Thursday, July 05, 2007

A random London meeting, the roots of terror & waiting for Yaradua

Walking to the tube station this morning, my nose half-buried in a book, I notice a woman sitting in a car parked by the station. “Are you a locksmith?” I believe I hear her ask and I inwardly roll my eyes. Locksmith, moi? Is it ‘cause I’s black?

But no she is asking “Are you at Oxford? “, her question prompted by my choice of reading material, James Attlee’s Isolarion, a book about the other Oxford, away from the dreaming spires, on the Cowley road where Arab butchers jostle cheek by jowl with Ghanaian fishmongers and Brazilian craft shops. Apparently she has just bought the book for her son who used to live in that area of Oxford. She has recognized it by the distinctive cover. She asks if I am enjoying the book and I admit that I am. We chat a little bit more and then, waving goodbye to her, I enter the tube station, marvelling at another random London morning experience….


With the recent failed terror attacks in the UK, the talking head pundits are out in force- in the newspapers, the television and on the radio. Everyone peddles their own peculiar brand of analyses, trying to explain why educated professionals would engage in terror. The focus is now on the NHS and foreign health professionals who work in it. Two summers ago, it was on disaffected young British Muslims living in inner-city areas in the UK. The hoary old debate about what fuels the terrorists continues- on one side those who argue, it’s all about Islam, stupid. On the other, those who scream that it’s all about Iraq and the government’s foreign policy. Both sides refuse to see any merit in the other side’s argument. Yet the answer seems obvious to me- it’s a combination of both. You can see how a “moderate” could be tempted to a greater fundamentalism and then violence by current global issues and injustices. You can also see that there are fundamentalists who will not be appeased, no matter what foreign policy is adopted. Like all things the truth lies somewhere in the middle but our politicians and pundits prefer a polarized debate….

Gordon Brown managed to pull off the image of freshness with his cabinet reshuffle. I think the choice of a woman Home Secretary is particularly inspired, coming after the bully boy tactics of John Reid, David Blunkett and co…Not that Jacqui Smith is a pushover judging from her previous role as Chief Whip…The measured response to the attempted terror was positive although somewhat marred by Brown’s last-ditch playing to the gallery pledge to bring in new systems of vetting for foreigners working in the NHS. What can new vetting systems do? Will he do a thorough criminal and security check on every single nurse and doctor of foreign extraction working in the NHS? Will he include the second generation? Remember that overseas doctors and nurses are estimated to constitute some 30-40 per cent of the NHS workforce…

Meanwhile in Nigeria, Yar’adua finally sends his list of ministers to the Senate. It’s still secret- not sure why- but the names being bandied about do not inspire confidence. In many ways it is beginning to look like Obasanjo’s first cabinet- full of yesterday’s men and women, political jobbers and others of doubtful provenance, but I’ll hold my fire till the real list emerges….One cheering point might be that the new president seems intent on running a fairly tight ship…there are “only” 35 names on the list- here’s hoping he doesn’t appoint a slew of Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Personal Assistants and so forth as Obasanjo did in his first term..

Meanwhile in response (I assume) to my previous post on The World is Flat, I'm sent this link.

5 comments:

Morountodun said...

I must admit to being the kind of guy who strikes up random conversations with strangers on the tube, in the supermarket etc for no other reason but an interest in people. But I must admit that London has very much supressed this instinct in me as londoners seem to have an almost innate dread of strangers that I don't find in other parts of the country (even places that aren't as familar with black skin!).

Re: the attempted terror attacks I find myself worrying that they were more of a decoy from something else that was planned, I hope the security services have things under control.

Chxta said...

Thank God I'm not the only one holding fire until Yar'Adua's list is ratified...

oo said...

Nice of you to be so measured and objective UK but I'm not sure you are gaining anything by "holding fire" on the ministerial list. UmYar will be conducting business as usual. This is not his show to run, he rightly owes his allegiances to those who put him in power, not to the Nigerian people. Let it never be said that Nigerians cannot put on a first-rate ventriloqy show....

-oo-

ps: I would gladly eat my words (with palm oil and salt :) if I am wrong.

uknaija said...

@Morountodun- I love random conversations as well.
@chxta- Yes o, before they say we have started
@oo- come on give the guy a break :-)

Anonymous said...

first time reading your blog and i like the way u write.