastating effect so far.

Indeed, the core of that 2011/2012 side is still very much in place, and they have a very good chance of breaking the record for the most goals in a Premiership season, set by Chelsea in 2010/2011, with a total of 103 goals. They are only 40 goals behind this tally with 16 games to go, and they must fancy themselves to set a new mark.

Beyond that, City look certain to win at least one trophy this season. They lurk ominously behind Arsenal in 2nd place in the EPL and are in the final of the League Cup. In the 5th round of the FA Cup, they face a hard to beat Chelsea side. In addition, a double date with the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League makes for a packed February and March. The real tests are coming thick and fast. Fortunately for them, they score goals so freely that they always have a chance. If only they could tighten up a bit in defence.

Romanticising stability

That famous Steve Jobs quote about how you can only connect the dots backwards has gotten me thinking. I remember Ferguson standing in the centre circle at Old Trafford and saying: “This club stood by me through tough times, so stand by your new manager”, and I think he had a feeling about what was coming. He may have known that David Moyes would test our collective patience, but he may not have known the extent. Old Trafford, once a venue where giants of domestic and European football were beaten, has now become a place where teams like West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle and Swansea pick up points. To add insult to injury, Roberto Martinez, who became coach of Everton and replaced Moyes, came to Old Trafford and collected three points. Everton currently sit in fifth, four points ahead of a team with vastly more resources, with over half of the season gone.

It may be that Ferguson saw part of himself in Moyes, but it is unclear what it was, exactly. Moyes turned 50 in April, but by the time Ferguson was 50 (in 1991), he had broken the Rangers-Celtic dominance in Scotland over a decade earlier. Ferguson won three of Aberdeen’s four Scottish League titles to date, before embarking on a rescue mission at Old Trafford. Upon taking over the team on 6th November, 1986, United were 19th out of 22 teams in the English First Division, and had not won the league for 19 years. If there was anyone in Britain who could say he wanted to knock Liverpool off their perch and mean it, it was Ferguson. He knew the mentality required to break an established order. He also knew the mentality required to sustain one.

This is the context within which we must assess Moyes. He has been given one of the biggest clubs in the world to manage, a team that finished 11 points clear of their nearest rivals less than 9 months ago. No amount of preachments and shibboleths can erase these facts. It therefore stands to reason that the parameters used to define ‘patience’ in the late 80s at Old Trafford, cannot possibly be the same parameters in 2013.

I would be the first to admit that had Moyes taken United straight into another title fight, I would join others in applauding him – and Ferguson – for masterminding a nearly seamless transition. However, this is not the case, and the time for an inquest is at hand. Indeed, it has already begun.

The managerial stability at Old Trafford is legendary, and is no doubt a thing of pride for its supporters all around the world. There have been 20 changes of authority in the dugout, but Real Madrid by contrast have had 60. In fact, there have been 27 managerial appointments at Real Madrid since Ferguson took over in 1986, which is more than all the managers United have ever had. A similar pattern plays out among many of Europe’s top clubs.

Having said that, there is such a thing as stability for the sake of stability. The three managers before Ferguson had a total of 14 years between them: Tommy Docherty (5 years), Dave Sexton (4 years) and Ron Atkinson (5 years). They only managed three FA Cups, Atkinson winning two of them and Docherty the other. In fact, Atkinson, who preceded Ferguson, had league finishes of 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 4th and 4th in his five full seasons in charge.

This is not 1986. United have a lot more to lose now than they ever did, and they also have the example of Liverpool’s decline as a cautionary tale. While Anfield sleepwalked through the 1990s and 2000s, living off the occasional cup winning high, United arose, as well as Chelsea, and Manchester City. Wenger’s savvy has seen Arsenal remain competitive, and Liverpool now find their route back into the big time blocked by these four teams.

My suspicion is that some think United have one or two seasons to allow Moyes to get things right. If this ‘patience’ comes at a cost of missing out on Champions League qualification in back to back seasons, it becomes a lot harder to attract the kind of players that can take a team to the next level, something Liverpool are finding out. Professional footballers love money, but they also want the glory, and they know that in today’s hypercommercialised environment, both go hand in hand. With teams like PSG, Monaco and City able to splash the cash, in addition to the traditional European powers, United are far from the only ones looking for – or able to afford – top talent.

One thing we know about the fall of empires, is how fast things can unravel. In theory, much of what Ferguson spent nearly 27 years building could be significantly eroded inside five years. He could yet live to see his legacy irreparably tarnished. The irony of this would be that it happens under the watch of a man he personally recommended to take over from him.

Some would say that Ferguson earned his right to choose his successor, but as far as the Glazers are concerned, it is probably as much a payback for his support for their regime, as anything else. I would be surprised if they are not privately wondering if that was a mistake.

Under Moyes, Manchester United have set unwanted record after unwanted record on the field, taking confidence among the players down with it. It is not just that results have taken a turn for worse, it is also that there is no consolation of having played well. Dire results, dire performances.

By all accounts, the Glazers are prepared to back Moyes substantially in the transfer market, but the kind of players United needs are hard to come by in January. On current form, the club may be unable to offer new recruits Champions League football next season. Therein lies the problem. One minute you are Premier League champion, the next minute you could be struggling to retain your place at Europe’s top table.

Of course, it is still possible that Moyes turns results around, secures Champions League qualification, and marches on with aplomb. It is possible that we could look back a year from now and wonder what the fuss was about. It is also possible that we look back and remember that this is where it all went wrong.

As for Ferguson, the words of Harvey Dent come to mind: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

My running playlist

For me, running is the best exercise. Maybe it is the constant movement, but I love it. I also run hard. Every time I run, I try to beat my last time. In this quest, music is a major ally. Below are a list of 13 songs I use when I run my 10k, most of which are drawn from Fall Out Boy and Linkin Park.

I don’t care – Fall Out Boy

Thks Fr Th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy

Beat It – Fall Out Boy: This song is an amazing take on the original. It is done at a higher tempo, driven by Patrick Stump’s delivery.

America’s Suitehearts – Fall Out Boy

Alpha Dog – Fall Out Boy

Eyes of the Tiger – Survivor: This song is not too up tempo, but the lyrics are compelling. In addition, you get to feel like Rocky when you run.

A place for my head – Linkin Park

One step closer – Linkin Park

With you – Linkin Park

Don’t stay – Linkin Park: Having Chester Bennington scream in your ear is very motivating.

W.A.R.R.I.O.R. – Ebony Bones: I first heard this song when playing FIFA 2011, and the high tempo got to me. It makes you feel like a warrior too.

The Phoenix – Fall Out Boy: This joint is from their most recent album, ‘Save rock and roll’, and it is in keeping with their other tracks on my playlist: energetic and funny.

Big things poppin – T.I.: This is my power song, and T.I’s intensity is the reason for it.

I am in the process of putting together another playlist, so if you run regularly and have any suggestions, feel free to put them in the comment section. On the other hand, if your New Year resolution is to exercise more, a few of the songs above will definitely help.

Watch what you say

The book of Proverbs, and the bible in general, is full of admonitions to watch our utterances. Words, once uttered, cannot be taken back. This is perhaps even truer in the age of social media. A tweet can be retweeted several times, same with a video. Once you hit ‘send’, you are no longer in control.

There is an irony in here somewhere. Social media invites us to spill our guts, to reveal more and more of our thoughts, but simultaneously exacts what in some aspects could be a disproportionate punishment for revealing those same thoughts. The result is that we have to constantly exercise our own internal filter, lest we end up begging for mercy from friends and strangers alike. All of a sudden, we are discovering that having an audience is not all it was cracked up to be.

A private joke that may have been shared with just a few people not that long ago, ends up being viewed by thousands, courtesy of a few retweets. For example, Justine Sacco’s ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!’ tweet sounds like something that would have been sent to a friend by text message, but she happened to tweet it before getting on a plane to Cape Town, from London. By the time she landed, she had lost her job and became one of several examples in 2013 alone of people who have said stupid things and had to take them back, but not before paying a high price.

Martin Bashir, who was then a commentator with MSNBC, went overboard on Sarah Palin and had to resign. Alec Baldwin also had to leave MSNBC after homophobic slurs. His new show was just five episodes in. Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson family who have a reality show called ‘Duck Dynasty’, was briefly suspended from the show following his own remarks about homosexuality.

Just yesterday, Bright Okpocha, popularly known as Basketmouth, posted a joke on his Facebook page that appeared to make light of rape. The joke goes as follows:

White girls:

1st date: Coffee

2nd date: Kiss

3rd date: sex

African girls:

1st date: Fast food

2nd date: Hug

3rd date: Chinese restaurant

4th date: kiss

5th date: Attempted sex but failed

6th date: Shopping

7th date: Cinema, new phone, more shopping

8th date: Attempted sex but failed

9th date: RAPE!!

There are two obvious problems with this: First is the racial undertone. Mr. Okpocha seems to suggest the average African girl is more materialistic than her Caucasian counterpart. This is a separate issue that could be an entire post on its own. The more grievous matter is the flippant treatment given to rape. Now, anyone who follows the news with any regularity in Nigeria, or merely interacts with people on a regular basis knows how prevalent rape is in Nigeria. In general, Nigeria has a big problem with violence against women. This violence takes many forms: psychological, physical and economic, to name a few. Anything that appears to make light of this very real problem will have to be subjected to scrutiny.

By its very nature, art lends itself to a variety of interpretations, and what Person A sees in an art form may not be what Person B takes out of it. Even so, all art operates in a context. In the Nigerian context, based on the havoc rape has caused and continues to cause, jokes about it are never funny.

What makes it even worse is the ‘apology’ offered up by the comedian, which went like this:

Ok guys, I’m sorry about the rape joke, I won’t crack such jokes again, I’ll just stick to jokes about Men being able to marry under-aged girls in Nigeria. #Rimarima

That does not sound like remorse to me, and it suggests a lack of sensitivity to his surroundings. He could have chosen his words a lot better. We all owe it ourselves to be careful in our speech.

'The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.' — Joseph Joubert

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