The DAMH excuse

[accent=”Yorkshire”] When I were a lad [/accent], I always used to scoff at the kids that turned up to school claiming that their dog had eaten their homework. Not only was it the most obvious cliché, but it was also wholly unbelievable. Dogs don’t eat homework. Dogs eat dog food, human food, bones and – sometimes – socks. Sheets of A4 covered in conjugated French verbs don’t make the grade. Literally.

Je mange
Tu manges
Il/Elle ne mange pas


I never had a dog, so I was never able to use this excuse. That said, I’m pretty sure many of the kids who used it never had dogs either.

Fast forward a few years into what should be adulthood, and people are still using the DAMH excuse. But now it’s been suitably upgraded.

Take for example, the case of Nigerian Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) employee Joan Asen and the 36,000,000 Naira (R1,193,040, $100,080) which was found to be missing from the organisation upon audit.

That’s a lot of moola to have misplaced, and clearly too much for your average beagle to have devoured, sir.

But no, this was no canine-related disaster. This was basically just theft. No, there’s an equally implausible excuse for not having the money to hand right now, officer:

It was a mystery to me too. I have been saving the money in the bank, but I found it difficult to account for it. So I started saving it in a vault in the office. But each time I open the vault, I will find nothing. I became worried and surprised how the millions of Naira could be disappearing from the vault. I began to interrogate everybody in the house and office, and no one could agree on what might have happened to the money. I continued to press until my housemaid confessed. She said that the money disappeared “spiritually”. She said that a “mysterious snake” sneaked into the house and swallowed the money in the vault.

Ah, yes. The old “A Mysterious Spiritual Snake Ate My Thirty-Six Million Naira” excuse. That old chestnut.

But then, if there was any animal which could have sneaked into the vault and eaten all that cash, it would most likely be a snake. Larger animals would have struggled to get through the keyhole and smaller animals wouldn’t have been able to swallow the money. But snakes are brilliant at getting into small spots and equally good at eating things which initially seem too big to go down the hatch.

The best of both Naira-pinching worlds then. Hmm.

And to be fair, just this morning when I was searching for my car keys and (while looking suspiciously at the beagle), asking if anyone had seen them, my daughter told me that she had seen a mysterious spiritual snake slithering off with them yesterday evening.

Of course, this turned out to be complete nonsense: they were behind the fruit bowl. But the fact remains that they could have been taken by a mysterious spiritual snake. It’s just that this time, they weren’t.

Now that we actually have a dog, I see the world through entirely new (often rolled) eyes, and consequently I believe that anything is possible. Thus, I’m (belatedly) coming around to the idea that actually the dogs could have eaten all that homework.

And if I’m going to make that concession, then it seems only reasonable to admit that Joan and her housekeeper’s mysterious spiritual snake story might also be true.

I’m planning to write a letter to the Nigerian authorities demanding Joan’s immediate release, while also advising the local police to step up their mysterious spiritual snake patrols before any more cash or bunches of car keys go astray.

Prevention is better than cure.

Generally good news

Well actually, Lieutenant-General-ly good news (see what I did there?), in the form of this hugely reassuring press release from the Nigerian Army:

If you are just after a quiet life (whatever country you may be in), then this is clearly great news. Peace good, war bad, amiright?
In publicly asserting that planning to attack any country is categorically not happening…

For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerian Army is not planning to attack any country.

…Lieutenant-General Ty Buratai NAM GSS psc(+) ndc (BD) BA (Hons) MA MPhil has obviously reassured people in any countries right across the world. In doing so, he has, however, also opened up a triple-edged Pandora’s box of doubt.

First off, what if he doesn’t repeat this peaceful assertion? Given that we needed to be told that the Nigerian Army is not planning to attack any country, is the status quo now that the Nigerian Army is planning to attack any country if they don’t tell us that they are not planning to attack any country?

And then what of the other Nigerian Armed Forces? The Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force? A quick glance at their recent press releases reveals an alarming lack of assurances that they are not planning to attack any country. It’s concerning stuff. If I was in any country (which I am), I would be rather unsettled about the plans of these other two Nigerian military bodies. Very worrying.

Finally, may I just alert you to the other armies of the world, who – as far as I can see – are also not telling us that they have no plans to not attack any country right now? In fact, the Russians are telling us pretty much the opposite, and the Nobel Peace Prize winning President Barack “they’ve forgotten all the drone bombing I authorised” Obama is massing the US Army in Poland, right on Russia’s doorstep as a goodbye gift to the world just before he leaves office.

So while the Nigerian Army’s press release is hugely welcome, it’s merely a drop in the ocean. Still, every journey begins with a single step, and if some of the other world armies could possibly follow the Nigerian Army’s lead, I think this planet might end up being a nicer, safer place for us all.
Especially for those of us in any country.

Footy tonight and footy past

I’m off to watch South Africa take on African Champions and second-tier Ebola carriers Nigeria at the Cape Town Stadium this evening. It’ll be my fourth time watching the national team and I have yet to see them win.
Or… er… draw, actually.

The first Bafana Bafana game I saw was seven years ago yesterday, as it happens: Zambia in an Afcon qualifier at Newlands. South Africa weren’t very good that day and Chris Katongo scored a hattrick in 11 minutes for Chipolopolo ruining the return of Benni McCarthy from international exile. It finished 1-3. It wasn’t great.

And then, because of the World Cup and the politics of SAFA, we didn’t see another Bafana game in Cape Town until after the World Cup. Then, we got to see them play the USA at the Cape Town Stadium in the Nelson Mandela Challenge in November 2010. South Africa weren’t very good that day, and lost to a second half goal from Juan Agudelo goal.

We shouldn’t forget the last time I saw them, either. 8th January last year, against a decidedly under-strength (read: “B-team”) Norway. South Africa weren’t very good that day and eventually lost a really, really boring game to Tarik Elyounoussi’s goal just before half time.

South Africa have won one first-class game at the Cape Town Stadium: a 2-0 win against the Central African Republic in March last year. I wasn’t there, but I was reliably informed that the Central African Republic weren’t very good that day. And yes, there were the CHAN games too, but those don’t really count.

So Bafana’s record is fairly unspectacular in Cape Town, and even more so when I’m watching them. New coach Shakes Mashaba has requested everyone to come out and support the team this evening, but if he knew my history with watching his side, he’d probably be less keen to see me there.

The stadium in Sudan was fully packed to capacity. I hope it will also be the case in Cape Town.

Well, no it won’t. I’m not sure what sort of crowd they’re expecting, but I am told that the lower tier has sold out and they’ve opened up the second tier for bookings. That would probably mean somewhere between about 25,000 and 30,000 tops.

I’ll try and snap a few photos this evening and put them on twitter (tonight) and Flickr (maybe tomorrow).

The Stupid – It Hurts!

After someone mischievously suggested yesterday that Retreat Day Hospital in Cape Town was on lockdown due to a suspected Ebola case (it wasn’t), this “brilliant” idea is doing the rounds in Nigeria right now:


That’ll work. And it does raise the question as to why America is not sharing its salt and warm water reserves.

So what are these trusted sources?
Well, you have to look no further than the very next paragraph to er… not find out:

I don’t even know the origin but every call I’m receiving now points to that. Since salty water is not harmful to skin I think it’s just better we do it.

Have you tried sticking sweetcorn in your ears? I only ask because that’s not harmful to skin either and will have absolutely no effect on Ebola infection either?


Interesting that they’re not taking the sweetcorn angle on this.

Ebola in Nigeria

Spotted on twitter – the Nigerian Police Force sharing this leaflet in Pidgin telling people what to look out for and what to do in cases of Ebola:


This is a great example of the importance of pitching information at the right level and in the right language or dialect if you are going to get your message successfully across. This leaflet has also been made available in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
Too many otherwise brilliantly thought-out campaigns have failed because these basic rules were forgotten during implementation.

As for Pidgin language – I’m blown away every time I see or hear it.