European Super League, Football, Soccer, Sports, UEFA

The ESL. Culture always eats strategy for breakfast. Heartily.

Bahram Arjmandnia

On Sunday, Manchester United’s home match against Liverpool was cancelled due to fan protests against the Glazer ownership.

I was pained the match was cancelled. United is in such fine fettle. Sunday was an opportunity to drive kryptonite-tipped and plutonium-coated nails into Liverpool’s ‘Top-4’ coffin. Condemn them to wallow in the Europa muck with Outer Mongolia FC and Borat Kazakhstan. They dodged a bullet. But the bullet has their name on it. It’ll home.

We have a lot to be aggrieved about. There is the greedy Glazer family. These geezers see Manchester United only as a nest egg. When they bought the club in 2005, the club had zero debt. Fast forward to 2021 and we are in a debt of £526m. This is after paying over £500m in interest. These blokes haven’t put a nickel of their money in the club. All they do is take. Recently, they paid out £122m as dividends to their apparently penurious selves.

Look, I get it. The Glazers bought United as a business, not as a football club. Trophies mean diddly squat to them.

The problem is, United was an attractive buy because of the ginormous brand equity and successes of the club. We had and still have a huge (and monetizable) global following. Our consistent success on the pitch led sponsors to beat a path to Old Trafford. We have the biggest club stadium in the country. In essence, United minted money. This inevitably became our undoing because the glitter attracted the attention of marauders from outer space. These Glazer are plundering the club and killing the golden goose. I can’t understand it. It’s either they are incredibly dumb, or they are secret agents of Liverpool.

Billionaires can’t be dumb, can they? So, that only leaves Liverpool…

And there is that Ed and his cohorts. Commercially savvy, Ed Woodward. The bloke can sniff out a dirty penny faster than a bloodhound. But that’s all Ed cares about. The business and not the football side of things. The bean counter probably can’t tell the difference between a left and right-back. “Remind me again, Ole. Why can’t Maguire be a striker?”

We are also aggrieved because of the gradual but visible descent of Manchester United into mediocrity. The last time we won the league was 2013. The last time we were in the semi-final of the Champions League was 2011. Worse, we were alive to witness Liverpool win the Champions League again in 2019 and finally win the league in 2020. It was a nightmare that came to pass. Now, Manchester City is a dreaded adversary and is boasting more trophies than the devil has sinners. It’s pathetic.

You might ask what gives. Why the cudgel against the Glazers now? Didn’t they buy United all the way back in 2005? Since then, hasn’t United won significant trophies? Five league titles. One Champions League. Four FA Cups. Six EFL Cups. One Europa Cup. And one Club World Cup?

Well, let’s just say we like to hug the brownie. We’ve lived so long on Olympus, we’ve forgotten what it is like to be afflicted with human frailties.

However, the real fodder for Sunday’s protest was, of course, the club’s membership in the doomed European Super League (ESL). The Glazers were supposed prime architects.

The ESL!

What an implosion!

Even Mr. Bean could not have orchestrated a more resplendent disintegration.

Heineken joined in the derision.

The idea behind the ESL was more prosperity for a few elite clubs, the twelve ‘Founding Clubs.’

Founding Clubs.

Founding Fathers.

Considering that the owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are Americans, I can see how the notion of ‘Founding Clubs’ can appeal to them.

But I digress.

The idea behind the ESL was lucre. The big clubs complain UEFA isn’t rewarding them enough. Yet those clubs pull in the global viewership and money UEFA clutches. No offence to my homeboys in Armenia but nobody watches Real Madrid vs Ararat-Armenia because of Ararat-Armenia. They watch the match because of Real Madrid. Yet Real Madrid does not get appropriate compensation from UEFA.

And because UEFA is steeped in European social-democratic philosophy, it shares the proceeds of the TV rights with football administrations across the continent. So, when Man City plays Real Madrid in the finals of the Champions League, the Faroe Island or Malta or Armenia FAs partake in the TV proceeds. One for all, all for one.

Capitalist America cannot understand this. What? Is Bernie Sanders running UEFA? Servants upon horses while princes walk as servants upon the earth? Look here, boy, he who does not work, neither shall he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

So, they got together and came up with a brilliant idea.

How about we start our own league? A big-boys-only league. Playing each other weekly. It would be eye candy. Broadcasters and sponsors will fall over themselves for rights. It’ll be guaranteed riches for the founding clubs. Money to buy elite players and build infrastructures. Think about it; the money to buy Haaland, Mbappe and Pogba in one season. Sure, we’ll throw in bottom feeders like Arsenal for a semblance of inclusion…

So JP Morgan committed over £4bn to the project. Each of the ‘Founding Club’ would receive about €350m to join the ESL. Then as the competition enters its third year, that sum would be tripled.

Say what, JP? €350m? Here, hold my beer, where do I sign?

And so, on 18 April 2021, the ESL was announced with twelve founding members. Six English clubs, three Spanish clubs and three Italian clubs. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. Bayern Munich and PSG declined to join.

The backlash across Europe was fierce. Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA’s President, called Ed Woodward a ‘snake’ for joining the ESL despite assurances that United would not.

The hostile response was fiercest in England. Fans besieged their grounds. The English FA, pundits, players and the press denounced the new-fangled league. Boris Johnson said the government would “look at everything that we can do with football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed.” France President Emmanuel Macron welcomed French clubs’ refusal to join the ESL.

So fierce was the backlash that by 21 April, all the six English clubs had withdrawn their participation in the ESL and apologized to their fans.

Tail tucked beneath its hind, the ESL scurried away to announce the ‘suspension’ of the competition.

72 hours was all it took for the house of cards to come tumbling down.

But what happened? How and why did the ESL collapse so spectacularly?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s because football is not only a business.

It is a people’s way of life.

It is profit + fans + tradition + emotions, all jostling for prominence.

It is culture.

And culture will eat £4bn JP Morgan-breakfast all day.

You’d hear many people say that football is a business and money must rule the gamut.

That’s a load of bunkum from a constipated bull.

Football is not like other businesses. In most businesses, if the line manager has a fallout with a subordinate, the subordinate is toast. In football, a coach is toast if he falls out with Messi, Ronaldo or Pogba.

Football also buck common sense economics. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Borussia Dortmund still insisted on €120m for Jadon Sancho in the close season. Erling Haaland would probably cost upwards of €170m if he moved this season.

It’s madness. But it’s football.

Remember Assem Allam, owner of Hull City? In 2013, the man had Hull City registered as Hull City Tigers. The next year, he planned to register them as ‘Hull Tigers.’

Hull Tigers. How sweet. How about Hull Chihuahua?

Of course, fans marched with the banner ‘City till we die.’ The FA sensibly rejected the name change. The club is still known and registered as Hull City.

In football, the fact that you own a club does not mean you can do with it as you please. You may be the largest shareholder but you are not the only stakeholder.

Grounds, jerseys and names mean something in football. They are artefacts of history and emotions. I’ve travelled from Nigeria to watch Man United a couple of times. Not because Old Trafford is a fantastic stadium but because it is the Theatre of Dreams. I travelled to see the statues of George Best, Dennis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton. I travelled to experience the atmosphere at the Stretford End.

It’s probably what JP Morgan and the American owners of United, Liverpool and Arsenal missed. Football is not a spectacle like the NFL or Major League Baseball. In Europe and South America, football is steeped in rivalries, history and raw passion. Fans commit suicide because of a match. Bill Shankly summed it up well: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

I don’t delude myself that fan power solely aborted the ESL. Those behind the ESL didn’t become wealthy bowing to the demands of people or governments. Perhaps legal challenges from individual FAs, UEFA or FIFA were also strong factors.

And I do have a sneaky feeling we’ve not heard the last of a breakaway league. After all, Florentino Perez, Chairman of the ESL and President of Real Madrid merely said they were ‘suspending’ the ESL.

Whatever the case, I’m glad football won this round.

Somehow, ‘Arsenal’ and ‘Tottenham’ in the same sentence with ‘elite club’ doesn’t sound right.

 

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Influencer Marketing, Sponsorship, Talent

Only humility Nigerian artistes know is DJ Humility.

 

So, Burna Boy and Wizkid win Grammys and everyone is losing their mind. Not me. It is a tough time in Nigeriana right now. If you lose your mind, whoever finds it may not return it. Finders keepers. Or if your mind has a smidgen of value, you’ll have to ransom it. My mind is all I have. So, I’ll be keeping it very close.  

Young Turks have lost their marbles on the Burna-Wizkid-Grammy win. They are at each other’s throats on whose Grammy is more legit and who is the greater artiste. These bambinos need to get a life. Everyone knows Genevieve is the most talented singer in Nigeria…

Awards and praise-singing fuel the ego of artistes. It’s hard for it not to. You’ve become primus inter pares. A silverback. Earned the right to pound your chest and bare your canine. 

But Kong-sized ego and being prima donna make artistes lose out on lucrative sponsorships.  

When marketing teams make decisions on celebrity endorsers, we consider hard and soft attributes. Hard attributes are things like match with brand image, target consumer appeal, online followership, previous and current endorsements, cost and the like. Soft attributes are issues like reputation, character, and the ease of working with the celebrity. I’ve seen celebrities lose out of brand endorsement deals because of soft attributes. Painfully, these celebrities don’t even know they were being considered for the opportunities. 

Know this: a lot of important decisions about your career happen behind your back. You might not see them, but decision-makers are always watching. 

Most folks think managing artistes is easy and fun work. What heresy! Managing Nigerian artistes can be harder than landing men on the moon. I mean, how hard can it be strapping three men on a 2,800-tonne rocket requiring 203,400 gallons of kerosene and 318,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and traveling at 9,920km/h?  Compared to getting Eedris Abdulkareem and 50 Cents to fly together on the same jet, that’s easy peasy japanesey.  

Marketing teams don’t like artistes/celebrities that are difficult to work with, perceived or real. We don’t want a celebrity that’ll show up at 1 am for a 10 pm performance. Or a celebrity you’d pray and fast for before s/he shows up for a commercial shoot. It’s hard enough fighting Sales and Finance over pricing and SKUs. I don’t need to add some supercilious navel-gazers to my headaches. 

Let me regale you with some episodes. I’ll shield the artistes names to protect their faded reputation. 

When I was at Arik Air, I’d struck a deal with Viacom for the 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards. Arik Air would fly Nigerian artistes and celebrities to Johannesburg for the awards. In return Viacom would give Arik Air advertising spots on its network. It was a good deal for both of us. Advertising spots are perishable inventory as are airline seats. Once the plane flies, an empty seat is a lost inventory. Our seat load factor on the LOS-JHB route was about 65-70% at the time. I might as well punt the unused seats for some advertising spots. 

A week to the event, we’d been ferrying MTV-designated personnel and celebrities to Johannesburg. The flight leaves Lagos at 1:30 pm to arrive Jozi at about 7:30 pm. 

On the day of the event, I got a call from a guy who introduced himself as the manager of two of Nigeria’s biggest hip-hop artistes of the time.

One of the artiste came on the phone. In a lordly voice, he introduced himself. He then proceeded to make the most outrageous request. He said they were running late and asked if the flight could be delayed for them! 

Yup. You heard right. We should hold the flight for them.

His Majesty impressed it upon me how important it was for them to be in Johannesburg for the event. 

If it was important for your butts to be in Jozi for the awards, you should have been on time for your flight!

Of course, I didn’t tell them that. I told them I would have loved to help but couldn’t due to protocols beyond the airline’s control. 

The second artiste then came on the line and reiterated the importance of their presence at the awards. Now I was going to lose it! But I managed to keep calm. I told them I would try my best. 

I didn’t. It was a no-brainer. It was not as if they were going to South Africa to fight apartheid. Would they have dared made a similar request of BA, Virgin or South African Airways?   

 But lucky geezers. The flight was delayed. So they made it. They won too.

I called the artistes’ manager to ask if they made it. He asked who I was. I introduced myself. He cut the phone. 

Right. Another one bites the dust from the list of future endorsers. 

Another episode.

Back in the days at Guinness, there was this budding artiste begging for support. He’ll give us his CD to listen and give feedback. We tried to support him as best we could. We’d collar event organisers to get him to perform at our events. Everyone needs a leg up, don’t they? Suffice to say this dude was most humble and beseeching.  

Then, he ‘blew.’ One of his songs became a sensation, gloryfying in internet scams. He was sought for every show. 

What do you know, this dude transformed like Optimus Prime. More like Megatron actually. We couldn’t talk to him. If he saw us at events and we wanted to say hi, he’ll rebuff the attempt. In other instances, he’ll avoid us or pretend he didn’t recognise us. 

Could be he didn’t recognise us in truth. I mean, those fellas smoke more marijuana than the devil has sinners. 

Talking about marijuana, there was this artiste that almost got us thrown out of our hotel in Benin City. 

We had taken him and a host of other artistes to Benin for a big event. We put them in the best hotel in Benin at the time. He was in a suite on the fourth floor with his crew. 

But once you got out of the elevator on his floor, the smell of marijuana wafted out from his suite and pervaded the whole floor. The haze of the igbo was so thick, you needed air traffic control to guide you to his room. That dude smoked more igbo than Fela and Shaba Ranks rolled into one. The din from his room was embarrassing. There were, of course, other guests in the hotel.  

But an artiste like Tu Face was and is marvelous to work with. Meeker than a lamb, that Tu-Baba. Even at short notice, he was accommodating. 

When he was the celebrity endorser for Guinness Extra Smooth, we’d taken him to an event in Enugu at Polo Park. I was in the same hotel with him. He made it a point of duty to come and ‘hail’ me as his ‘chairman.’ 

There was some fine chick I was ‘toasting’ in Enugu. She was hard to get. I managed to convince her to come to the hotel for lunch. 

When she came around, I told her I wanted her to meet someone. I took her to Tu Face’s suite. I knocked. The door opened. I ushered her into the room.

She froze. 

That was when I knew Tu Face was a megastar.

This chick who could talk the hind leg off a donkey just froze at the sight of Tu Face!  

Tu Face was effusive.

“Chai, my oga don bring him mata come greet us O,” he enthused. 

He asked his crew to make way for the chick to seat on the sofa. She looked at me as if she was dreaming. I shrugged smugly. That’s how I roll. 

Let’s just say afterward she didn’t think I was a short black ugly Yoruba boy.

Tu Face is something of a Neanderthal in the music industry now but enjoys immense goodwill and equity. Can’t say that of his contemporaries. 

So, my advice to Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Zlatan, Naira Marley and all other celebrities; be the celebrity everyone enjoys working with. 

It has a huge payoff. 

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Uncategorized

A parliament of owls? A wake of vultures? English, you beauty!

The last time I thought about collective nouns for animals was last year when my daughter was writing exams into secondary school (high school). She was impressed with my knowledge. Well, that’s what fathers do – know things. 

But my esteem was bruised a few days ago when I was writing a blogpost and needed to use the collective nouns for owls. Turns out the collective noun for owls is – wait for it – a parliament of owls. 

A parliament? 

Like owls voted by their peers to deliberate on avian matters? That’s crazy. Birds don’t vote. Then I made the connection. Owls are supposed to be wise! Parliamentarians are supposed to be owlish. And owls do have a solemn and brooding look about them. Best candidates for feathered parliamentarians. 

They probably do a better job than their human counterpart. 

Anyway, below are collective nouns for animals. Some you know. Many will knock your socks off. 

  1. A shrewdness of apes.
  2. A cete of badgers.
  3. A colony/cloud/camp of bats
  4. A sloth/sleuth of bears (like a private detective bear?)
  5. A swarm of bees.
  6. A gang/obstinacy of buffalo (bullies!)
  7. A caravan of camels. 
  8. A clowder/glaring of cats (what?!)
  9. A destruction of wild cats.
  10. A quiver of cobras.
  11. A bask of crocodiles.
  12. A murder of crows (yea, those ones look ominous). 
  13. A drove of donkeys. 
  14. A convocation of eagles (hope they graduate summa cum laude) 
  15. A parade of elephants. 
  16. A gang/herd of elks
  17. A cast of falcons. 
  18. A business of ferrets. 
  19. A school of fish (how come they aren’t smart)
  20. A stand of flamingos
  21. A skulk/leash of foxes
  22. An army of frogs
  23. A gaggle of geese (Listerine or Colgate?)
  24. A tower of giraffes (but of course!)
  25. A band of gorillas (G-Unit!)
  26. A bloat of hippopotami (perfect!)
  27. A cackle of hyenas ( I have a bone to pick with this one!)
  28. A shadow of jaguars.
  29. A smack of jellyfish.
  30. A troop/mob of kangaroos.
  31. A conspiracy of lemurs ( Never take lemurs into confidence then)
  32. A leap of leopards.
  33. A pride of lions.
  34. A labor of moles
  35. A barrel/troop of monkeys. 
  36. A pack of mules.
  37. A family of otters. 
  38. A team/yoke of oxen. 
  39. A parliament of owls.
  40. A claw of panthers (Wakanda forever!)
  41. A pandemonium of parrots (naturally!)
  42. An ostentation of peacocks (show off!)
  43. A drift/drove of pigs.
  44. A prickle of porcupines (of course!)
  45. A herd of rabbits.
  46. A colony of rats.
  47. An unkindness of ravens (What?They were kind to Elijah!)
  48. A crash of rhinoceroses. 
  49. A shiver of sharks. 
  50. A stench of skunks (expectedly)
  51. A nest of snakes. 
  52. A dray/scurry of squirrels
  53. A fever of stingrays (really?)
  54. A bevy/game of swans (if they are in flight: a wedge).
  55. An ambush/streak of tigers.
  56. A knot of toads. 
  57. A gang/rafter of turkeys.
  58. A bale/nest of turtles. 
  59. A colony/gang/pack of weasels (needed a more cretinous name)
  60. A pod/school/gam of whales.
  61. A pack of wolves. 
  62. A wake of vultures (absolutely brilliant!)
  63. A zeal of zebras. 

Then there are a couple of funny ones:

  1. A scandal of politicians.
  2. A fringe of lunatics.
  3. A gossip of mermaids.
  4. A blessing of unicorns. 

Naturally, those gave me ideas and I started coming up with mine: 

  1. A prostitution of whores/politicians.
  2. A sanctimony of priests.
  3. A merry of drunks.
  4. A vanity of celebrities
  5. A bent of criminals
  6. A mammon of bankers
  7. A scrubs of nurses
  8. A faraday of electricians
  9. An acrimony of side-chicks
  10. A fib of marketers
  11. A pity/shame of beggars.

What crazy collective nouns can you come up with? Rather enjoying this!

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Leadership, Loyalty, Soccer

Loyalty lessons from the Harry Maguire and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer duet.

Manchester Evening News

I apologise in advance that I’m drawing loyalty lessons from football. I know there might be many of you here who do not care for football. I get it. But frankly, I don’t know what you are doing with your life if you don’t love football. It is akin to hating bacon or pepperoni pizza. Your joy can’t be full.

I swear by Manchester United. The club is a special gift to mankind. Back in the days of the hunter-gatherer, life without United was nasty, brutish and short. But the Good Lord saw fit to lighten the sorrows of man and bestow on humanity Manchester United. For your enlightenment, Sirs Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson have had a far greater influence on history than William Wilberforce and Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill won one war. Fergie won a treble. And if Roy Keane had been Prime Minister, Brexit would not have happened. So, it is only fitting that I draw my treatise on loyalty from the admirable folks at Manchester United.

Right.

Harry Maguire is a center-back ( central defender) at Manchester United. He joined Hull City for £2.5 million in 2014. Then he joined Leicester City for £12 million in 2017. In August 2019, he joined Manchester United for £80 million, a world-record fee for a defender. In January 2020, manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made him club captain.

It’s a fairy tale. The type we pray for in our careers.

The problem is, Harry Maguire can’t lead a colony of ants to a sugar farm or motivate a parliament of owls to stare.

Maguire is spectacularly average. When I compare him to previous club captains like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or Nemanja Vidic, I want to slit my wrist.

This season, under Maguire’s leadership, Manchester United has conceded 56 goals in all competitions. And Maguire has started in all but one match.

56 goals!

This is Manchester United for Pete’s sake!

I have no doubt that Harry Maguire is a good chap. He may even be a great bloke. Helpful, fun and great to hang out with. He is also a decent defender. He is in no way calamitous.

But he is no £80 million defender. More like a £35 million defender. That’s no fault of Harry though. He didn’t buy himself. The fault lies with Ed Woodward. For a top-rated commercial guy, Ed is worryingly susceptible to daylight mugging.

Most United fans would prefer Bruno Fernandez as captain. He’s a brilliant player. He is influential on the pitch. And he has passion.

But Harry Maguire is Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s ride-or-die partner. Ole is sticking by him as captain despite our displeasure. If he’s fit, he’ll play every match. Even with his public indiscretion in Greece last summer, he still retained the captain’s armband. Maguire will have to boot Ole’s dad in the groin and stab his mother in the eye before Ole strips him of the captain’s band.

That, my friend, is how loyalty plays out.

Loyalty isn’t necessarily about competence. It shakes out in three ways.

One, it is about saving face. If you made a bad hiring decision, you stick to that hire for as long as reasonably possible lest your judgment is questioned. No manager likes his judgment to be questioned. Especially when you’ve committed the business to a huge investment. Doubt about your decision-making will chip away at your respect and eventually, authority.

Two, loyalty is also about protecting a hire you brought in. I mean, you convinced the said employee to leave his current employment. He joined your company because of you. It is only fair that you don’t leave him high and dry when the storm rages.

The third element is chemistry. The hire may not be the most competent but senses what you want. He understands you. And hearkens to your instructions. He may have a different opinion, but he cedes authority and power to you. Doesn’t ruffle your feathers. Doesn’t bristle at your rebuke. Every manager likes that.

Here is a piece of career advice for you. If your new head of department or managing director brings in a hire that is struggling or not competent enough, be on the good side of the boss. Help and support the hire. Because the boss isn’t going to cut that fella. Nope. He is responsible for him. He’ll protect him at all costs for the three aforementioned reasons.

There’s a lot more at stake in loyalty than competence. Emotions play a significant role. People hire friends. They hire who they know and can trust. And there is also ego, authority and pride at stake.

So, best get with the programme. Ole is never going to ditch Harry Maguire. Not as long as he’s the manager at Manchester United.

Don’t fight with the boss’s hire. You may not lose but you’ll never win.

Except you’re Lionel Messi, of course.

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Advertising, Technology

Facebook vs Apple. Nobody likes a voyeur.

Picture this. You are on your bed in your boxers. The mood is right. Barry White’s deep sensuous voice comes up on the HomePod. Telling you this. Telling you that. Or maybe Joe is your thing. Or Ed Sheeran. The room is chilled by the air conditioner. The lights are dimmed. Your bonnie lass is in the bathroom. You can smell her fragrance. She comes into the bedroom in a towel. She drops the towel as she walks towards you. 

Then your eye catches something in the corner of the room. A silhouette. A male figure seated in the armchair with a glass in his hands. You jump up from the bed in panic and switch on the lights. It’s the landlord.

You are shocked and furious. You shout at him to get the hell out of your room. Out of your apartment. He smiles and says no can do. He has the right to be there. You agreed to his presence when you rented the house. It was in the fine prints. But you didn’t bother to read it. Like the last tenant. And the one before him. And the one before that. All tenants really. But if you are adamant he should leave the room, he will. You’ll only have to move out of the apartment and forfeit your rent. It’s in the contract. In the fine prints. 

He pours himself another drink and waits on your decision. He smiles at you the way I imagine a lecher would. 

The story above is, of course, a sordid metaphor. An over-dramatization of Facebook’s tracking activities. But you did grant Facebook a front-row seat to your private life when you installed the app on your phone. You didn’t know you did. But you did. 

So, here is how Facebook tracking works. 

When you use the Facebook app on your iOS or Android device, Facebook tracks what you do on the app. It collects a host of information ranging from device, OS, city, gender, age and many more. But this tracking is not limited to what you do on the Facebook app. Facebook also tracks you across other apps on your phone and websites you visit. It is not content to know what you do on its app; it also needs to know what you do on other apps and on the internet. Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Candy Crush, TikTok, Tinder, Bumble, PornHub. Name it.  

Now, why does Facebook track you across apps and websites? 

Why, to know you better, of course! 

You see, Facebook’s business is selling targeted advertising. That’s how it makes money. It makes some $86 billion annually selling these targeted ads. Targeted ads are personalized advertising delivered to you based on the data companies like Facebook and Google collect about you. They collect these troves of data about you so they can have a good picture of who you are. That picture is important to advertisers and data brokers who need to reach a specified audience. That, after all, is the vaunted advantage of digital media over traditional media.

These gems of personal bits are not all necessarily available on the Facebook app. There are a lot more things you do on your phone than just scroll through Facebook. You read the news. You play games. You window-shop. You buy stuff. You watch YouTube. You take pictures. You live for the ‘gram. By following you across apps and the internet, Facebook is able to piece together all these activities and paint your demographic and psychographic portrait. Ergo, nail you down to your needs and wants. If you’ve been checking out websites on how to emigrate to Canada, don’t be surprised if Facebook serves you ads on emigration services to Saskatchewan.

So, if you are playing with your side chick’s phone and you start seeing Facebook ads for baby food and diapers, congratulations homie! Facebook probably knows something you don’t. 

The depth of information Facebook collects about you may be disconcerting. But all ad-based tech companies track you across apps and websites. Google does it. So do Amazon, Instagram (Facebook Inc), Twitter or Yahoo. If they sell ads, they probably track you. That is the cost you pay for using the apps for free. Like many people, you didn’t read the Facebook privacy policy or terms. Nobody reads those. But that’s where the bodies are buried. Where you consented to be tracked.

So, what is the feud between Facebook and Apple all about? 

Starting with iOS 14.5, Apple will introduce a feature called App Tracking Transparency or ATT. ATT requires users (you) to give permissions to apps before they can track you across apps and websites. 

With ATT, when you launch any app for the first time, you will see a pop-up that informs you that an app wants to track you across platforms. The pop-up will explain what the tracker is and asks whether you want to approve or reject the tracking and sharing of your data. 

Which is awesome for privacy.

One of Apple’s brand promises is privacy. The iPhone is supposed to be iron-clad. So iron-clad that Apple itself claims it cannot unlock an iPhone encrypted by the user. The FBI found that out the hard way. Thus, from a consumer and marketing perspective, offering iPhone users ATT is keeping with a brand promise. It helps deepen loyalty. It is good for business.

But not for Markie’s business. Mark Zuckerberg is outraged about App Tracking Transparency. ATT threatens Facebook’s nest egg. When users opt out of being tracked, it means Facebook’s ability to paint a portrait of the user is affected. There’ll be gaps in the picture. A nose missing. One ear missing. Maybe three teeth lost. That is bad for targeted advertising. Bad for Facebook.

Facebook probably suspects that if users have the choice of turning off tracking, many would. I know I would. I don’t want some bot stalking me all over the internet. What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. 

So Markie is pissed. So pissed he is calling Apple its biggest competitor. So pissed he is smearing Apple as an enemy of small businesses and the free internet in newspaper ads. He said Apple is using privacy as a justification to disadvantage Facebook. 

Said Markie, “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.” 

Tim Cook has never hidden his disdain for Facebook’s business model and flagrant abuse of users’ data. 

“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform,” said Tim.

Whoa, those are some pretty strong words there, Tim!

However, Apple claims it is not asking Facebook and others not to track across apps and websites. It only requires them to asks permission from users before they do. 

Yea, right. 

That’s like telling a thief to ask for your permission before he steals your car.

You may well ask why Facebook is worried about Apple’s ATT. After all, iOS is only 27% of mobile operating systems. Android rules the gamut. 

Thing is, the bulk of Facebook’s $86 billion annual revenue comes from the US and Canada. iOS accounts for over 61% and 52% respectively of mobile operating systems in those two markets. Crucially, North America also happens to be the region with the highest Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for Facebook per the Statista data below. 

©Statista 2021

So, Facebook’s fight with Apple is a fight over ad revenue in the US and Canada. Europe is not an insignificant second. The rest of ya’ll go eat a donut. 

Is Apple sincere about privacy claims or only manoeuvring for advantage? Time will tell. We’ll be watching its future actions closely. But Facebook’s history of data abuse and measurement untruths may deprive it of sympathetic ears. At least not from iOS users. They’ll be on Apple’s side. We the iSheep.

And many will also remember the fiasco of Cambridge Analytica, US electioneering, and the upcoming data merger between Facebook and WhatsApp. Facebook always seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons

Social trust is proving to be a thing. 

 

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Uncategorized

Our ethnic fault line and the keg of gunpowder.

ERIC LAFFORGUE/ART IN ALL OF US

Ingratiating commentaries are profitable. I’m tempted to get on that gravy train. But sadly, it is not for me. By a cruel hand of fate, it turns out I am allergic to bull. I tend to serve my juice without sweeteners. And as everyone with a sweet tooth knows, juices without sugar taste anemic. Truth is vinegary. Bitter, in fact, in many circles. It is why you never see Alomo Bitters or Kasaprenko in State Houses. Only honeyed speeches to soothe itchy ears. 

But let me state, in case there is somebody out there willing to buy me a house on easy street; I do not detest being rich. I do not mind farting Chanel and sneezing Dior. I consider it not vanity to take my medicines with caviar and ease my gastric upset with lychee.  

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Thin line between prostitution and side-chick.

Right. 

I crawled out from under my rock to hear the ruckus about a newfangled men association. Stingy Men Association of Nigeria. Quite unexpectedly, men have come to their senses and will no longer let their phalluses lead them to ruination. 

Phalluses, by their unique biology, pay no mind to bankruptcy and good sense.  Once in the presence of a nubile female, they demand the master login to the mobile app. Money, after all, is only a means to an end.

Women, of course, are not treating this illiberal fraternity lightly. It’s an affront and a denial of a fundamental woman right.

“How dare men! It is a woman’s right to be feted! It is a woman’s right to help herself to a man’s wallet. In the history of mendom, there has not been a single man in distress. It is always a damsel in distress. Why will men seek to redress the order of nature? But two can play. If the wallets won’t open, then the legs won’t open either. They shouldn’t worry. When a god starts acting out of line, we show it the wood it was carved from. Radarada. Jatijati.”

It’s all chucklesome.  

But let me get this out of the way. Unmarried people shouldn’t be bonking. It is a sin. Abba Father says not to do it. Yoruba people, ever the dramatists, have a frightful name for fornication – panságà. It sounds dastardly. If we can’t scare you with the consequence of the word, we’ll scare you with the sound of it. Pasángà sounds like you killed a hundred infants with a panga machete. 

Besides, sex is more than physical coitus. There is the intertwining of emotions, and dare I say, spirits.  I’d hate to see you bond with Zelda. 

You do remember Zelda, don’t you? From Terrahawks? 

I forgot; you lot are Generation Zilch.  

This is Zelda. 

Now, to you, my married friends engaged in cuckoldry. “Stolen water is sweet”, right? “Food eaten in secret is delicious”, ba? Well, here’s what the Good Book says to you: 

“Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”

I didn’t make that up. Crack open Prov 6:27-29 and see for yourself. At any rate, I’m sure you don’t mind someone else bonking your wife or husband. Or do you?

Back to the Stingy Men Association of Nigeria. 

The farcical association is topical because of the prevailing poverty in the land. It has become normative that a boo bears the cost of living of a bae. It’s ridiculous. Dubious justifications are advanced. 

“A girl needs to look good for her guy.” 

“When a girl is happy, she is able to make her man happy too.”

“Providing for your girlfriend is a sign of responsibility.” 

It’s a heavy dollop of codswallop. 

Spare me the porky pie that you sweethearts buy expensive hair to impress the menfolk. No, you don’t. Because we the menfolk can’t tell the difference between a N300K and a N700K hair. You buy the hair to show off to yourselves.

Several years ago, the missus badgered me into buying her Brazilian hair. I didn’t understand the need. She is from Osun State, the ‘State of Virtue.’  Why does she want to naturalize to Brazilian? Is a Brazilian passport visa-free to the US?

Eventually, I bought the hair. It was a small fortune.

The day she made the hair, I didn’t notice. She tossed her head about like a teen so I’ll notice. But I didn’t. I knew she looked pretty but couldn’t place what was different about her.

She got angry and asked me what I thought of her new hair.

Oh, that was it! The hair!

I said ‘nice.’

She only forgave me five years ago.

So, if the girlfriend needs to wear the hair of fifty horses, by all means, do so darling. We only request you buy it with your own money. If you want to ‘glow’ and buy Beyonce-level cream, grow a large posterior, or slay more than David and Gideon, be our guest. All we ask of you is not to insist the expenses are for our spreadsheet. And why on earth would a bloke buy his girlfriend an iPhone 12 when he uses an Infinix? You think it was only Eve that loved Apple? 

Look, I’m not a Scrooge. I believe in gifting. Gifting stokes affection. It’s good for the boo to splurge on the bae now and then. But a dude is a finite being. He can’t be the source of infinite beneficence. The boo should give because he wants to, not because he must. 

Well, except the relationship is between a married dude and a side chick.

In such relationships, the side chick has my blessing to ransack, pillage and plunder the married boyfriend. Fleecing and gouging should come with the territory. After all, it is a waste of sin dating a broke married man. 

I saw that on a t-shirt.    

Any erotic relationship premised on ceaseless material and financial provision is faux love. You are paying for the ‘love’. The way you pay a prostitute for her favours. It’s only in movies that prostitutes develop genuine affection for their patrons. 

Most married-men-and-side-chick affairs are no more than prostitution by a more benign name. Or why is a single girl dating a married bloke? Because there are no wonderful single guys around? Because of true love’s kiss? Greed and lust, ladies and gentlemen, are at the heart of it. Those are not traits that will make Pete open the Pearly Gates to you.

Anyway, here’s a good joke for you: if you’re over 30 and still dating another woman’s man, you are a side hen, not a side chick!   

   

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Brand Identity, Branding, Marketing

Logos are never heroes.

So, Burger King changed its logo. Out with the new, in with the old. The new logo had a retro feel that is becoming the new order in recent brand identity revamps. 

As marketers are won’t to do, we have been engaged in arcane semiotics about logo revamps like a coven of philosophical witches. 

At the risk of being considered a Luddite – which I am not – I have to say I like the new BK logo better. Not because it is an awesome logo design but because it more clearly reminds me of what the company does. Burgers. The Whooper. 

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Ladies, cats are not witches. Witches like blood not milk!

Nisian Hughes/Getty Images

Man, I like cats. 

Not terrifying and petrifying felines like Mufasa or Shere Khan. But cats like Garfield and Puss In Boots. Cute, sneaky, disloyal and manipulative beauties. I’m particularly drawn to black furry cats. I like the outcast and maligned.  

Why do I like cats? Cats live life on their own terms. They know they don’t have nine lives so don’t waste their time trying to please you. You are the one who wanted a pet, not them. 

Also, cats don’t care about titles. Dogs can continue to be ‘Man’s Best Friend’. Cats don’t give a hoot. They understand that titles come with responsibilities. Responsibilities are for humans. So, you are not going to trick them into it with some title. They might chase down a mouse. But understand that it is because they want to do it and not because you expect them to. Back in the day, in the village, my grandma had three cats who never chase mice. These beauties just love to eat fufu and efo-riro and chill. 

Can’t blame them. Egbado (Yewa) people make the best fufu in the galaxy. And my grandma’s efo-riro could make Netanyahu kiss Hassan Rouhani.     

But I don’t have a cat. That is because I love to have a wife more than I love being divorced. My wife hates cats. For her, you can’t trust cats. Cats are gossips. They listen to your deepest secrets and spill them to the neighbours. And they are agents of witches and wizards. They expose your home to fiendish influences. 

It’s all baloney, of course. Cats are no more capable of witchery than cockroaches are capable of holiness. But arguing that with cat haters is like arguing the merits of sobriety with a tippler. 

We have a small white wolf in our home. Spin doctors call it a dog – an American Eskimo. But I didn’t start eating bony fish yesterday. It is a wolf. Only it is smaller and cutesy. Wanders from room to room. It’s pampered like William and takes a piss like Harry. My wife and daughters dote on this canine. They feed it before they feed me. Cuddle it more than they cuddle me. He enjoys the attention and then sneers at me.  

I am going to poison the mutt one day.

Do you old geezers remember the horror movie, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell? A German Shepherd bred by Satanists. The dog grew up to colossal devilry. Killed the maid in a fire. Possessed the minds of its owner. In the last scene, the frightful demon in the dog came out to perish the soul of the ‘actor’. The symbol of a crucifix seared onto the man’s palm saved the man. Dog bursts into flame and is imprisoned in hell for 1,000 years. That movie spooked me into my early teens. 

The title of the movie is instructive. It was Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, not Devil Cat: The Feline of Hell.

Anyway, I outgrew my fear of dogs. I realise that devil-dog movie was all phoney-baloney. Now, I love dogs. I am going to get me a big hairy doggo soon. Probably a Leonberger or a Giant Schnauzer. If only to scare the bejesus out of the frisky wolf in my house. 

See how easy it is for people to change? I went from dog-indifferent to dog-liker. So, why can’t people outgrow their abhorrence of cats? What does a cat have to do to get some love from Nigerian women? Buy them hair? Help them lose belly fat?  

The sad part is the missus has infected my daughters with cat-hate. They started out loving cats. I’d take them to a friend’s house and we’d go with tinned sardines and milk to feed the queen and her kittens. My girls loved feeding the pusses. They gave them names and were always eager to visit. 

Once the missus discovered what we do in said friend’s house, she set about cooking our goose. Of course, it didn’t help that we purloined her sardines and milk for the visits. But as a good Christian wife, she ought to remember that love keeps no records of wrong. But cats make Nigerian women forget the Scriptures. 

Or remember it. 

The missus proceeded to indoctrinate my kids on the vileness of cats. And once a mother abuses a mind, it is tough disabusing it. 

Once at a bar – beer parlour – I came across some despicable fellows who loved to eat cats. 

Eat cats!

Folks, I don’t care what you believe: if you can eat a cat, you can eat a human.

One of these repugnant fellows went ahead to describe how scrumptious a cat was in egusi soup. He particularly relished the paw. The cat’s paws grip the egusi and you pry them open and lick the egusi balls trapped beneath and around the pads. He said it was quite a heavenly experience. 

I stopped going to that beer parlour. 

By the way, do you know how they kill cats for food? They put it in a sack and smash the sack repeatedly against a wall till the cat dies. At other times, they tie off the sack and proceed to batter the poor thing to death. They argue it’s the only safe way to kill a cat. 

Murder most foul. Only Bayern Munich is capable of such wickedness. 

So, what myths and ideologies are holding you back? What are the long-held beliefs you are going to disabuse from your mind in 2021? 

While you ponder on it, check out the two beauties below. A black Maine Coon and a Siamese. Aren’t they gorgeous!

Maine Coon

 

Siamese

 

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Paternity fraud. What makes a child yours?

 

Your Wife and I. 

Nigerians have the cruelest humour. We banter and satirize like no other. Pity such creativity seldom shows in our advertising. 

In the last couple of days, Twitterverse has been awash with the alleged indiscretion of a bank MD. As expected of senior management, this good sir had spotted promise in a married employee. Since where a man works is also where he ‘chops’, an amorous relationship soon ensued. If we believe the blogosphere, this good sir had even sired two strapping kids from said adulterous relationship. Kids the husband of the unfaithful wife thought were his. Sadly, the good husband has deprived us of his side of the story, having succumbed to a heart attack. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked,” said my homeboy Jeremy.

That is Jeremiah to you.

But how Nigeriana seethed! You’d have thought we were a pious lot. Men wielded pitchforks. Women got on their brooms. The MD has blood on his hands. He has coveted Bathsheba and killed her husband. We want his head on a pike. 

I am angry myself. The story rings home. A close friend was in a similar spot several years ago. 

But I have a solemn question: what makes a child yours? 

We’ll get to that in a bit. First the story about my friend.

We were in our second year at the university and the philandering of my homeboy had come home to roost. He’d knock up a girlfriend. We’ll call her Two-Time. 

Naturally, my homeboy, whom we shall call Marvin, denied responsibility. One, he learned he was going to be a pappy six months into the pregnancy. Two, the maths didn’t tally. He knew when last he was with Two-Time. Third, he didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He was so po, he couldn’t afford the other two letters. 

So, yea, no way we were going to be a daddy. 

But Two-Time swore with her life that the child was Marvin’s. She hadn’t been with any other.

She had allies in Marvin’s mum and aunts.  

“What do you mean ‘it is not your child’? You two have been fornicating wantonly before Gomorrah. She is always cooped up in your room like a hen hiding from a hawk. I don’t think you two were studying Efficient Markets Hypothesis in there! And what do you mean the math doesn’t figure? What are you now, an obstetrician? You now know how God works? These things happen, son. Don’t deny your child. Don’t let your child suffer. We have your back. We will all raise the child together.”

Mothers and aunts. They talk a better game than snake oil salesmen. 

But to assuage any doubts, Marvin’s mother went to enquire of some prophet. The verdict: the baby was Marvin’s.

Armed with such incontrovertible evidence, the family pressurised Marvin into accepting paternity.

In the end, he did. But he would not see the child until three months after her birth. The child was born in Jos and Marvin lived in Lagos. 

Oh, she was a cute she-Marvin. His spitting image. Same ears, same face, same complexion. An angel. We’ll call her Munchkin. 

Munchkin lived with Marvin and his mother at their face-me-I-face-you apartment in Lagos. All the fellas hung out in that house. So we contributed to raising Munchkin. The money we should have used to buy second-hand Timbolo (Timberland boots) and fake Ralph Lauren shirts. But she was our child. Marvin took on odd jobs to raise extra cash. 

And Munchkin was coming along mighty fine. She was precocious. She called the boys by our nicknames. I was Jydo Weere(Jide The Mad One). Another friend was Junkie. Marvin was Elemu (Drunkard). 

In the year 2000, when Munchkin was 7 years old, Two-Time came to pick her for the holidays. Nothing unusual about that. She did that often during the holidays. Only on this occasion, she did not return Munchkin even when the school had resumed. There was no GSM in those days so Two-Time could not be reached by phone. 

Marvin stomped to her house. 

She had moved.

Along with her mother with whom she lived.  

The neighbours didn’t know where they’d moved to. 

Houston, we have a problem.

Most of the boys had started working by now. Marvin worked in a bank. So Saturdays and Sundays were the only days available to search for Two-Time.

After a few weeks, Marvin got hold of the address of a Two-Time aunt. He constituted himself into a proper irritation to this woman. He’d show up at her house every Saturday morning at 6 am. He claims he only went there to ask the whereabouts of Two Time but I suspect he crouched beneath the woman’s window and sang Saheed Osupa and Dauda Epo Kinkin. Drove the woman mad. The aunt eventually spilled the beans and told Marvin where Two-Time was. 

Marvin stormed the address and found Two-Time. But Munchkin was not with her. 

She was with her real father. 

Say what now? 

Two-Time told Marvin Munchkin was not his child. 

You two-timing, lecherous and treacherous wench! 

And she wasn’t going to tell Marvin where Munchkin was. 

Over the course of several days, Marvin became suppliant. He apologised for his sins and the sins of his ancestors. He promised to marry her and be the love of her life. He’ll change. They even shagged. 

So, Two-Time fessed up. She told him Munchkin was with her real father in Jos. She had got pregnant for the bloke but he’d rejected paternity. She told her mother who then asked her to explore the possibility of foisting the paternity on Marvin. So, she’d turned to Marvin.

We had all been suckers.

All you lot whose mothers go to enquire of some prophet which of your suitors to marry, best tell them to stop. Those prophets don’t see squat!

It all felt like some B-rate Nollywood movie.

Only it wasn’t.

This drama was playing out before our eyes and we were part of the cast.

Now, at the same time Marvin was schmoozing Two-Time to know Munchkin’s exact location, Marvin’s mother had swung into action. 

You see, Marvin’s mother, whom we shall call G-Mama, was gangsta. On her own, she had tracked down where Munchkin was. How she did that is still a mystery. She discovered that Munchkin was not in Jos but was in fact in Lagos with an aunt of Two-Time. 

Hell hath no fury like a grandma pissed. She barrelled to that address. 

She saw Munchkin. 

She.Gave.Them.Hell. 

She invoked Sango, Ogun, federal law, state law, Thor, Fadeyi Oloro, MC Oluomo, Voldemort, Osama Bin Laden, the Host of Heaven, Roy Keane, and just about any other peril that came to her mind.

The aunt simply handed Munchkin over without an argument.

There. We have our Munchkin back.

Marvin took Munchkin for a DNA test. The test confirmed what we’d all feared. Munchkin was not Marvin’s child. 

G-Mama didn’t want to give her up though. “How could she not be ours? She looks like Marvin! The test must be wrong. Something must be wrong. We’ll fight for her! Lai-lai, I no gree!”

But the emotional toll on Marvin was too great. His life was spiraling out of control. He wanted the drama over with. After a few weeks of struggle, he drove Munchkin to Two-Time and handed her over.

This is the part where you cry.

Then Munchkin’s real father showed up. 

Same ear, same nose, same forehead, same complexion. 

Munchkin looked more like him than she looked like Marvin!

What witchery is this!

Folks, don’t ever believe that because a child looks like you, s/he is your child! Biology can be cruel!

Munchkin’s father came with his family to apologise to Marvin and to offer compensation. The guy was a good dude, only caught in the web of some jiggery-pokery. Marvin turned down the offer of compensation and told them he was OK releasing Munchkin to them. Only they’d better come good in her life.

Man, I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when Two-Time went back to charm Munchkin’s father. 

“Hey darling, guess what? Remember that your spermatozoa that hit home run? It is now a beautiful 7-year-old daughter in Lagos. I was going to tell you but on my way a meteor hit me and I lost my memory. We are dying to come to you and be one happy family.”

Oh, I forgot. Flies don’t have ears. And even if they do and I heard everything she said, nobody will listen to me. Nobody listens to a fly.

Bugger.

But one thing is for certain; she must have spun a good yarn. I mean, it’s not every day you wake up and realise you have a 7-year-old kid in Kathmandu. 

Anyway, the bloke didn’t marry Two-Time. Bummer. He accepted Munchkin but married someone else. Munchkin lived with the bloke’s aunt and grandma. On Munchkin’s account, her stepmom didn’t take to her. She had a torrid time living with family.

Marvin also didn’t marry Two Time. Double bummer. He married someone else and has his own kid now. ‘Own’ kid because he did a DNA test. He passed.

Munchkin is now in her mid-twenties and in Canada. She relocated with her father over a decade ago. Marvin had also moved to the US in the early 2000s. She and Marvin keep in touch.

But she’s pretty messed up. She has a host of psychological problems and is on some serious medication. She’s dropped out of four colleges and amassed huge debt. She now lives in a shelter. 

Our Munchkin.

I was with Marvin at his home in the US recently. He showed me a recent convo between himself and Munchkin. A line brought tears to my eyes. She told him: “you’re also still my dad….” 

Which answers the question I posed earlier: what makes a child yours?

It is not your blood coursing through the child’s vein or you share DNA. Neither is it likeness in looks or mannerism.

It is belief. 

The belief that the child is from your loins. For s/he may well not be. After all, you didn’t do any paternity test, did you? 

It is all mind over matter. Your child is your child only because you believe s/he is your child. Blood and DNA are secondary. 

So, should you do a DNA test? Only if you don’t trust your wife or you’ve been sowing your wild oats in dubious farmlands.

But what if you do the test and it confirms the child(ren) to be yours? How will your wife feel? Trust is shattered. And when trust is gone in a marriage, everything else is gone. 

I guess the question then is: what is trust worth to you? 

“For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” – Ecclesiastes 1:18

 

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