More questions than answers on ending Lagos gridlock

250,000 cars waste N60b on extra fuel yearly

• Defective vehicles, one more cause of traffic on Lagos roads

By Tope Templer Olaiya

There were more questions than answers  at the Lagos Transportation and Traffic webinar organised by the United States Consulate General in Lagos, which held on July 7. The traffic problem was described as “the other pandemic, a transportation virus” by Prof. Bola Akinterinwa.

With the advent of the rainy season with its attendant flooding and huge craters doting many parts of the state, the fear of severe congestion in the coming days was on Monday heightened with the announcement that the Third Mainland Bridge would be closed for six months for repair.

The virtual event, which drew stakeholders in the transportation industry, government officials, scholars and media practitioners, lived up to the billing of its theme: ‘The never-ending story, Lagos traffic congestion: What can be done? Will it be done?

While the forum did justice to the first part: ‘What can be done?’ with panellists proffering homegrown solutions and models from the developed world to address the intractable problem of Lagos traffic, the answer to the second part: ‘Will it be done?’ was left blowing in the wind after the two-hour session.

The U.S. Consul General, Ms. Claire Pierangelo, kicked off the discussion on why Lagos, as the hub of economic activity in Nigeria, needs to open up a conversation around looking for solutions to the traffic problem.

The keynote speaker, Mr Frank Aigbogun, publisher of Business Day newspaper, urged the private sector to be more demanding for solutions from the Federal Government and state government. “Lagos traffic congestion is a failure of policy. I have lived with this problem since 1982 when I came to Lagos for the first time from Kano. I was to report to The Guardian newspaper for my NYSC and for more than two hours, I was moving round and round from Oshodi to The Guardian office at Toyota [Bus Stop] in traffic.

“On average, people spend 30 hours a week in traffic, 10 hours short of the 40 hours a week work schedule. This poses stress to individuals, families, productivity decline, economic losses and grave danger to life. I have been attacked thrice in my car in traffic. One of the occasions was with my whole family in the car. The private sector needs to hold the government to high standards, demanding pragmatic solutions,” he said.

Robin Hutcheson, Director of Public Works, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, noted that a single person in a car is not an efficient use of space, reason why massive investment in public transportation is key.

“Space is a constraint in cities worldwide, which is why the bus-only lane is helpful to reduce road congestion. The BRT model will save travel time for those who commute by bus and encourage more people to drop their cars at home.”

Engr. Abdulhafis Toriola, who represented the Commissioner of Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, reeled out some plans the state government had been working on to manage its 21 million population in the little space available.

“We have invested massively in mass transit, especially BRT lanes with a soon to be launched Oshodi to Abule-Egba route, invested massively in water transportation with purchase of more boats and working to transit the public transport sector from the unorganised model to an organised one.”

Prof. Innocent Ogwude, professor of transport management and former Acting Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Imo State, said that narrow roads, poor connectivity of inner-city roads and mass movement of trucks have compounded the traffic situation in Lagos despite the movement of the Federal Capital Territory to Abuja in December 1991.

Commenting on the discourse, George Ashiru said: “Until economists put the figures of the impact of road congestion on the GDP, governments may not altogether understand how to ensure the prioritisation of the issue of public transportation, bottlenecks and endemic congestion. The impact on location and localisation of industries is palpable.”

Adenusi Patrick of the Safety Beyond Borders, founder of the NGO focused on road safety, said: “Daily, about 250,000 vehicles are caught in avoidable traffic in Lagos. If each of the vehicles expends N1,000 on extra fuel above what should have been spent for the journey, that is N250 million wasted daily. In five days, that is N1.25 billion and in a month, N5 billion. In 12 months, we are talking of about N60 billion.

Dr. Mobereola, a former Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) and former Commissioner for Transportation said: “The first problem is lack of coordination between the three arms of government in Nigeria to address the problem of urban transport with Lagos as the focus. This, the embassy can help to coordinate so that the major decision-makers will be present.

“Are there plans and policies that would take care of the prerequisites for effective traffic management? How can traffic be managed effectively without good road network, enough diversion routes, plans for proper parking, proper provision for the pedestrian precinct, proper training of traffic management agents and monitoring, policies that would punish corrupt agents and offenders?”






Defective vehicles, one more cause of traffic on Lagos roads
By Abike Awojobi
THIS article was triggered by the news report titled: ‘More questions than answers on ending Lagos gridlock’ of The Guardian newspaper on March 8, which detailed the Lagos Transportation and Traffic webinar organised by the United States Consulate General in Lagos with the theme, ‘The never-ending story, Lagos traffic congestion: What can be done? Will it be done?’
Without fully rehashing the report given, I would want to simply commend the organisers, speakers and contributors for the very valuable points put forward. It would, however, seem that one major contributor to the unending traffic wasn’t captured in the webinar and that is the effects of defective vehicles on the highways. Beyond being a major cause of accidents on the roads, defective vehicles are notorious for causing heart-wrenching traffic for so many Lagosians.
In the pursuit of a holistic management of Lagos traffic congestion, there is a greater need for the public to embrace the use of technology, as deployed by the Lagos State government, to address the issue of defective vehicles causing horrendous traffic on the highways.
Currently in Lagos, the Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) operates 16 Lagos Computerised vehicle inspection service centres (LACVIS), capable of inspecting all kinds of vehicles. The benefits of these LACVIS centres are enormous. Since it was introduced in 2017, LACVIS operations have led to the automation of the renewal of roadworthiness certificates such that vehicles are expected to undergo series of inspection on the safety requirements before the owners are issued the roadworthiness certificates.
These inspections, carried out on computerised test lanes, check for defects from emission to brakes efficiency. Other tests carried out include steering and alignment, suspension, headlamps test, topside and underneath inspection, among others.
Despite the myriads of tests carried out on vehicles, the turnaround time is within the range of 15 minutes for saloon vehicles and SUVs, and 20 minutes for trucks, tankers and trailers. There have been cases of vehicles having over 60 defects at a go. It isn’t far-fetched to conceive the idea that such vehicle is a potential traffic-causing agent.
To those who have been compliant and have patronised the centres, they have been full of gratitude to the state government for its resolute determination to reduce carnage to the barest minimum on the roads. The vehicle inspection report given after the inspection details the defects discovered and they are advised for quick repair. And as such, they are equally grateful for getting good value for the money paid to renew these documents.
Obviously, it is not yet Uhuru for the state as there are still cases of non-road worthy vehicles plying the highways. However, before we lay blame, as usual, on the enforcing agencies, we should be introspective to answer simple questions such as how well have I played my part in ensuring that traffic is reduced to the barest minimum.
Beyond introspection, we can also take the bull by the horns and schedule a visit to any of the LACVIS centres to take advantage of its facilities to rule out options of having our vehicles breakdown unexpectedly and adding to the thousand and one causes of traffic in the state.

Awojobi is the Business Development and Media Relations Manager of Lagos Computerised Vehicle Inspection Service (LACVIS).


More questions than answers on ending Lagos gridlock

More questions than answers on ending Lagos gridlock

Tightening the noose on maltreatment of maid

By Tope Templer Olaiya

There are many ‘Peace Goewam’ in at least one out of every 10 homes in the country. Remember Peace? She is the young girl rescued by the police on Christmas Day, December 25, 2019 in Enugu State after a video of her being dragged out of a vehicle, thrown up and slammed on the bare floor went viral on social media. In fear and sensing the possibility of losing her life with more maltreatment, she immediately stood up and ran towards the gate in a bid to escape her guardian’s wrath, not caring to check if she sustained any injury. Her guardian chased after her and told her to return to the car. With the prodding of another woman who tried to intercede on Peace’s behalf, she returned to the car. Seconds after, the fiercely looking woman, grabbed her again and pounced on her repeatedly.

The culprit, Mrs. Amaka Ortolehi, her husband, Nkemakolam Ortoleh, and Peace’s uncle who gave her out as maid, Jonathan Goewan, were arrested by the police and on December 31, 2019 arraigned before Chief Magistrate J.I. Agu of the Enugu East Magistratrial District, who ordered they be remanded in Enugu Correctional Centre.

Peace Goewam and her madam

A visibly angry Commissioner of Police, Ahmad AbdurRahman, said while parading the suspects in his office: “Irrationally, she held her own daughter who she had affection for but was thrusting this very girl on the ground as if she was killing a fowl. We protected and rescued the girl and she is going to be handed over to a government agency that will take care of her. This is a typical example of child abuse, child labour, torture and man’s inhumanity to man. The maid’s parents said Jonathan told them that he was going to put their child in a school.”

Peace’s living condition is an antonym of her name. She had been taken away from her parents’ home in Plateau State, at age six. From her frail and malnourished looks, coupled with the marks of violence on parts of her body, it was obvious that eight-year-old Peace had been severely traumatised.

Despite the public show of support and commentary that trailed Peace’s travail, the indescribable assault of maids and house-helps turned to slaves has continued unabated. New cases of brutality are brought to light each week and the victims range from toddlers to adolescents, teenagers and even adults.

Peace after her rescue from her madam by the Enugu Commissioner of Police Ahmad AbdurRahman

On November 26, 2019, an 11-year-old maid, who was allegedly assaulted and fed with cockroaches and faeces by her madam, was rescued by an activist, Gwamnishu Harrison, in Awka, Anambra State. She was rescued from a dungeon where she laid helpless with wounds and scars all over her face and body and immediately taken to Amaku General Hospital in Awka for medical attention.

Disclosing how it happened, Gwamnishu wrote: “A concerned citizen reached out to us on the case of an 11-year old house girl locked up, beaten up and fed with cockroaches and faeces. We quickly swung into action, got to Awka and rescued the little girl from the dungeon where she laid helpless with septic wounds and scars all over her body.”

On January 23, 2020, officers of the Rivers State police command interrogated a middle-aged woman, Madam Blessing Tamunokoru, for allegedly inserting pepper into the private part of a 14-year old housemaid. It was gathered that based on complaints from neighbours to the police over the inhuman treatment meted out to her maid, detectives attached to the Central Police Station, Port Harcourt Township arrested Tamunokoru.

Maid beaten and fed with cockroaches and feaces before she was rescued last November

The neighbours, who constantly witnessed the regular abuse of the housemaid by Tamunokoru alerted a human rights organisation. The suspect, however, denied inserting pepper into the girl’s private part, but admitted to flogging and inflicting wounds on her, which she claimed was to make her disciplined.

The 14-year-old victim said her madam used wire to flog her and sometimes poured hot water on her legs to inflict injuries on her wounds for not being able to sell all the kerosene given to her to hawk around the market. The state chairman of the Civil Rights Council, Prince Wiro, who was alerted to the girl’s situation, recalled that he saw the girl weeping and hawking kerosene.

A nursing mother, Folake Ogunrinu, was two weeks ago arrested by operatives of the Oyo State police command for allegedly lacerating her 10-year-old maid with a razor blade in the Sanyo area of Ibadan. The suspect, who had accused the victim of stealing her baby’s milk, in a bid to discipline her, subjected the girl to torture by allegedly using a razor blade to lacerate her on the back and hand, leaving the girl with severe injuries.

An eyewitness, who pleaded anonymity, while condemning the action of the nursing mother, said the maid ran out of the house to get help from neighbours when she could no longer withstand the pain from the torture.

On Thursday, February 20, 2020, in another incident, an Ogba Magistrates’ Court in Lagos ordered a housewife, Mrs. Esther Ijeoma Amechi, to provide medical attention to her house-help, Mrs. Joy Kanu, who suffered various degrees of injuries after she assaulted her. Magistrate O.D. Njoku issued the order after taking arguments from counsel and the complainant, the International Charitable Initiative for Girl Child and Women Development Foundation (ICI-GWODEF).

Joy Kanu, 43, is a mother of nine consisting of three sets of twins and a triplet. Magistrate Njoku also ordered the defendant, Mrs. Amechi, to attend to the broken limbs and the wound on the head of Joy Kanu and other forms of treatment in the hospital for the next three months after which the court will determine whether or not to proceed with the case or go for settlement.

It would be recalled that on January 14, 2020, an 18-year-old lady identified as Abigail Felix, took her life in the Alausa, Ikeja area of Lagos. Abigail, who is from the Republic of Benin, was said to have taken the deadly DD insecticide and left no suicide note. According to a police source, Abigail, who moved in with her employers, the family of one Akinrinmade two years ago, was responsible for cleaning the house and attending to customers at her madam’s shop.

A day before her death, Abigail had reportedly left the house without informing anyone of her whereabouts. After searching for her with no result, a case of a missing person was lodged at the nearest police station. The next day, Abigail snuck into one of the rooms in the house and when interrogated, she failed to disclose where she was the previous night.

She ran into another room where she locked herself in and refused to open the door. Efforts to get her out failed until the door was pulled down and she was found with foamy substances around her mouth with a bottle of the DD insecticide by her side. She was immediately rushed to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) where she died as doctors battled to save her life. The police are yet to establish any link though between her death and maid maltreatment.

Beside physical assault and torture, there is the also commonplace sexual exploitation of maids by ‘ogas’ and ‘madams’. A woman was arrested in a Lagos suburb on December 19, 2019, for allegedly feeding her 13-year-old maid with human faeces. This was after the woman’s son had also sexually molested the minor. Both mother and son were arrested in Okota, Isolo area of Lagos by officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Lagos Zonal Command.


But the goriest of maid abuse in recent times is the misfortune of Elizabeth Ochanya Ogbanje who went to live with her mother’s younger sister. If Peace Goewam is lucky to be alive after her police rescue, Ochanya from Benue State is not so lucky. She died on October 17, 2018 following health complications arising from alleged sexual molestation she suffered at the hands of a senior lecturer at the Department of Catering and Hotel Management of the Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor Ogbuja, a final year student who is still at large.

Elizabeth Ochanya sexually assaulted to death by her guardian and cousin in Benue State


The death of the teenager, who was serially molested sexually by her guardians and later died of health complications, triggered public outcry and provoked national outrage and demonstrations across the country where human rights activists, as well as several non-governmental organisations, called for the arrest and prosecution of the culprits, consequent upon which the accused lecturer was arrested, arraigned and remanded in prison custody.

Mother of the deceased, Rose Abah, had told the International Centre for Investigative Reporting last year that she still remained traumatised by the loss of her daughter to sex predators one year after. “Ochanya was eight years old when I decided to take her to live with my sister so she could get a better education because our village primary school was not in good condition but that decision is now one of my biggest regrets in life,” Rose recalled.

She had sent her daughter to stay with her younger sister, Felicia Ogbuja, aged 43, who was married to a polytechnic lecturer, Andrew Ogbuja, aged, 52, who taught at Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo. Andrew is also a third level knight of the Catholic Church. Ochanya lived with them for four years going to school and helping the family with domestic chores.

Rose Abah, mother of Ochanya

The outcome of that decision turned out to be a nightmare for Rose because her daughter never returned home the same way she left. She arrived home, sick as doctors struggled to save her life. Ochanya suffered urinal incontinence brought by prolonged sexual abuse, this meant she urinated uncontrollably when asleep or awake and she had to use baby diapers to control the urinary flow.

Rose had stayed with Ochanya in the months leading to her death; the period was marked with frequent visits to the hospital. “During one of those days when I was with her in the hospital, I had to ask her if anyone had slept with her because her feet were swollen badly that she couldn’t walk. I got the worst news of my life that day when she told me Junior (Victor Ogbuja), her cousin and Daddy (Andrew Ogbuja), his father had been taking turns to sleep with her,” she said.

The news was devastating for Rose because she trusted Felicia with her daughter’s future. She had wanted Ochanya to become a doctor; now the dream is shattered. “When I confronted Felicia, she was scolding Ochanya for not informing her. A relative of mine who had accompanied me to their house had to shut her up by telling her Ochanya would be afraid to speak of such acts because it happened in her home and she would be afraid,” she said.

The shock of hearing that news was overwhelming for Rose and the incident tore apart the relationship between the two sisters.
“My heart can’t be at rest until Ogbuja’s family has paid for what they took away from me. Ochanya was the child of my old age and whenever I remember what they had taken from me, it feels like scratching the surface of a closed wound,” she said.

There has also been the other side of the salacious maid tales. A young house-help identified as Uche Soroibe, was last month allegedly caught trying to poison his employer and family with an insecticide. The young man confessed to his crime on camera after he was caught. He revealed that this attempt was the third time he tried to kill his boss and family members with the insecticide. According to Soroibe, he lost his boss’ N750,000 to fraudsters and decided that his only solution was to kill his employer and his family.

Protest march for Ochanya against rape

Also in January this year, a maid, Hope Istifanus, allegedly killed a two-year-old girl, Somkenechukwu in Owerri, Imo State. The suspect, aged 16, reportedly lived with the deceased’s parents as a caregiver. It was gathered that the suspect allegedly strangled the baby and watched her die. Then she prepared the baby to look like she was sleeping.

When Somkenechukwu’s mother returned from the market, she saw the child lying on the bed. The maid told her that the little girl had eaten, bathed and slept off after running around the house. She didn’t suspect anything and decided to rest a little. However, when the baby did not wake up after four hours, she decided to wake her up.

But is having a house-help illegal in Nigeria? There is currently no law in Nigeria specifically regulating domestic staff. However there are a few things you need to be aware of. According to, if s/he is less than 18 years old, then you are breaking the law (specifically Section 28(1)(d) of the Child Rights Act).

“By law, children are not supposed to be ‘employed as domestic help outside (their) home. The penalty for this is a fine not exceeding N50,000 or imprisonment for a term of five years or both. But because the issue of underage domestic help is so rampant, it is unlikely that you will be arrested for breaching this law except if there is an established case of assault, but be aware that you are still breaking the law and there are potential liabilities that may arise.

“The law was created to protect children, and your main concern should be how to ensure that the boy/girl working for you isn’t being exploited. Our advice at LawPadi is this: If you know you are breaking the law, then take steps to rectify it. There are organizations, which can give you advice on how to deal with domestic staff properly, and can talk you through how you can regularize your position legally.”

A lawyer, Onyekachi Umah, said Nigerian laws frown on child labour and abuse. “Often, families engage children and young persons as house helps, maids and workers under the guise that such children will be sent to school and or paid. Such practise/arrangement is now a criminal offence in Nigeria.

“It is a criminal offence in all parts of Nigeria, to employ, recruit, transport, harbour, receive or hire any human being in Nigeria that is less than 12 years old as a house-help, maid, domestic worker or staff member of any appellation. This offence is punishable with imprisonment for not less than six months but not more than seven years. Apart from the Nigeria police, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) can entertain such cases with sections 23(1) (a) and 82 of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.”

He, however, called on individuals, non-governmental and civil society organisations to bring to the attention of security agencies reported cases of torture or maltreatment of maids and children in their neighbourhood.

Despite the laws on engagement of domestic servants, human traffickers are still a step ahead of law enforcers, especially in Lagos where there is a high demand for house-helps ‘imported’ from Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and Cameroun. Findings show there is a large market for house-help jobs in Lagos and the system is complete with agents, referees and registration fees.

The Guardian checks at the weekend revealed that to hire a maid, usually an underage girl, for a year, at the very least, the sum of N15,000 per month is paid to the agent or recruiter with an additional sum of N10,000 for registration and N5,000 for transport to import the girl and another N5,000 when the maid is returning at the end of a year, the total package amounting to N200,000 to be paid twice at six months interval.

Of this total sum, a paltry N50,000 or less is given to the parent or guardian of the maid while the girl is left on her own to the whims and caprices of her boss. Some parents though negotiate more from the bargain but the maid is subjected to all forms of maltreatment like a slave and made to work as nanny, house-keeper, sales/service girl all at once.

In most cases, nothing is given to the maid as pocket money. She is made to depend solely on her madam for her existence for feeding, wardrobe, toiletries, and other essentials. December is the time most trafficked children from Benin are returned home. Parents use the opportunity to renegotiate better wages on each child.

On how the children are moved, a Lagos resident based in Badagry, who claimed to be familiar with the modus operandi of human traffickers coming into the country through various border points in the town, Mr. David Wusu, explained that child traffickers often work alongside drug cartels and vehicle smugglers to carry out the nefarious activity.

“When the children are moved from Benin Republic, they come in mostly through the Seme border in Badagry and the adjoining bush paths. At the Seme border, even though customs officers are everywhere, what they are usually interested in, and which they focus on, are products, not humans. Customs will overlook anybody that wants to cross. It is when you are carrying any goods that you will be thoroughly searched. These traffickers move these children across the border, having promised them a better life on the other side,” he said.

After crossing, some of the traffickers have contacts in border towns and villages. They use hotels to camp the children before moving them in vehicles to their preferred destinations. According to Wusu, as soon as a maid is about to be brought into a new home, the middlemen will ensure that they take oaths at shrines, pledging that they would not steal, commit any offence or implicate their “madams”.

The oath taking of trafficked kids was also confirmed by a source who claimed to be a middleman for traffickers. The source disclosed that the girls were often made to take oaths so that evil would befall anyone that attempts to take advantage of them sexually.

“This is necessary because some of these girls’ masters are so promiscuous that they abuse the girls sexually and impregnate them and even infect them with diseases. So, the oaths would scare them off”, he said.

For businesswoman and fashion designer, Mrs. Anjioluwa Olaide Akinnisola, both relations and house helps are no-go area, as she has had a series of experiences from both sides. “I do not subscribe to both, because I have had experiences in both ways,” she explained. “When I got married, my husband and I decided to invite his niece, who stayed with us for about three years, but at the end, nothing good came out of it. She left when I needed her most, at the time I had my son, her mother came to take her away, claiming I didn’t take good care of her.

“This was a girl I enrolled in a private school. I also engaged the services of a home tutor, as she wasn’t particularly brilliant. Till date, her mother still holds a grudge against me, but I am happy that the girl is married today with two children and is living her life based on the training I gave her. She always calls to thank me, even though her mother is still angry with me.”

Narrating her experience with a housemaid she got from an agency, she said: “That was even worse. The last one I took was a mature girl. Whenever I wasn’t at home, she would start parading half-naked in only bra and pants around my husband. She would also sleep carelessly. We were staying in a two-bedroom apartment, and she shared a room with my kids. My husband is very conscious of his kids and would wake up at night to check on them, only to see this girl sleeping carelessly. One day, my husband said I was looking for trouble, as he couldn’t understand what the girl was doing in his home. He was the one who called my attention to the girl’s attitude. So, I sent her away.

“I took another one and she stayed for only three months. I didn’t know she was pregnant before coming to stay with me. She was not more than 17 years. She would work and sleep around the house. I had to take her to the hospital, where I was told she was pregnant. I was afraid because I thought a family or neighbour was responsible for the pregnancy. After much interrogation, she told me she got pregnant before coming to my house. So, I sent her packing.”

Dr. Olusegun Temilola, a senior lecturer in the Sociology department at the University of Lagos, said one of the problems of having recruited helps in the home is the cultural difference. He, however, noted that it is wrong for guardians to subject these helps to any form of slavery.

“This includes making them stay up late at night and getting up very early, which is dehumanising. If you have promised to send such help to school or learn a trade, it is proper to fulfill that promise,” he said.

He is, however, of the opinion that family is better, because you know them and their root, while agencies are just interested in the money they make. “They are in business and don’t really care about your welfare. By the time they recruit a house help for you, they will also plan the exit of the same help without your knowledge and even before your payment is due,” he explained.

“I had a similar experience. After getting a house help from an agency with a one year contract, the girl left my house after three months and the first thing I did was to report to the police station. Afterwards, I contacted the agent, who threatened that I produce the girl or else I would be held responsible for her disappearance.

“Fortunately, the girl forgot her phone, which she used to communicate with the agency, and that was how we discovered she was already serving in another home. Then we threatened the agents that they would be arraigned in court, unless they refunded our money. Eventually they paid some of the money.”


Tightening the noose on maltreatment of maid


Daughters of Chibok… The searing pains that won’t go away

By Tope Templer Olaiya

We cry every night, it is hard to move on, says Yana Galang

Yana Galang

April 14, 2014 is a day that will live in infamy in Nigeria’s history. On April 14, 2020, it would be six years since the abduction of 276 female students from an all-girl secondary school in the town of Chibok, Borno State. That kidnap by Boko Haram jolted the world to the dreadful activities of the terrorist group operating now for over 10 years in the northeast of the country.

The outrage caused around the world has since faded from the headlines. Even the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) daily sit-out at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, has now become a distant memory with the headliners like Oby Ezekwesili, Hadiza Bala-Usman and Bukky Shonibare, going on to pursue other interests.


A waning outrage
In April 2018, when the BBOG group assembled to mark the fourth year anniversary of the abduction, policemen dispersed the campaigners with teargas as they approached the Unity Fountain. That marked the end of the vibrant sit-out at the seat of power that rallied global attention and interest to the Chibok abduction, as subsequent campaigns of the BBOG, including the fifth anniversary and the 2,000th day remembrance on October 5, 2019 were all marked in Lagos.

Aisha Yesufu, one of the Bring Back Our Girls campaigners

It would be recalled that in the first frantic minutes of the kidnap, 57 girls managed to jump from the trucks in which they were transported, and escaped. The remaining 219 were taken away by the fighters. Not long after, a social media campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls went viral and celebrities, leaders and activists across the world joined the campaign to free the kidnapped schoolgirls.

Five years and nine months after, a total of 107 girls have been found or released as part of a deal between the Federal Government and the insurgents but sadly, 112 girls are still missing on Day 2,095 of the Chibok abduction. A child born on the day of the abduction in 2014 would be gaily dressed today to resume school for the second term of Basic I class.

For parents of the remaining 112 missing girls, it is a double assault on their misery – the pain of a beloved child not yet found coupled with the realization that the government, Nigerians, Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners and indeed the entire world have since moved on.

At this time of the year when the rest of the world are positive of a new beginning after coming out from a long year-end festivities, they are left to brood and muse like the American singer and civil rights activist, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known professionally as Nina Simone, who sang ‘Blackbird’.

Empty seats with name tags of the missing Chibok girls

In their moments of deep despondency, some mothers of the remaining Chibok girls may be heard humming a dirge that could replace the feeling of the song ‘Blackbird’: ‘So why you want to fly Blackbird, you ain’t ever gonna fly. You ain’t got no one to hold you, you ain’t got no one to care. If you’d only understand dear, nobody wants you anywhere. So why you want to fly Blackbird, you ain’t ever gonna fly.’

Nina Simone was using the song to speak to the struggles and pain of black women, as black birds, who were at the time facing a triple jeopardy of race, class, and gender oppression.


A mother’s unending grief
Some of the Chibok girls’ parents have died of heart attacks and grief-related ailments while waiting for their daughters to return. They have undergone all human emotions, from sadness, to hope, and then dejection. At least, 20 of the girls who returned have since moved to the United States to continue their education. The majority of the girls, after being freed, are continuing their education and therapy at a special school designed for them at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Adamawa State.

The changed fortunes of many of the freed Chibok girls inspire some hope in the minds of the parents of those left behind. But when they see videos of Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters executing their captives, most especially security agents, it is like a searing hot iron touching their hearts. They are jolted back to reality as they imagine the fate of their innocent kids at the hands of the insurgents. Each video and report of Boko Haram attacks sends a chilling sensation of what their daughters are going through.

United States President Donald J. Trump and welcoming two of the Chibok girls, Joy Bishara and Lydia Pogu, to the White House in 2017 shortly after their release

One of such women is Yana Galang, who, despite the good fortune of being featured in a documentary, Daughters of Chibok, made last year by a Nigerian filmmaker, Joel Kachi Benson, the pain still endures. “We won’t give up. Even in a hundred years, we will keep believing that our daughters will return home. Until we all die, we won’t stop believing that our daughters will come back,” she said.

The short film was shot in virtual reality and premiered at the Venice Film Festival, the oldest and one of the biggest film festivals in the world. The movie, which tells the story of Galang, also won the best virtual reality story at the festival’s closing in September 2019.

Few weeks later, Benson and Galang were in New York, United States for the United Nations General Assembly with one mission in mind: To remind the world that five years on, the Chibok girls have still not been brought home. “We are begging you, the leaders of the world, to join hands with the Nigerian government to please bring our girls for us. They are our blood and we still miss them,” Galang said on the floor of the UN assembly last year.

Back home and in a chat with The Guardian, she recalls her last memory of her daughter, Rifkatu, who was 18 when she was abducted in 2014. Every month, Galang washes the clothes of her abducted daughter so they will be fresh for her when she returns home.

Yana Golang, one of the mothers of the missing 112 Chibok girls

She said: “She is my daughter, I can’t forget anything about her even after many years. Despite the fact that I have three other daughters with me, she is just different and special because she is very hardworking and neat. She always plaits my hair and we go to the farm together when she is on holiday. We, the parents of the 112 girls remaining, feel so bad that the Chibok girls are being forgotten.

“I recall the last time I saw her. She sacrificed her holiday and told me ‘mummy, I want to go to school so I can read with my mates together to prepare for WAEC. She returned to school on the morning the abduction happened. She went to meet her daddy who gave her N1,000 to buy the things she will need in school. She bought a few provisions and brought N250 balance, which her daddy said she should keep as pocket money.

“When she was leaving, her daddy told her to wait that he would take her on his motorcycle to school when ready but she said she would go and meet her classmates and from there leave for school. That was the last moment I remember about her. Our minds are still with her. We are thinking about her always and I believe that she is still alive and one day, I will see her again.

“I want the Federal Government to please do anything to bring back our daughters and many others in the bush. They may have forgotten but we parents cannot forget and we are daily in pains thinking about it. It is not easy. Some mothers of the missing girls would just take their hoe, go the farm, sit under a tree and start crying. After a long time agonizing, they will return home without doing anything in the farm.

Some of the Chibok girls in a proof of live video released in 2016

“Even me, I have been doing this many times, especially during the raining season when we should be working. We will start imagining things, where are the girls, what are they doing, and how they are coping with these beasts. At that moment, we just can’t hold back the tears. When the first batch was released, our hopes were raised that it would soon be the turn of 112 mothers to smile, but it is more than two years since then and nothing has happened.

“It is with great pains that we are even struggling to keep our lives together and train the other children because it is difficult to move on. We simply can’t. You can’t understand what we are going through. Even though we have other children, my mind is still with my girl and will always be.

“We have lost 33 parents since the abduction of these girls. Some of us are strong, others are not. I lost a close friend whose daughter was also abducted. Shortly before her death one night, she told me ‘I will not see my daughter Margaret’. She was her only daughter and last born though she had six other boys. She told me if and when these girls return, please adopt Margaret as your daughter because I know I can no longer wait to see my daughter. I tried my best to encourage her. Then we were in one of the IDP camps in Bauchi State. Not long after, she fell ill and died.”


A filmmaker’s passion reopens the day of infamy
For Benson the filmmaker, beyond the grief of the abduction, which is obvious in Chibok community till date, one thing that struck him was the hardship the women had to endure even while keeping hope alive and waiting for their girls.

Yana Galang, left, with film-maker Joe Kachi Benson, whose documentary Daughters of Chibok focuses on the enduring suffering of the mothers whose children were kidnapped in Chibok

“When I met Galang, she was going to her farm. I followed her but all I saw was a woman hacking into a dry ground. The first thing that struck me was the use of crude method in farming, a backbreaking work that didn’t yield much result. For instance, her average annual yield of beans is 10 bags. This year, I think it is currently N16,000 per bag. So, if she does 10 bags, that’s about N150,000 for the year. That is like N12,000 for a month.

“So I ask her, has anybody come around to support you women? Have you received any aid of any sort? And the answer was no. That then became the mission of my film, to use the film to draw attention to what these women are going through. There are a lot of groups who are involved with the Bring Back Our Girls, which is great. But while we are waiting for the girls to return, we shouldn’t forget their parents. So they just don’t come back and meet absent parents.”

Galang says the world has forgotten about Chibok girls. Benson believes so too. “The most important thing that has happened with the film is that people have been reminded about Chibok. We need to accept the fact that a lot of people have moved on. But because of the reminder, we are now hearing things like oh, what can we do, how can we help? That is the film achieving its purpose.

The poster for Joe Kachi Benson documentary Daughters of Chibok, which won the virtual reality story award at the Venice film festival

“The film is part of a campaign to do something for the parents of Chibok. We can’t bring back their girls but we can do something to make their lives a little easier. If we focus on that, it will help to lessen the pain of the loss of their children. Yohanna went to New York. That in itself is a big deal, from Chibok to New York and meeting with world leaders,” he said.


A community still under throes of Boko Haram attacks
Despite the global attention the abduction has attracted to Chibok community, it is still a Boko Haram terrorists’ place of interest where they visit regularly, leaving trails of tears and blood. At the weekend, Boko Haram attacked again and killed three men in a village in Chibok area. Residents told newsmen that armed men walked into Bila-Amboldar village at about 10:00p.m. last Friday when residents were asleep and set houses on fire.

The attackers reportedly shot at fleeing men in the pandemonium, killing two brothers, James and Mutah Kwakwi as well as a third man, Yusuf Yakubu, who just returned from Lagos to be with his wife.A resident, who identified herself as Mana Bila, said the attackers walked into the village after keeping their motorcycles at a nearby village, Makalama, which had been deserted following multiple attacks. She added that the insurgents carted away more than 20 motorcycles and other valuables from houses during the night attack.

This is coming days after a similar attack on Christmas Eve when Boko Haram fighters attacked Kwaranglum village and killed six persons, while abducting two women. Kwaranglum is about a kilometre to Chibok town, headquarters of Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State.

The state Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Nuhu Clark, an indigene of the area, told newsmen that the Boko Haram insurgents invaded the village at sunset prayer time (around 6:00p.m.), and started shooting sporadically. He said the insurgents burnt down a primary school and a large quantity of foodstuff was packed from a church premises, among others.

Leader of Chibok Girls’ Parents Association, Yakubu Nkenki, has said the town was in mourning mood when he visited to commiserate with the community after Friday’s attack and has called on the Federal Government to do more to protect soft targets.

“The situation is pathetic, the village has been thrown into mourning after losing three able bodied men. They told me that the gunmen looted 24 motorcycles from the village and abducted two women who were later released. “While we call on the public to cooperate with the military, we are also appealing to the government for improved security in our villages because the more villages are being attacked, the more bigger towns are exposed,” he said.


Daughters of Chibok… The searing pains that won’t go away



Gains, worries over ascendancy of social media trial, online shaming

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Metro Editor
In 2012, Dr. Reuben Abati, then spokesman to former president Goodluck Jonathan, in defence of his principal, stirred a raucous controversy with an opinion piece titled: “The Jonathan they don’t know”, when he labeled the growing band of social media critics as “children of anger.”

He had opened the article thus: “‘They’ in this piece refers to all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan. The clear danger to public affairs commentary is that we have a lot of unintelligent people repeating silly clichés and too many intelligent persons wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions.”

Reuben Abati

But the derided “children of anger” were not deterred. In the run-up to the 2015 general elections, the cyber-warlords took over the unregulated mass communication platform to run a vigorous, no-holds barred campaign either for change, as represented by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) or continuity of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

When President Buhari settled into his first term administration, the trolling on social media continued. Feeling rattled from the unending social media jibes, spokesman to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, coined his own term, shortening the “children of anger” to “wailers”, while the online influencers dishing out alternative facts were branded “hailers”.

The intense struggle between the wailers and hailers to own the social media space and spin or distort facts to their favour then led to the emergence of the ‘Fake News’ syndrome.

Femi Adesina

But while still trying to live with this reality and decipher between fake news and alternative facts, a new trend has emerged, which is the social media mob action. This new trend is gradually redefining the court of public opinion. Media trial has now been replaced by social media trial. In this space, you are proclaimed guilty until proven innocent.

The history of social media mob mentality dates back to 2013 when one Justine Sacco, a PR/Communication Executive at InterActiveCorp (IAC) in London, was getting ready to visit her family in South Africa, and before she boarded her flight, she made an insensitive joke on Twitter: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

By the time her 11-hour flight was over, she had become the world’s leading trending topic, with millions of people berating her for her racism, calling for her firing, and calling her terrible names. She was fired, and the internet cheered.

Since that time, there have been many similar situations. A person (ranging from nobody to celebrity) commits an unacceptable action (ranging from an ill-considered joke to an actual crime), and a mob of angry users rushes together in an attempt to ruin that person’s life.

Justine Sacco

This is also closely related to online shaming, a form of internet vigilantism in which targets are publicly humiliated for actions done privately or without wanting intended public broadcast using technology like social and new media.

Proponents of shaming see it as a form of online participation that allows “hacktivists” and cyber-dissidents to right injustices. Critics see it as a tool that encourages online mobs to destroy the reputation and careers of people or organizations who made perceived slights.

Many have been forced to delete tweets or bring down posts after offering an opinion on matters of public interest that seems to go against the grain. In Nigeria, several persons have been bathed in the baptism of social media mob attack, a few come out of it unscathed; others are drowned in the baptism.

Barely two weeks ago, Dr. Festus Adedayo was shot into national prominence albeit for the wrong reasons. Adedayo had just been appointed spokesperson of Senate President Ahmad Lawan when the APC mob descended on him on social media. He lost his job in hours. He was fired barely 48 hours after he was appointed Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President of the Senate.

Festus Adedayo

Before his appointment, Adedayo had gained a reputation for aiming darts and firing broadsides at chieftains of the APC in his fiery columns, which were often shared across most online platforms. Soon after his appointment was announced, most members of the APC on social media, mounted pressure on Senate President Lawan to rescind the appointment.

A press conference/protest to denounce the appointment was even staged by members of the APC youth forum, and before long, First Lady Aisha Buhari joined in on the act. Before nightfall on June 20, Adedayo had lost his job. Losing out on the appointment, he, however, vowed to remain critical of the Buhari administration.

Few days later, the online trolls or APC hailers, after achieving their aim, moved on to their next target, Lara Owoeye-Wise, newly appointed Senior Special Assistant on Electronic and New Media to the deputy senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege. She came under fire on social media following her appointment after some social media users alleged that she and Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi West, have had an intimate relationship.

Lara Owoeye-Wise

In her reaction to the protests against her appointment, she denied the allegation, saying she does not want her principal “to bear any stain by association. The umbrage against my appointment is an unfortunate showcase of sobering reality to well meaning Nigerians that there is so much we need to do on civic engagement as the future of Nigeria rests on the quality of our followership which will produce future leaders.

“I shall resist the urge to join issues on the salacious insinuation of any intimate relationship between Senator Dino Melaye and I. While there is no iota of truth in this, dissipating energy on it equates to according undue attention to sheer indiscretion from a group of people.

“By the way, Melaye represents my Senatorial district. The few interactions I have had with him were usually at public events, occasions where I muster enough honour to expand frontiers for my principal and engage in robust political cross-fertilization of ideas. Should I have worked for Senator Melaye in his political ambitions or even his party, I would have demonstrated some measure of honour to own up to it and actually turn down this appointment as I do not posses what it takes to be treacherous.”

The online trolls days later got busy when the plane seat controversy broke between Prof. Wole Soyinka and an unnamed Nigerian, as shared by Tonye Cole on his social media page. Many hailed the young man for standing on his right while others berated him for not according the Nobel laureate his due honour irrespective of his right.

Prof. Wole Soyinka

That soon fizzled out when on June 28, Busola Dakolo, wife of the famous musician, Timi Dakolo, set the social media on fire with the revelation during an exclusive interview with Chude Jideonwo of YNaija TV. In the interview, she alleged that Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), otherwise known as ‘Gucci Pastor’, raped her as a teenager in her home.

Spreading like wildfire, the story trended on all social media platforms, broke into the mainstream media and became a crusade gathering hundreds of protesters, who marched on the church’s headquarters in Abuja and its location in Lagos simultaneously on Sunday, June 30. The loud protest forced two things, first a cancellation of an annual ‘Seven Days of Glory’ prayer and fasting programme, which was to begin on Monday, July 1 with pastors from Nigeria and overseas billed to minister; and second, the stepping aside of the embattled pastor, who has now been denied by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), from the pulpit.

Biodun Fatoyinbo

Just as the COZA story was yet to drop down from the headlines and trending topics, an ancillary to COZA-gate came up, a video about a similar allegation of sexual molestation against the founder of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet Temitope Joshua, began trending. Bisola Johnson made the allegation when she joined protesters to march to COZA church service in Lagos. She said she was trapped in SCOAN for 14 years before she regained her freedom.

Not long afterwards, the new story began trending with hashtags like #SayNoToRapeInTheChurch, #IStandWithBusola, #IStandWithBisola and #ChurchToo. But not wanting to be done in by the new media court of public opinion, the church immediately released a six-minute long video to discredit the claims. The video was a compilation of several clips recorded over decades showing an unstable woman described as Bisola making a series of confessions in the church.

TB Joshua

To the relief of SCOAN, this reply was yet to gain traction when it was sidestepped by the trending topic of the moment, Senator’s Elisha Abbo, who was caught on video physically assaulting a nursing mother for merely pleading with him to “take it easy” with a shop owner in Abuja.

On all social media platforms, it is #SenatorStepDown that is the subject of discourse. It has forced an official reaction from the senate, his party and the police. Already, six petitions against the embattled Senator have garnered 38,473 signatures at the last count on Wednesday.

The petitions range from ones calling for the prosecution of Abbo, who was seen in a surveillance camera at an adult toy shop in Abuja assaulting a nursing woman, to ones calling for an end to the abuse of women and girls. Since the video went viral on Tuesday, Nigerians have filed six petitions on popular petition platform, The petition with the highest number of signatures was started by one Daniel Adebayo.

On the ground however, armed police officers attached to the National Assembly yesterday frustrated plans by some group of women activists from protesting against Senator Abbo. The group of women activists numbering about 50 and led by Aisha Yesufu, stormed the National Assembly complex at about 11:00a.m., chanting solidarity songs. The female rights activists also demanded the arrest and prosecution of the senator for molesting a mother.

Senator Elisha Abbo

The court of public opinion is apparently on the ascendancy. So far, they have recorded major successes like the #JusticeForKolade which forced the arrest of two officers involved in the extrajudicial killing of Kolade Johnson in Lagos earlier this year and #EndSARS, leading to a slowdown in the brutality of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

In May this year, Nigerians on social media went into frenzy at the news that Abayomi Shogunle, head of the Complaint Response Unit of the police, had been removed from the position. Shogunle’s removal came two days after making an unguarded comment on the illegal raid and rape of over 100 women by some police officers in Abuja.

Shogunle had taken to Twitter to reply those condemning the police, saying: “Those making noise on the clampdown on prostitutes in Abuja note: That prostitution is a crime under the law, is a sin under the two main religions of FCT residents; is spreading HIV & STDs; is lifeline of violent criminals; prostitutes don’t pay tax and Nigerian culture frowns on it.”

Abayomi Shogunle

Twitter users lambasted the police and Shogunle, branding him a bigot. In a jiffy, Frank Mba, the police spokesperson, confirmed that Shogunle had been redeployed to a town in Ebonyi State, saying: “He has been removed as head of the Complaint Response Unit and redeployed to Ebonyi State as Area Commander of Nkalagu.”

Also, scholars have opined that social media helped Tunisia and Egypt spread their message to the West and overthrow their dictators by organizing protests and rallies during the Arab Spring of 2011. In Libya, the social media also helped begin the revolution. The Arab Spring was a series of pro-democracy uprisings that enveloped several largely Muslim countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain. The events in these nations began in the spring of 2011, which led to the name. However, the political and social impact of the popular uprisings remains significant today, years after many of them ended, though it is easy to forget that the large-scale political and social movements began with a single act of defiance.

On its merit, the people’s court is not inherently evil, and there are scenarios that should be argued in the public rather than cloistered in private arbitration, like complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which forms element of the global #MeToo campaign.

But this court can also be exploited whereby public opinion and the social media becomes a monster. One way is the substitution of opinion for fact. When facts are unknown or complex, but a yes or no answer is required immediately, the public is driven increasingly to go with a gut instinct or opinion.

Last year, Vanguard newspaper had to publicly dissociate itself from a comment its editorial board chairman, Mr. Ocherome Nnanna, made on a social media platform, Facebook. Nnanna made what many said was a disparaging remark about the Yoruba ethnic group by calling them, “sophisticated morons” in a Facebook thread over the award of Nigeria’s highest honour to Moshood Abiola.

Ocherome Nnanna

The statement elicited uproar and widespread condemnation, especially from the South West elements in the social media, which forced the management of Vanguard to respond to the strident calls for the head of its longest-serving member of staff. In a statement, Vanguard pledged its commitment to responsible journalism. The statement signed by Gbenga Adefaye, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, said though Nnanna made the remark in a private conversation, Vanguard had already started probing it.

“While we are carefully interrogating the veracity of the comment, with a decisive response to the author, we wish to acknowledge that the statement was made entirely as part of a private conversation. Vanguard dissociates itself totally from such unwarranted but careless, private outburst. But we also wish to stress that Nnanna’s position must always reflect a circumspect conduct that takes into cognizance the sensitive nature of our responsibility, and in particular, the need to maintain decorum and decency in all conduct and dealings, whether private or public, formal or virtual.”

Nnanna then took to his Facebook page to tender an apology to the Yoruba and Nigerians saying: “I never imagined in my wildest dream that an offhand remark could provoke an anger of volcanic dimension which has threatened my career and Vanguard Newspapers as an institution.” He begged the Yoruba people to please forgive and forget his indiscretion on his Facebook page on June 9, 2018. He has never been the same again since then.

A communication scholar, Anna Joansson, has said social media mobs would be worse for society than the people they shame or whose life is ruined if not checked. “In the vast majority of cases, the people calling for someone’s firing or punishment don’t have the full story. They have seen a single tweet, without any context, or they have seen a video covering the last 30 seconds of an interaction that lasted several minutes or longer.

“We can’t allow any kind of justice system to make a final call based on these limited pieces of information—that’s why we have an actual justice system in place. No matter how flawed that justice system is, it strives to guarantee people the right to a fair and impartial trial. There’s nothing fair or impartial about a swarm of Twitter users cherry-picking the worst in people, and using that as an excuse to launch a full-blown assault against them.

“Also, we can’t expect people to be perfect 100 per cent of the time. Imagine if you were judged for everything you have ever done or said; chances are, even the most nonjudgmental, charitable, and kind of us has a handful of statements that would qualify us for our own internet lynch mob. What if you lose your job over a dumb mistake you made nine years ago? And not a hit-and-run accident or a murder charge, but a tasteless joke you made on the internet. That’s the reality of the impossible standards we set for people,” she said.

A social media enthusiast, Olaoluwa Adeleke, said: “On Twitter, it takes less than a minute to retweet an offensive message with a short message shaming the person who wrote it. If you have access to thousands of followers, you can mobilize a small army of vocal warriors to help bring someone down. In a matter of hours, a tweet that was meant to be seen by a few dozen people can reach millions. This is a dangerous slippery slope for this generation. May we not be on the wrong end of a social media lynch mob.”



Few days after this was published, social media trial gained another casualty

COZA saga: PUNCH sacks editors over offensive cartoon

The PUNCH has removed its Daily Editor, Martin Ayankola over an offensive cartoon published in the newspaper last Thursday.

Also asked to resign was the Saturday Editor, Olabisi Deji-Folutile over the same issue.

There has been outrage over a cartoon published on the back page of the PUNCH last Thursday. The opinion on its back page column was written by Abimbola Adelakun, with the title “What Does Mrs. Fatoyinbo Know.” The article was illustrated with a cartoon of a man desecrating the bible with urine.

The publication had generated lots of displeasure against the newspaper for publishing such offensive cartoon aimed at casting aspersion on the Christian faith and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Martin Ayankola, sacked Punch editor

PM News gathered that the board held an emergency meeting on Monday where Ayankola, was ordered to appear and forced to resign his appointment.

It was learnt that Ayankola had just completed a one-week suspension before he was fired by the newspaper over the offensive cartoon.

Ayankola has been the longest serving PUNCH Editor, having been appointed to the office in 2013 and during his tenure, the PUNCH towered higher.

A source in The PUNCH told PM News that the editor was forced to resign for bringing the newspaper into disrepute.

The ‘offensive’ illustration

The Saturday Editor, Deji-Folutile was also asked to resign for allegedly playing a role in the publication, while the cartoonist of the newspaper was sacked, with more people still being investigated, while the columnist, Abimbola Adelakun, was asked to rest her column.

The PUNCH had also tendered an apology to the public over the offensive cartoon.

The apology reads: “On the back of the page of the Thursday, July 4, 2019 edition of the PUNCH, we published a cartoon to illustrate an article titled, ‘What does Mrs Fatoyinbo know?’ The cartoon features a character desecrating the Holy Bible.

“We apologise for the offensive cartoon and assure our esteemed readers that we hold the Christian faith in high regard. We have since commenced the process of applying appropriate sanctions to the members of staff responsible, and we shall be reviewing our editorial process to prevent re-occurrence.”


Gains, worries over ascendancy of social media trial



With 300 items on display, 47,000 rotting in store, aging National Museum Lagos begs for attention

By Tope Templer Olaiya

For the price of a bottle of coke, a pupil with N100 or an adult with N200 is granted access to Nigeria’s premier and leading gallery of history and culture, the National Museum at Onikan, Lagos State. Save for the small signage affixed to the museum’s main building and the little crowd of those initiated into arts and culture affairs, the site of Nigeria’s largest collector of artefacts may well be mistaken for a graveyard.

Tomorrow, May 29, thousands of Lagosians would troop into the main bowl of the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), for the inauguration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the governor of Lagos State. A thriving city mall separates the museum from TBS, yet only a handful of the crowd would be aware of the museum’s existence.

On the average, according to the curator of the National Museum, Lagos, Mrs. Omotayo Adeboye, there are between 10,000 to 12,000 visitors every year. “We have our low and peak periods. The highest visitors to the museum are students and March is our peak period when the pupils are about ending their second term. We have a lot of iconic works, which are part of the school curriculum,” she said.

With the low turnout of visitors and the paltry amount being charged, there is even a sense that culture enthusiasts are shortchanged with the discovery that only about a mere 300 collections are on display at the library, while more than 47,000 works of priceless arts are locked up in the store and are at risk of being damaged due to the poor maintenance of the museum.

Main building of the National Museum, Lagos

When The Guardian visited last week during the occasion of the International Museum Day, it was observed that the three wings of the gallery set up in 1957, had leaky roofs with water dripping on the floor following a downpour. The library, which has thousands of books, was also not left out of the rot. The trio of the archival, library and museum sections were yet to be digitalized.

A tour guide, who preferred anonymity, said many complaints had been sent to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, its supervising agency, but nothing had been done. He said: “It is unfortunate that what is cherished in other climes is neglected here.

“We have about 47,000 collections kept in the store that cannot be displayed because of space. Many of the works are prone to destruction because they need not just space but the right humidity to preserve them, with an air conditioning atmosphere 24/7 but where can we get that with the power situation in the country.”

He however dismissed the claims that stored artefacts risk being stolen and smuggled abroad. According to him, “to have access to the store, it will be on a special request. You will be registered with security, searched when going in and when coming out because some objects are tiny and can be put in the pocket.

“Ordinarily, if we have the luxury of space, all the collections would be displayed and exhibited. We should at this level have a high-rise gallery that students and the public will be visiting regularly instead of going to the beach, Shoprite or KFC. Sadly, the number of collection on display are not up to 300 while you have more than 47,000 pieces in the store.”

Gen. Murtala Muhammed’s official car where he was assassinated in

One of the attractions to the Lagos museum is the Nigerian Government: Yesterday and Today quarters, which houses profile of Nigerian leaders from pre-independence till date as well as the official vehicle of the assassinated Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed, battered with bullet holes.

He was brutally killed in the attack on that fateful Friday of February 13, 1976 on his way to Dodan barracks, the seat of government, alongside his ADC, Lt Akintunde Akinterinwa. The lone survivor and orderly to the head of state, Staff Sergeant Michael Otuwu, sat in front with the driver, Sergeant Adamu Michika. The vehicle is parked in all its majesty in the room, which walls have all been taken up by portraits and profiles of Nigerian leaders.

The room, which eagerly begs for attention is already choked up and would need extra space to display portraits and profiles of Nigerian top three leaders after May 29, 2023, when the current administration would end its tenure.

It was also observed that no special mention or recognition was reserved for the June 12, 1993 election hero, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, let alone his picture. When asked about this, the tour guide noted that while the contentious issue of June 12 has been put to rest with the recognition of the day by President Muhammadu Buhari, “as a public servant, if order has not been given by your boss, you cannot carry out any directive. Despite the fact that Abiola has been recognized, we should await the time when directive would be given to the museum to exhibit him in our collection of Nigeria leaders,” he said.

The International Museum Day is held on May 18 every year, and is coordinated by the International Council of Museums (ICOM). This year’s theme: “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition”, was meant to focus on the new roles of museums as active actors in their communities. The occasion was used by some stakeholders to call on the Federal Government to resuscitate the nation’s museums across the 34 states of the federation to keep pace with their international counterparts.

The stakeholders who spoke in separate interviews in Lagos said museums across the world are the first point of call for every tourist and should be well-maintained to attract tourists. Mrs Adeboye said apart from the museum not be adequately funded by the Federal Government, the mentality of the public is averse to historical details.

“We need a reorientation to appreciate our heritage and history. The museum is still seen to most people as a fetish centre. Even some staff members at first reject their letters of appointment when they are posted to the museum, but it is a relaxation and educative centre.”

Dr. Kolawole Oseni, Director, Records & Archives, Lagos State Records and Archives Bureau, advocated the need for total restructuring of the Nigerian museum system. “For example, in many of the museums, there may be up to six accountants and seven auditors while there will be no curator, archaeologist, or any other relevant professionals in the museum.

“I have visited museums in other parts of the world, it is usually the first place that my host would take me. Those museums are like a compass or GPS. They give orientation to the history of the country and the community, they tell stories about the ancestors’ struggles, travails, and triumph; they show the pride and confidence of the present generation; and they provide clarity about the aspirations of the society. Does any of our museums in Nigeria demonstrate these qualities? No. Those foreign museums I am talking about have more curators than accountants, more education officers than auditors, more community outreach specialists than clerical staff. This is why they are able to live up to their responsibilities.”


With 300 items on display, 47,000 in store, National Museum Lagos begs for attention


With 300 items on display, 47,000 in store, National Museum Lagos begs for attention (Guardian)




Recurring civility of Buhari’s Star Boy, Osinbajo wins more converts

By Tope Templer Olaiya
There’s presently no challenger; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the undisputed poster boy of Buhari’s first-term presidency. And by each passing day, the Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) carves a niche for himself through his conduct and carriage of rising above the ashes of a floundering administration to earn the sobriquet, Star Boy.

Long before President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his cabinet in November 2015, one man had been primed to take that space, the former governor of Lagos State. Babatunde Raji Fashola, a.k.a. Eko oni baje, was propelled then as the poster boy of the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) that won the hearts of many during the 2015 elections.

And when the cabinet was unveiled with the president assigning three heavy portfolios – power, works and housing – to Fashola, the coast was clear for the Lagos ‘golden boy’ to transit from APC’s poster boy to Buhari’s actualizer, but it is another Lagos ‘golden boy’ that has taken the shine and grabbed the medal of this administration’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. He is by popular acclaim the Buhari administration’s ‘Star Boy,’ the poster boy of efficiency, commitment, honesty and loyalty.

The Star Boy, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

Both friends and foes, young and old are left enamored by the vice president’s exemplary and humble lifestyle, especially his ebullient spirit and ability to maintain uncommon composure in the face of threats and barrages of attacks.

Tuesday’s incident was unscripted. It was the latest of the vice president’s recurring civility and addition to his expanding crest lined with badges of honour. Angry youths of Gbagyi village in Abuja had blocked the busy Umaru Yar’Adua expressway connecting the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to protest against the alleged land grab by the Nigerian Army.

The vice president was heading to the airport on his way to Ekiti State to launch the Homegrown School Feeding Programme when he ran into the protesters at Goza village. The protesters blocked Osinbajo’s motorcade and all entreaties by his security aides to appease the youths failed. They were only disarmed and placated when the Star Boy seized the moment, alighted from his bulletproof Mercedes Benz to engage with the angry youths, by proposing to meet with their leaders on the matter and intervene with a view to finding an amicable solution.

Instantly, the people ended the protest and opened the highway for free passage. Still not done, the vice president didn’t order his convoy to squeeze through the congested road, he waited to ensure cars ahead of his convoy went on first and then got back into his car to continue his trip to the airport. Deservedly, the once incensed youths now formed a guard of honour that stretched several miles to bid him goodbye.

That was a simple but classic act of courage and leadership, which has never failed the vice president in the last four years, especially at critical periods when he mounted the saddle as acting president.

NO AIRS: Osinbajo walking down to engage with the protesters

Acting otherwise with an excessive show of force would have been expected but out of character for Osinbajo. A similar incident with a different outcome occurred in December 2015 when the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, ran into the annual procession of the Shiites Muslim sect in Zaria, Kaduna State.

The ensuing clash turned violent, leading to the deaths of over 300 sect members and incarceration of the sect leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife since then. It is, therefore, left to be imagined what would have been left in the wake of such obstruction if it had been the motorcade of the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Osinbajo left that rowdy scene, arrived in Ekiti, performed his official function but what makes the man so much loved still trailed him to Ekiti when he visited the man who served as official driver to Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The senior citizen, Pa Olajide Olabode, aged 87 and his family was visibly elated and felt honoured.

Apart from serving as official driver to the late sage, he also functioned in same capacity and had the privilege to interact with the former governor of Western Region, Oba Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi, who was also the Ooni of Ife; the former Premier, Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and the first Military Governor, Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo. Pa Olabode was also the chauffeur of visiting head of states that included Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

Before then, Osinbajo had sat on a school bench to eat with pupils of St. Michael’s African Primary School, Ado-Ekiti after the launch of School Feeding Programme.

Long before the TraderMoni social intervention scheme was launched that would see Osinbajo visit major markets across the length and breath of the country, he had also being a crowd’s man. Osinbajo in 2017 had almost caused a scare in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, when he went for a state visit.

On arrival at the airport, then acting president Osinbajo had inspected the guard of honour mounted by troops of the Army, Navy and Air Force before proceeding to the palace of the Obong of Calabar for a brief interaction. On the way, a visibly elated Osinbajo stopped his motorcade along the IBB Way to meet the cheering crowd, especially pupils of Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, who trooped out to catch a glimpse of his motorcade.

VICTORIA ASCERTA: Osinbajo being hailed by the protesters after the engagement

He not only walked a long distance just to shake hands with the crowd, an elderly woman from the throng forced her way to Osinbajo bringing freshly harvested vegetables to present to the vice president in a tray. That gesture melted the heart of Osinbajo who couldn’t help but reward the old woman with a tight hug.

Ever since then, the vice president has always been greeted by a mob wherever he goes, a situation even his security details sometimes find difficult to control.

As a polemicist, Osinbajo enjoys sermonizing. He likes to espouse on issues. As a university lecturer and senior advocate, he is in his elements when engaging on issues to win diehards to his side. As a vice president, he has taken his long years of scholarly antecedents with measured steps to tackle the matters of state that begged his attention.

He won hearts, even from unexpected quarters, and somewhat courted some enemies, with his swift response to the blockade of the National Assembly by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) during one of his stints as acting president last year.

While some of the president’s appointees have riden roughshod in their line of duty with no respect for democratic norms and ethos, Osinbajo had stood at variance from such malfeasance like a rare breed cut out from a refined piece. That was what Lawal Daura, the sacked director-general of the DSS, tried to display when he ordered his operatives to take over the National Assembly. He had a mission, to prevent the leadership of the National Assembly from holding their scheduled meeting. But Osinbajo aborted the Daura coup.

It would also be recalled that while Buhari was away on his routine medical trips, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) staged a public show. It demanded a referendum on Biafra. Osinbajo, also acting president at that time, handled the situation with the maturity it deserved.

“Nigeria’s unity is one for which enough blood has been spilled and many hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Many have paid for the unity of this country with their lives, and it will be wrong of us, as men and women of goodwill in this generation, to toy with those sacrifices that have been made.

“The truth is that many, if not most nations of the world are made up of different peoples and cultures and beliefs and religions, who find themselves thrown together by circumstance. The most successful of the nations of the world are those who do not fall into the lure of secession, but who through thick and thin forge unity in diversity,” he said.

Osinbajo, subscribing to this civilised tenets of democratic form of government, weaved through the thorny issue of self-actualisation, but once he reverted to his nominal role as vice president, the cart soon turned and a crackdown was ordered on the unarmed and defenceless members of IPOB, codenamed Operation Python Dance. Many lost their lives in the process.

But the vice president is not all out for the show. He brings his intellectual rigour into governance. Last week, the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, though started late due to other state assignments he anchored in the absence of the president, went on late into the night on Thursday. That was not his first time; last year when he had cause to take charge of FEC meeting, the ministers were forced to deliberate for seven long hours.

His forward thinking approach to governance has been the soothing balm in moments of crisis. Once on a tour of duty in Rivers State in 2017, Osinbajo declared that the federal government would work with illegal refineries and help convert them to modular refineries.

His approach to the Niger Delta challenge is an approach of intelligence and diplomacy, which has achieved more in the restive region than the president’s ‘command and obey’ tactics. The man approached the region with compassion and understanding, not with threats and bluster.

He physically visited and toured the region, not to canvass for votes, but actually to get a firsthand on-the-spot assessment of the issues befuddling the Niger Delta. What was the result of his avowed civility, oil production continued to rise and militancy waned.

He is an efficient technocrat in politics. Little wonder he is regarded across combustible and corrosive party lines as Nigeria’s most effective No. 2 citizen ever. He gets the work done. He is down to earth. His brainpower and people management skill more than compensate for what he lacks in a towering physique.

Where many are announced by raw physical presence only, Osinbajo only needs to speak to announce his presence: very articulate, never caught unprepared in situations needing empirical validation; always thinking on his feet and hard as granite under the harmless exterior. And when situations demand it, he is never short on quotable riposte like his anecdote of the looted empty shop and needless security over it during his sparring session with Mr. Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the vice presidential debate.

Again, Osinbajo does not strike one as an individual who has been changed by the power of his office. He is still the same good old ‘Jebby’ that his friends called him in the formative years. He appears more comfortable with being called ‘Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’ than being tagged with the awe-inducing ‘His Excellency’ label that tends to create a distance between the leader and the led.

Nigerians won’t forget in a hurry other few incidences where the vice president has shone brightly standing the middle ground between the government and the governed. In February 2017, there had been a mass movement of Nigerians mobilized for a nationwide anti-government protest tagged #IStandWithNigeria.

The protest was championed by music star, Tu Face Idibia, but he later succumbed to threats by the police not to lead Nigerians out on the protest. The rally lost a bit of momentum when the Afro-pop singer pulled out, citing security concerns, but his call to action had received widespread popular support and several civil society organisations keyed into it.

Yet at such difficult moment when responsibility fell on his shoulder to keep the country together in the midst of economic crisis skyrocketing prices of food items, then acting president, Osinbajo, received the protesters in Abuja and said: “We hear you loud and clear, those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation across the country and even those who are not, but feel the pain of economic hardship, we hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier.”

That statement, which was also posted on his social media handles, poured cold water on the fire the mass movement was generating.

It was a masterstroke that even disarmed a regular critic of the Buhari presidency, Reno Omokri. He had said then: “The man speaks to Nigerians as a leader should. He does not talk at us like the president. He talks to us. I may have issues with what he says sometimes but I am still impressed by his conduct and courteousness in office. Even if you do not like him, you must respect Vice President Osinbajo.”


Recurring civility of Buhari’s Star Boy, Osinbajo wins more converts


Secrecy continues on Buhari’s London trip as Aso Rock clinic gulps N5b in four years

By Tope Templer Olaiya
Seven days into President Muhammadu Buhari’s 10-day private visit to the United Kingdom with no public appearance of the president in Britain save for his arrival into the country in the late hours of April 25, has revived raging debates over concerns and secrecy of the president’s state of health.

For nearly 170 hours in a foreign land, the president has not been seen nor heard from. As stated in the announcement by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, who termed the holiday a private visit, everything about Buhari’s trip since arriving Britain at about 11:30p.m. last week Thursday, has been shrouded in utmost secrecy. “He is expected to return to Nigeria on May 5,” Adesina said, giving no further details.

Abuja House, the president’s choice destination in London, has been devoid of its usual buzz whenever Buhari is around, signifying that the president has opted for another location for his private visit.

Also significantly absent during this visit is the customary pilgrimage of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) and high-ranking government officials to London to see Buhari for photo-ops. Same is the reception hosted for the president’s long-time friends like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Likewise, UK’s media is unconcerned about the presence of a foreign head of government in their country. The Guardian checks in Britain’s top dailies turned up nothing about the president’s visit. The only reports that featured Nigeria in The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Star, Daily Express and The Times were on the recent murder of the British aid worker, Faye Mooney, in Kajuru, Kaduna and visit of celebrated supermodel, Naomi Campbell to Lagos for a fashion event.

President Buhari arriving in London on May 25

The 76-year-old president has previously been in London for long spells of medical care. From May 2016 until mid-2017, Buhari was in London for medical treatment for increasingly long periods of time, forcing government denials that he was gravely ill or even dead.

By the time of his expected return on May 5, he would have barely three weeks left to the end of his first term in office, which has seen him spent a total of 409 days – a year and 44 days – (and still counting) travelling to 33 countries in four years of his first term in office. He has spent so far 224 days in the United Kingdom, the country he visited the most, mostly on health grounds and meetings of Commonwealth Heads of State and Government.

To date, he has not disclosed details about his condition, apart from saying he had “never been so ill” and had to undergo multiple blood transfusions. His health status was an issue in the campaign for the February 23 presidential elections, with the opposition’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) insisting he was physically unfit to govern.

The retired general, who was first elected in 2015, is scheduled to be sworn in for a second four-year term on May 29, though the PDP’s presidential candidate and main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, has lodged a legal challenge to the election results.

All these have gone to institutionalize one of the legacies of the present administration, which is the Buhari secrecy. The secrecy surrounding an individual’s health condition is a pervasive cultural practice in most African societies. Such secrecy is exemplified by the illness and death of monarchs, which are typically wrapped in secrecy until appropriate rituals of purification had been performed. Even then, the monarch’s subjects are never told about the ailment to which their monarch succumbed.

In the case of President Buhari, however, such secrecy has attracted much controversy for various reasons, including the bitter experience with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, whose ailment was kept secret until he was rumoured to have died in a foreign hospital. The cloak of secrecy around Buhari’s health creates a shift from the norm in Western democracy, where the government’s business is the people’s business.

Abuja House, London

Even more importantly, secrecy is abhorred, having given way to transparency and accountability as guiding principles of information management. These principles are further enhanced by the constitution and the Freedom of Information Act, which empowers the people to know what is going on, not only with the government’s business but also with the business managers, including the president.

This trip, dubbed private visit, is an extension of the president’s legacy of secrecy. The president and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces is not a private or ordinary citizen. The day he decides to contest for the office and gets elected, he ceases to be a private citizen. He becomes a public citizen, owned by the people who elected him into office. He no longer has a private life.

Interestingly, this latest trip is coming on the heels of the president’s directive last month that the State House Medical Centre (SHMC), also known as Aso Rock Clinic, be reverted to a clinic to serve the original purpose of its establishment — primarily to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa. This was announced by the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, in Abuja.

Arabi had appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs for the 2019 budget defence, where he said: “Without prejudice to what is currently obtainable at the SHMC, the intention to revert to a clinic is a presidential directive.”

Also last month after the directive was given, the president had lamented Nigeria’s loss of over N400 billion yearly to medical tourism, saying the inability of government to address various health challenges had resulted in increasing medical tourism, that costs Nigeria over N400 billion yearly.

Later, Arabi explained to journalists that the reversion of the centre to a clinic was a case of cutting one’s coat according to one’s cloth. He said: “It was initially meant to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa. The overstretching of facilities at the medical centre by patients is some of the challenges the centre has been going through. It wasn’t meant for that purpose.

“Nobody was charging anyone for any services and relying on appropriation means we will depend on subvention when it comes to running the centre. Whatever comes is what you utilise and if the last patient comes in to take the last drugs based on the last budgetary release, that is it and we have to wait till another release is done. But this new development means that services will be streamlined to a clinic that will serve those that it was meant to serve when it was conceived.”

Aso Rock Clinic

It would be recalled that in 2017, Aisha, the wife of the president, publicly upbraided the Chief Medical Director of the SHMC, Dr. Husain Munir, for the poor state of the health facility. Mrs. Buhari admitted that Nigeria was unstable for over six months owing largely to the president’s ill health that forced him to remain outside the country for months.

She wondered what could have happened to the common man on the street if Buhari could spend several months outside Nigeria for health reason. She also recalled that she was sick and was advised to travel abroad because of the poor state of the clinic, adding that she had to go to a private hospital owned by foreigners when she was told the x-ray machine in the SHMC was not working. The president’s son was also flown abroad when he had a bike accident last year in Abuja after being initially treated at a private hospital in Abuja.

Despite top presidency officials routinely flying out of the country to seek medical attention, the Federal Government has allocated a total of N4.17 billion for the operations of the SHMC between 2015 and 2018. The figure could, in fact, hit N5 billion, if the N823.44 million the government proposed for the operations of the facility in the 2019 budget is not slashed by the National Assembly.

In 2018, the SHMC for the exclusive use of the president, vice president and their families had a total budget of N1.03 billion, with N698 million as capital expenditure and N331.7 million as overhead cost.

Besides this, contained in the State House 2019 budget proposal of N14.3 billion is N416,668,229 for the new construction of the presidential wing of the State House Medical Centre; N1,001,318,171 for Buhari’s local and international travels – N250,021,595 for local trips and N751,296,576 for overseas travel.

In the 2018 budget, the presidency had proposed N1,030,458,453 for the State House clinic after Aisha Buhari had criticised the medical centre for not having an “ordinary syringe”, but was slashed by the National Assembly to N823,441,666. In the 2017 budget, N3.2 billion was allocated for the upgrade of the state clinic, including “the completion of ongoing work as well as procurement of drugs and other medical equipment.”

Many are left to wonder why such huge expenditure is expended on a facility the president and his family routinely ignores for their much fancied medical treatment abroad. This further enforces the continuation of the Buhari secrecy.

Meanwhile, the continued secrecy about the president’s state of health and whereabouts has reignited the rumour mills, which went into overdrive after his time in London last year, leading to the Jibril from Sudan clone story. And this may regain some momentum as the private visit winds down.

What is however trending this time around is that it is not a twist of fate and coincidence that APC’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and Lagos governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, among others are also in the UK on private visits. However, both Tinubu and Sanwo-Olu returned to the country on Monday and were seen on Tuesday at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) induction for new and returning governors in Abuja.

The word on the street is that the president is taking a break to restrategise for his second term and is compiling the list of those who would play active roles as cabinet members in the second-half of his administration, while possibly evading the distractions of Aso Rock regular callers of aides, politicians and close friends.

A peep into the last minute intrigues that may shape the next administration and possible actors played two week ago when a directive was issued for all ministers to submit progress reports of their various ministries, a pseudonym for handover notes, to the Permanent Secretaries in their respective ministries before April 30.

President Buhari’s last assignment in Maiduguri, Borno State last week Thursday before traveling out

Last week, while briefing journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said President Buhari would dissolve his cabinet seven days to the end of the administration, on May 22, as the president has scheduled to hold a valedictory session with members of the FEC on May 22 ahead of his inauguration for the commencement of his second tenure on May 29.

Although there were speculations that the president was going to dissolve his cabinet last Thursday before his trip going by the earlier directives for all ministers to submit their progress reports, Mohammed, moments after his briefing in an afterthought, clarified that the valedictory session of the FEC on May 22 would not mean the cabinet would be dissolved on the same day. According to him, “it is inaccurate to extrapolate from my statement – that the FEC valedictory session will hold on 22 May – to say that the president will dissolve the cabinet on the same day. They do not mean the same thing.”

Insiders in Aso Rock say the politics of the next cabinet might have forced the president’s private visit, rather than insinuations of a health challenge. They claim the president wants to avoid the repeat of 2015 mistake when he deliberately waited for six months to form his Change Cabinet.

A source confided that it was such scheming that made Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, rush to commission uncompleted projects with the president in attendance much against the advice of the Lagos leader, Asiwaju Tinubu. “Ambode is racing against time to impress the president as the new ‘Mr. Infrastructure’ for the Next Level. That was why all the Southwest leaders were in attendance except Tinubu and Fashola.”

According to another source within the presidency, the president has resolved to source seasoned technocrats as members of his new cabinet to help him actualize his agenda for the ‘Next Level,’ saying that part of the reasons he travelled was to avoid distraction by political jobbers, who have been mounting pressure on him.

However, back home, the polity is being heated by statements credited to the presidency that Buhari has not contravened any section of the constitution by not transmitting power to the vice president before embarking on the trip.

Special Assistant to the president on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, while speaking on a television programme, said the president can work from anywhere and discharge his duties from any part of the world.

According to him, Buhari would only be accused of not transmitting power if he stayed beyond the shore of the country for more than 21 days without doing so.

Shehu said: “The president can exercise authority from wherever he is as he is currently doing. This is a relatively short absence. If you check Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution, you will see that the law is only infringed upon when such absence extends to 21 days.”

But a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, faulting Shehu’s position, said: “Whenever the president is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, he shall transmit a written declaration to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to that effect, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, the Vice-President shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President.

“In the event that the President is unable or fails to transmit the written declaration mentioned in subsection (1) of this section within 21 days, the National Assembly shall, by a resolution made by a simple majority of the vote of each House of the National Assembly, mandate the Vice-President to perform the functions of the office of the President as Acting President until the President transmits a letter to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives that he is now available to resume his functions as President.

“The literal, grammatical and commonsensical reading of Section 145 (1) and (2) evinces the true purport of the said provisions and does not leave any room for ambiguity or debate as to the actual intention of the framers of the Constitution.

President Buhari does not have the discretion or prerogative to embark or proceed on vacation outside the mandatory constitutional framework of Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

“It is immaterial that the President’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, mischievously decided to play with words when he referred to the President’s 10-day visit to the United Kingdom as “a private visit”.

If Adesina by his evasive statement intended to distinguish the instant foreign trip of his principal from the vacation enshrined in Section 145 (1) and (2) of the Constitution, he, unfortunately, has ended up exposing his ignorance of the law and contempt for the Nigerian people. The President’s so-called private visit is a vacation simpliciter. It is a distinction without a difference to assert a contrary view.”

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that “President Muhammadu Buhari’s private voyage out of the country without transmitting power, as required by the constitution, is an act of dereliction, which confirms that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Buhari Presidency are not interested in governance but seeks to vacate our constitutional order and foist an authoritarian system on our country.

“Such dereliction of office can only come from leaders, who do not have respect for the people they governed but always muscling their way to power through intimidation and official manipulations, as witnessed in the rigging of the February 23 Presidential election by the APC,” it insisted.

The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that “Mr. President’s abandoning of governance, particularly at this critical time when our nation is facing grave security and economic challenges, signposts the level of impunity and recklessness that will characterize our nation in the next four years, if the stolen Presidential mandate is not retrieved from the APC.”

It queried: “What else, beside an authoritarian propensity, can explain why the Buhari Presidency relegated our Constitutional Order by declaring the application of Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which directs that the President transmits power whenever he is travelling out of the country on vacation, as a mere “convention”.

The opposition party declared that the import of this “relegation of Section 145” is also a clear absence of a constitutional command structure which the part noted “leaves our nation at the mercy of the extremely corrupt, vicious and anti-people cabal with whom President Buhari presided over the most corrupt and most incompetent administration, which wrecked our economy, divided our nation and opened her up for escalated insecurity.

“Such dereliction at the high levels emboldens bandits, bolsters insurgents and fuels cruel acts such as extra-judicial killing, illegal arrests, detention of innocent citizens, constitutional violations, attack on institutions of democracy as well as reckless looting of our national treasury by members of the cabal because they know that “nothing will happen.”

The PDP urged Nigerians to unite in condemning this act of impunity in the interest of the nation.


Secrecy continues on Buhari’s London trip as Aso Rock clinic gulps N5b in four years


Secrecy continues on Buhari’s London trip as Aso Rock clinic gulps N5b in four years



The disappearing scent of Christmas

Ailing economy, other hassles take the shine off yuletide celebrations

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Metro Editor

IT’S three days to Christmas but it seems like four weeks away. Being the weekend heralding Christmas and end-of-year festivities, the frenzies of the season are far from being felt in the air, signaling a not too merry Christmas.
When we think about Christmas, we see so many pictures of laughing children, ear-piercing firelight, Santa Claus visits and gently falling snow. However, for many families, this romantic view of the season is very different from reality.
As millions of Christians across the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Tuesday, there are many more who do not have the resources to dine and wine, with members of their families and friends.
The holiday season, for many people, is the hardest time of the year, in part, because of the glaring contrast between their experience and the romanticised image of Christmas so often projected. For thousands of families, their struggles to put food on the table and pay their bills are mocked by commercials urging them to buy more expensive gifts at discounted rates.
In the past during this period, at every turn of the street, loud speakers blared Christmas tunes, ear-piercing firecrackers constantly rattled the eardrums, banners dotted major streets announcing dates of carnivals, and corporations and public buildings were adorned in the Christmas colours of red, white and green, with major markets abuzz with end-of-year shopping bazaar.

This Christmas scent is also absent from Lagos – the Centre of Excellence. Once upon a time, it was a beautiful sight to behold at night decoration lights adorning major streets and parks in Lagos. Oshodi, the heart of Lagos, was once transformed from its symphony of chaos into an aesthetic garden park, with the state government unveiling every year a giant Christmas tree, beautifully decorating the relaxation garden at Oshodi.
The festive decoration was not restricted to commercial business districts. Many residential areas and streets were usually lined with Christmas lights in the countdown to their carnival nights, where residents, neighbours and well-wishers gather to dine and wine in a convivial atmosphere to enjoy either a live band or deejay dishing out music till the early hours of the morning. That too has gone with the wind.
Street carnivals, which used to be the biggest socio-cultural events of the year on the calendar of many Lagos metropolis every Christmas, have become part of Lagos’ recent history. This, though, have been replaced by the five mega concerts introduced by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and which are staged by the state in the five districts of Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu, Lagos Island and Epe. But the thrills and frills of the street carnivals usually marked by the voyage of music and dance are things hard to replicate with the concerts headlined by A-list artistes.
Also, part of the disappearing scents of Christmas is the deluge of end-of-year sales bonanza. Citizens were spoilt for choice with offers, such that even commercial sex workers declared bonanza for their regular and loyal customers, who had patronised them throughout the year.

The season is not complete without the traditional shopping. This is evident in the high traffic of movement seen in most markets during this time. The biggest of market sales is clothing as many, both young and old, look forward to celebrating Christmas and New Year with new wears.
But now, clothing traders at five major markets in Lagos are worried about the low sales they are experiencing days to Christmas celebration. The survey conducted at Balogun, Idumota, Docemo, Oluwole and Yaba markets, revealed that the traders complained that the low sales trend had been recurring for five years consecutively.
“Many of the customers just come to the market for sightseeing. We only come to the market because we do not want to stay at home idle,’’ said Mrs. Nkechi Okonkwo, a seller of used imported clothes at Yaba.
Okonkwo said: “The last time I made any reasonable sale was in November and the same is the case with many of my fellow traders. The gloomy looks on their faces and those gossiping over there tell the situation of things in the market. Most of us resort to sprinkling holy water, praying, fasting and anointing our goods, with the hope that the situation will change for better’’.
Another trader at Yaba market, Mr. Jeff Oha, blamed the situation on the harsh economic state of the country, coupled with a low purchasing power of consumers. “The economy is bad and workers are owed salary; that is the reason patronage is low.
“The way things are, it is like the National Assembly has postponed Christmas because everybody is just going around with a gloomy face or how can you explain that even common Christmas greetings like ‘Compliments of the season’ or ‘Merry Christmas in advance’ is so scarce as if people were being charged for it?
“Before, people would troop into ‘Okrika market’ to purchase goods for themselves and their children. But now, used clothes, which are seen as a cheaper alternative by most people, are also affected by low patronage,’’ he said.

Mrs. Aisha Lawal, a trader of children’s clothing at Docemo market, attributed the lull in trading activities to the forthcoming election, saying that some people were hoarding fund.
“Normally, at this time of the year, we would have made some good sales unlike now where people just come to check the prices. The situation in the country is affecting everyone,’’ she said.
Speaking further, Mrs. Idayat Olaitan, a seller of fabrics at Idumota market, said it did not feel like a Christmas season. “Many people do not bother about new clothes but make do with wears they had before.
“In previous years, from October, markets become a beehive of activities with many people shopping for Christmas, but now the story is different. How can you expect someone that has not balanced his children’s school fees since September or someone that does not know where his next meal will come from to buy clothes?” she queried, adding that the way out was for governments to make policies that would impact favourably on citizen’s welfare.
Ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations, hampers have flooded markets and shopping centres in Lagos, but dealers too complain of low patronage. Hampers are usually presented as gifts by individuals, groups and corporate organizations during the celebrations. It was observed that many shopping malls in Lagos metropolis had unsold harpers in decorated raffia baskets, plastic bowls and wooden boxes.
The prices of the hampers depend on their sizes, contents and descriptions. They range from N10,000 to N200,000. Dealers expressed disappointment at the low patronage, which they attributed to the poor economic situation in the country.
Mrs. Folasade Aribisala, a shop owner at Apongbon Market, said she regretted investing in hampers in the last two years, adding that hardship greatly reduced purchasing power. “I have had 50 hampers for sale since November; hardly have I been able to sell 10. It is so discouraging. Low patronage of hampers is becoming a recurring nightmare to us. Many of my counterparts did not invest in hampers this year; I wish I did not tie my money down in it,” she said.
However, Mrs. Monisola Adewale, attributed the low purchase of hampers to the attitude of some dealers, who put cardboards on the base of the baskets to make hampers appear fuller than they are.
“It is annoying that when you open some hampers, most of the items are almost expired. There is no value for the money paid for the hampers. Because of these unwholesome practices, many people buy the items needed in bulk and prepare the hampers by themselves. They are even cheaper than off-the-shelf hampers,” she said.

According to the Director General of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said this situation is so because the disposable income in possession of Nigerians is very little compared to their demands, which is why they resort to the purchase of basic necessities to stay afloat.
Earlier in the year, according to the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the most extreme poor people in the world. Precisely, 86.9 million Nigerians are now living in extreme poverty, representing nearly 50 per cent of its estimated 180 million population. Clearly, millions of Nigerians in this bracket will not know it is Christmas.
An explanation for the absence of heightened Christmas festivities came last weekend when President Muhammadu Buhari told governors of the 36 states that the Nigerian economy is in bad shape. The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting, said the president told them: “The economy is in a bad shape and we have to come together, think and rethink on the way forward.”
That official admission of the flagging state of the economy is at the crux of the ‘un-merry’ Christmas. This fact was reinforced on Wednesday with data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showing that the number of unemployed Nigerians has risen to 20.9 million from 17.6 million.
The report contained the employment trends from the last quarter of 2017 to the third quarter of 2018. The economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3, 2018. The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. the number of new entrants into the job market looking for jobs) increased from 75.94 million in Q3 2015 to 80.66 million in Q3 2016 to 85.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 90.5million in Q3, 2018.
The total number of people in full-time employment increased from 51.1 million in Q3 2017 to 51.3 million in Q3, 2018 (a paltry addition of 200,000). The total number of people in part-time employment increased from 18.02 million in Q3 2017 and to 18.21 million in Q3, while the total number of people classified as unemployed, which means they did nothing at all or worked too few hours to be classified as employed increased from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.

Clearly, these about 21 million unemployed Nigerians and their dependents may not have a merry Christmas, coupled with the millions of Nigerians in the informal sector not captured by the NBS data.
The Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Ajayi Kadiri, noted that the country had been witnessing consumption apathy. He said: “We have witnessed a drop in the patronage of goods manufactured by our members, and our warehouses are full of inventory for lack of patronage, which is an indication of a dwindling economy.
“The season of this Christmas is lackluster, so we are looking at the government to take necessary steps in returning the economy to normalcy. Basically, we are close to election where the economy ought to have started experiencing fresh injection from the patronage of electoral campaign materials and advertisement, but this is not so.”
But while markets are experiencing dwindling patronage, the roads are getting cramped. In the days leading to any major festivities, plying on Lagos roads could be a torture and it is no different this season.
In recent times, the city of Lagos has been a theatre of the absurd with gridlocks crisscrossing major roads across the state. The best way to test one’s resilience is to navigate Lagos during this period.
Owing to the constant gridlock, the state House of Assembly on Tuesday urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to direct officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) to intensify traffic control.
According to the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, the traffic situation in the state has become worrisome, adding that it was the responsibility of the state government to ensure a free flow of traffic.
“We call Governor Ambode to order the leaders of LASTMA to ensure a free flow of traffic in the state. LASTMA officials should stop the actions of folding their arms, while motorists and okada riders do whatever they like on the roads. Any official that fails to perform his or her duty should be sanctioned. The LASTMA officials are being paid salaries. We know that this is Yuletide period, but we must ensure there is a free flow of traffic in the state. We also urge motorists to always obey traffic laws,” he said.
Thankfully though, Nigerians have been spared the agony of petrol scarcity, another feature of this season in times past. This year, that intractable problem didn’t rear its head though labour unions in the petroleum sector were at a time spoiling for war over unpaid subsidy claims.
The lamentation of low patronage is also being expressed by transporters. The parks are unusually not busy as expected because very few people are travelling. Some drivers at Ojota Motor Park said the patronage was low compared to what it used to be in previous years.

And with the season comes the familiar story of Christmas hassles. While one may feel strongly about the hassles of Christmas – costing too much in money, time and stress in the bid to get things done for a befitting yearend celebration, incidentally the very first Christmas posed many hassles for Joseph and Mary; the first being Mary’s pregnancy.
Joseph and Mary were engaged but not officially married when Mary learned she “was with child by the Holy Spirit”. Joseph was ready to call the whole thing off until an angel explained the situation. But the hassles are just beginning.
Not long after the wedding, the Emperor determined that every Jewish male should return to his birthplace and pay a new tax, a bill Joseph hadn’t planned to pay and a trip he hadn’t planned to make. They headed out for Bethlehem where they met another hassle; there was no room in the inn. With his wife about to give birth, Joseph settled for the only available accommodation – a stable.
And just when they thought everything was over with, an angel brought a message to Joseph, to take Mary and the baby to Egypt, because King Herod was going to kill the baby.
The nativity story sure makes the hassles of Christmas a familiar story.

Buhari’s body double suspicion that won’t go away

By Tope Templer Olaiya and Chukwuma Muanya

Beware of what you consume on social media. That space is a theatre of the absurd. From matters of no consequence to serious issues, when trends break on social media, one is guaranteed an inventive spin of all shades. This has given birth to one of the latest entries into the social media lexicon, which is Fake News.

Each trend and ‘Breaking News’ has its fake news version but usually, as with all things news, they have a short lifespan. The longest of them in recent times was the controversy that trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s secondary school leaving examination certificate, which lasted for about a fortnight.

But one ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Fake News’ that has refused to go away after many weeks is the story of President Buhari’s body double conspiracy theory, one Jibril Aminu from Sudan, which is spreading like wide fire. What started as a gossip shared in hushed whispers has gained so much traction strong enough to elicit official reactions.

It was a story that broke on the clandestine medium, Radio Biafra, propagated by its promoter and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who earlier this month resurfaced in Israel many months after he was missing in action during the military’s Operation Python Dance in his home state of Abia.

Kanu has consistently asserted that there is an imposter in Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, with threats to expose how Jibril Aminu was transformed to replace ‘dead Buhari’ in London. He alludes that Jibril resembles Buhari except for a cleft ear, broad nose bridge and teenager fresh hands.

He further claimed that the Nigerian diplomat who was murdered in Sudan on May 10, 2018, Habibu Almu, was killed over his alleged involvement in the recruitment of Jibril. The IPOB leader, who promised to shock Nigerians with his revelation of how Jubril was transformed to replace ‘dead Buhari’, while sympathizing with the family of the deceased, urged the Sudanese police to uncover the killers of Almu.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to its spokesperson, Dr. Tope Elias-Fatile, at the time had disclosed that the Nigerian immigration attaché, Almu, was murdered in Khartoum, Sudan by a Sudanese woman of Nigerian origin.

Reacting to the allegation of an impostor in Aso Rock, the Personal Assistant to President Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, said the intelligence of some Nigerians has been insulted by the outrageous lies that the president is a body double, taking a swipe at Femi Fani-Kayode, who also shares the same opinion with Kanu.

Yesterday, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) posted online, ‘President Buhari cancels his planned five-day ‘casual leave’ as a mark of respect for victims of Boko Haram attacks across the battlefields in the North-east zone of the country.’ Someone immediately posted: ‘Buhari or Jibril, which one? We play too much in this country. Buhari has been on technical leave since 2015, now Jibril is going on casual leave.’

Another quipped: “I am beginning to believe this Jibril story because the difference between the original Buhari and Jibril Aminu is so glaring. The body language of the real Buhari was said to work wonders like longer electricity supply and scaring potential looters, but we can’t say the same of this new Buhari.”

The Jibril story travelled like the speed of light when in the heat of the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) after its primaries held, some leaders of the party began to vent their anger and speak in innuendos. Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, was reported to have said: “If I say what I know about APC, Nigerians will burn down Aso Rock within 24 hours,” while governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun was rumoured to have said: “If APC provokes me again, I will tell the whole world what we were cooking that got the house burnt.”

But weighing in on the story, Shehu Sani, the Senator representing Kaduna Central reacting on his Twitter page, discarded such report, saying Buhari has no ‘double’. The Kaduna lawmaker urged Nigerians to see ‘Jibrin’ as an imaginative character.Sani wrote: “There’s no one and nothing like Jibril El Sudan. Buhari ‘Caesar’ is healthy and has no double. But you can literally refer to Jibrin as an imaginative and mythical character in Shakespearean Nigeria. It is natural to creatively invent characters and promote conjectures in our theatre of the absurd.”

While some Nigerians have helped in amplifying the rumour, using posts and comments to express their belief and disbelief in a ‘cloned’ Buhari, others have been cropping and magnifying recent pictures of the president in comparison with 2016/2017 images when the president was sick and feeble.

It would be recalled that after initially spending over 50 days on medical vacation in London, the president had in May 2017 returned to the United Kingdom, for follow-up medical check-up where he stayed longer than three months.

Those who buy the Jibril narrative fuss that since the last medical extended vacation, it was a young-looking, somewhat shorter Buhari that is in Aso Rock. The issue received some fuel last Saturday when former President Olusegun Obasanjo urged Buhari to “do the needful and stop inadvertently giving credence to the story.”

At the installation of Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, as Turakin Adamawa, he said: “No matter how long we choose to feign ignorance, the news of a stranger running the affairs of Nigeria has gained international attention.”I have in the past few weeks received calls from different world leaders and some concerned global investors who sought for my response over this issue which is currently being talked about in almost every home in the country.

“Fake news is real, but this story, whether false or true can only be put to rest by the accused who happens to be President Muhammadu Buhari. In 2010, many of you, I believe, still remember how it was rumoured that I was shot dead by assassins. The news understandably went viral immediately, and on learning about it, I came out and said I was alive and well.”

Another Senator representing Ondo North, Ajayi Boroffice, on Monday reportedly gave an intellectual bent to the discourse in his piece titled ‘Buhari, the imaginative clone and human genetics’. It was not as if Boroffice held a conference anywhere to release his alleged statement. Again, it was a glean from the social media where he said: “Ordinarily, I wouldn’t like to involve myself in the nauseating debate about the rumoured cloning of President Buhari and the imaginative Jibril Aminu of Sudan because it is rubbish in the face of scientific realities.

“As a Nigerian who bagged Ph.D degree in Human Genetics in congenital malformations arising from chromosomal aberrations in 1975 and had Post-Doctoral Research in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis, I consider myself as competent to comment on the needless controversy. For a 75 years old adult to be cloned, a living cell must be obtained and subjected to some manipulations that will convert it to totipotent cell. The totipotent cell will now undergo embryological development that will produce a young human fetus.

“Therefore, for the clone to look like the same man, it must be exposed to the exact environment for a period equivalent to 75 years. It is therefore ridiculous for anybody to think Mr President has been cloned and that the person who is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a clone from Sudan.”

But cloning is not the dominant narrative. First, it is not logical to clone a 75-year-old Buhari, as the science of cloning must yield to the natural process of growth. The narrative instead is that a Buhari look-alike is in charge at Aso Rock

Amid the rising suspicion of a Buhari double, peddlers of the Jibril story refer to a particular incident in history. For decades, rumours circulated in Russia that former President Joseph Stalin had a “twin” who replaced him during certain situations. Decades after Stalin’s death, the decoy finally decided to talk. Felix Dadaev, a former dancer and juggler, had been ordered to work at the Kremlin as Stalin’s body double.

For more than half a century, Dadaev remained silent, fearing a death sentence should he dare to open his mouth. But in 2008, at the age of 88, and with the apparent approval of the Putin regime, he finally came forward to write his autobiography, where he explained that he was one of four men employed to impersonate the supreme leader, taking his place in motorcades, at rallies, on newsreel footage etc.

When the Second World War started, Dadaev was required to fight and was so badly injured during the war that his family was told he had been killed. Fortunately, he survived, though that “death” was the start of a strange double life. Soon his resemblance to 60-year-old Stalin (which got him teased in school) caught the eye of Soviet intelligence agents, who started using him to save the real Stalin from assassination plots and tedious public ceremonies.

Just into his 20s, Dadaev was a great deal younger than Stalin, but make-up and the strain of war meant that he could pass for the 60-year-old. “We had all experienced so much suffering that I looked much older than I was”, Dadaev said. Trained at the personal request of Stalin, Dadaev attended rallies and meetings across the Soviet Union wearing the leader’s trademark Red Army cap and heavy overcoat encrusted with medals. He watched movies and speeches of Stalin to perfect the mimicry of his movement and intonation.

“By the time my make-up and training were complete, I was like him in every way, except perhaps my ears. They were too small”. In an age before media dominated, he didn’t have to mimic perfectly Stalin’s vocal inflections, just his look and mannerisms. He pulled it off so well even Stalin’s closest comrades couldn’t spot the imposter.

United States and Korean scientists in 2014 cloned claimed a 75-year-old human was cloned for the production of stem cells. The study was published in the journal, Cell Stem Cell.

This technique was recently used to create embryonic stem cells from an infant donor. The team managed to perform the technique successfully with two male donors, one 35 years old and the second 75. The primary change needed was simply to extend the period in which the donor DNA is reset by the proteins present in the egg.

So can Buhari also be cloned? The Guardian put the question to president of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) Prof. Kalu Mosto Onuoha. “I don’t know. I don’t believe so. What I do know and what I have read is that many former leaders had several look-alikes, like President Winston Churchill of the United States, even some actors. The double or look-alike is used sometimes to protect the original person,” he said.

President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Francis Adedayo Faduyile, on his part, said: “They cannot clone an adult person and it is not possible. The only thing is to have a look-alike.”

This is one reason why folks are skeptical and slow to shake off, no matter how far-fetched, the tale that Aso Rock’s power brokers organised a Buhari double to continue control over power. Another is the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua saga.Eight years ago, Yar’Adua was pronounced dead after long months of speculations about an illness that led to his being flown, in November 2009, to a Saudi Arabia hospital. It was one of the most vicious and dangerous power intrigues in Nigeria’s history, where a small knot of family and close-knit power brokers held the nation to ransom. There were no updates on treatment progress. There was no word on the wild rumours flying around that Yar’Adua was already dead in Saudi Arabia and in February 2010, he was secretly brought back into Nigeria under the cover of darkness.

Just like Yar’Adua’s case, the nation is on the tenterhooks over a Buhari double story that refuses to fade away. And that is because everything about the president, including his state of health is a classified official secret.



Orphaned deaf, dumb siblings seek lift for education

By Tope Templer Olaiya
Life sometimes could be cruel and hard. For 17-year-old Somtochukwu Emmanuel Chiagorom and his sister, 13-year-old Nneoma Scholastica Chiagorom, they are served both in full measure.

Both are not only orphans but suffering from impaired hearing and are vocally impaired, which in local parlance is being deaf and dumb.

The siblings lost their father 10 years ago and in 2016, had the double misfortune of losing their mother to the cold hands of death. Their only strong pillar of strength was gone and their world came crashing with no one else to share their pains with.

Nneoma (left) and Somtochukwu

After many days and nights of stuttering to themselves, ‘God, why us?’, they gradually began to come to terms with their realities in the heart of the Kirikiri town ghetto, Apapa area of Lagos State under the care of the frail hands of their maternal grandmother, Mrs. Catherine Eze.

When The Guardian visited the duo in their one-room apartment, nothing betrayed the harsh life they have experienced in their short years. Though a bit withdrawn, they looked intently on, watching the grimaces on everyone in the room, which included a sign interpreter, Mrs. Patience Yekini and two family members, as if waiting for their turns to join the conversation, as their grandma told their life’s story.

Mrs. Catherine Eze

“He no dey easy at all, na only God dey help us. I just had an eye operation. That is why I need help from government and the public to lift this burden off me, which I have been carrying all alone for the past two years,” Grandma Eze said.

Somtochukwu is a JSS 2 student of State Junior Grammar School, Surulere and Nneoma is a Primary Four pupil of Amuwo Odofin Primary School. They are both doing very well academically.

The guy is very intelligent despite his handicap, while his sister has more interest in vocational skills. They are desperate about their education and despite their challenge, want to complete their secondary school and advance further.

Somtochukwu is presently the captain of his class. He is shy and finds it hard to communicate but his sister is more social. She tries to speak by picking up little words.

Surprisingly, when in his element, Somtochukwu is a delight to behold, apart from his dexterity in sports; he is good with fixing electrical appliances and wiring people’s houses. Both don’t have difficulty playing with their peers.

It is a struggle for Grandma Eze to provide means for the only thing they derive joy from, which is going to school as transportation to the two special schools they are attending costs N1,000 daily, excluding feeding, which makes it N1,500.

It would cost their aged caregiver about N180,000 alone, excluding school fees, just to keep them in school for a term of 120 days; reason they seek the public’s help in making their life meaningful.

Catherine Eze can be reached on 08066455315 and her bank details are: First Bank, Catherine Eze, 3054056276.