Online spare parts sale debuts in Ladipo Market

ladipoCHAIRMAN, Aguiyi Ironsi International Trade Centre, who also doubles as chairman, Online Spare Parts, Mr Ajibade Hassan Olajoku, has said the popular Ladipo spare parts market has launched its online sales as a way of decongesting activities at the market.
Olajoku said the introduction of the online sales was to cater for upwardly mobile individuals who are busy to visit the market. It will also discourage the rising incidence of touts at the market who fleece visitors to the market and even trade in fake products.
“We are determined to remove the middlemen who specialize in frustrating the customers, with http://www.youseeam.com, we are online for 24 hours. We have engine parts, shock absolvers, bumpers, gear buses, brain buses, car stereos, full light, doors, seats, rear lights, and exhausts of different cars.
“We operate within the Ladipo market and have enough delivery vehicles to satisfy customers from all over Nigeria. We also have network of partners who will supply us with brand new products to our customers. We have an internal mechanism to ascertain the products, the new ones have warranty of one year, while the Tokunboh have guarantee of 30 days.

Ladipo 2

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Ijora Badia… Amnesty International indicts Lagos govt, World Bank over compensation of evictees

By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor
AN eighty-page report recently released by Amnesty International has accused the Lagos State government of violation of human right in the demolition of over 200 structures and displacement of over 2,000 people in Ijora Badia.
The Amnesty International office last week expressed disagreement with the compensation package approved for Lagos State by the World Bank for people forcibly evicted from the informal settlement. The body in a report titled: “At The Mercy Of Government,” said the World Bank wrongly endorsed a compensation process that was not consistent with international human rights standards or the bank’s own policy.
“It is an outrage that a community, left destitute by the actions of the Lagos State government, has been denied an effective remedy by the same government and that the World Bank has been complicit in this matter,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
She added that Badia East was chosen to benefit from a World Bank-funded project, which aimed to increase access to basic services such as drainage, through investment in infrastructure. “However, the demolition of at least 266 structures that served as homes and businesses took place without genuine consultation or adequate and reasonable notice and with no remedy for the loss suffered.

Badia 1“In Badia East, none of the legal and procedural safeguards that are required under international human rights law and standards in relation to evictions was observed. There was no genuine consultation with the affected people to identify alternatives to eviction. The government failed to provide adequate notice, legal remedies, alternative housing for those unable to provide for themselves or compensation for the loss of property.
“After mounting pressure, the state government, in collaboration with the World Bank, agreed to develop and implement a retrospective Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the Badia East residents in line with the World Bank’s Policy on Involuntary Resettlement. However, both the content of the RAP and the process by which it was prepared contravened international human rights standards and World Bank policy.”
According to Gaughran, while the RAP was supposed to accommodate provision of options for adequate alternative housing or relocation to other sites; ensure that affected people were offered the support needed to restore their livelihoods and standard of living; ensure adequate compensation was given to those affected, instead only financial assistance of amounts unilaterally determined by the government and considered inadequate by affected people was offered.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than three million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries, who campaign vigorously to end grave abuses of human rights around the world.
This latest report has called on the state government to act immediately to ensure all those forcibly evicted from Badia East are adequately compensated for their losses and those who cannot provide homes for themselves are provided with adequate alternative housing.
It also urges the World Bank to strengthen its safeguard policies to prevent the abuse of its funded projects and its policies to commit or facilitate human rights violations.

Badia 4Describing the Lagos State government’s compensation as “inadequate”, Amnesty International noted that the slum dwellers of Ijora-Badia, whose homes were bulldozed on February 23, 2013, did not get compensations commensurate to their losses. She, therefore, insisted that destitute victims of forced eviction must be adequately compensated.
Despite the state’s lofty dreams of making Lagos a mage city, the body had in the wake of the demolition last year, stated that about 75 per cent of Lagosians live in slums.
The body’s Nigerian researcher, Mr. Oluwatosin Popoola, had noted that government’s failure to respect the rights of Badia residents had resulted in hardship for most residents of the state, while forced evictions, aimed at bringing order to the chaotic and crowded metropolis which is home to about 15 million people, had cost around 9,000 people their homes or livelihoods in the last 18 months.
“The effects of February’s forced eviction have been devastating for the Badia East community, where dozens are still sleeping out in the open or under a nearby bridge exposed to rain, mosquitos and at risk of physical attack,” the report stated.
“The Lagos State government has violated the right to adequate housing of the residents of Badia East by failing to put in place any of the legal safeguards required under the international law, prior to evicting thousands of the residents. The demolition has devastating consequences on the lives of the evictees. This is one eviction too many, all in the name of development.
“The Nigerian government has failed the people of Badia by resettling them in the area from Oluwole, where they were in 1973 by the Federal Government without proper documentation. Oluwole area is now home to the National Theatre,” the report stated.

Badia 2While there has been no official response to the Amnesty report, Governor Babatunde Fashola had countered critics of his administration’s Badia eviction, saying that the government’s plan is to solve problems and ensure better living for residents.
“That is why I have committed to build 1,008 flats in Badia, to take people out of living on the refuse heap. That place has been there since I was a child and we have carried on as if nothing happened.
“The easiest thing to do is to take a bull-dozer and bulldoze a slum because governments don’t create slums, it is people who do. Our administration’s plan is to bulldoze away your difficult conditions by providing roads, drainages and primary healthcare centres.”
According to a community representative, “since February 23, the people have nowhere to stay, they sleep outside battling with mosquitoes, malaria and cholera. In the process, many have died, including a pregnant woman, who died few weeks ago.
“Now, our life, our pains and what we went through can never be paid except the roof that was taken over our heads. To make matters worse, we here there is even a reduction to N90,000 compensation from what we formerly agreed on. With that amount, you cannot rent a house in Lagos and pay for a year. Till date, 18 months after, we are yet to get anything from government, not even a relief material.”

Badia 3Badia East is part of the larger Badia community, which is one of nine settlements (slums) that were intended to benefit from the World Bank-funded Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP). The objective of the US$200 million project was “to increase sustainable access to basic urban services through investments in critical infrastructure.
The infrastructure component of the project (estimated at US$160.89 million) included urban upgrading activities in “nine of the largest slums identified in 1995” in Lagos State, along with drainage and solid waste management projects.
Though the area of land from which people were forcibly evicted has been earmarked by the Lagos State Ministry of Housing for a housing development project, The LagosHOMS project did not form part of the activities under the LMDGP.
The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye laid the blame on the doorsteps of the displaced citizens.
He said: “If anybody says no, I don’t want your assistance, I want proper compensation because my house was destroyed; if that person can show land title, he can show planning permit approved by the Ministry of Physical Planning through the planning office, such a person can make claim for compensation because you have acquired my property which I built legally. But for others, the fee they are rejecting is the financial assistance that government has approved.”

Oke-Afa… Living with the revolt of Okada riders

• Fear hangs in the air after four hours of police/motorcycle operators gun battle
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
A week after residents of Oke-Afa, in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) survived a violent riot by commercial motorcycle riders, believed to be Chadians, resulting in hours of gun battle between policemen and Okada riders, residents of the area have appealed to Governor Babatunde Fashola and the Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, to rescue them from the menace of Okada riders and street traders at the January 27 Bridge linking Ejigbo to Ajao Estate.
In a statement jointly signed by several Community Development Associations (CDAs), which included Ilamose CDA, Peace Estate CDA, January 27 CDA, Ilamose Canal CDA and Oriade CDA, they are calling on the state government to intervene in regulating the activities of the commercial motorcycle riders in the area.
“We appreciate and understand that some commercial motorcycle operators are genuine in their task to be responsible people, but we want to be able to identify them and also limit their numbers for ease of operation and identification. We also want to see visible government intervention through the ministry of transportation in the operation of these operators who have converted our streets, drive ways, properties into bus parks, okada parks, keke parks and constituting serious nuisance value and security risk to our lives and properties,” the statement said.

Okada operators riding against traffic on January 27 (Canoe) Bridge,

Okada operators riding against traffic on January 27 (Canoe) Bridge

Making the observation that about 95 per cent of the commercial motorcycles operating in Oke-Afa and Ajao Estate do not have vehicle licence and can be easy tool for criminal activities, the CDAs want action to be taken on the illegal street market activities, which is causing traffic gridlock on the newly commissioned bridge.
“Also, there is a clear threat to the upsurge of the canal, which will ultimately threaten properties along the canal through the indiscriminate dumping of waste by the traders. We will appreciate if a team of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) taskforce can carry out a holistic removal of these actors. We suspect the shanti houses at the bank of the canal by Aarester school harbour men of the underworld and their weapons. A visit to this place will reveal serious criminal activities.”
Apart from the menace of the Okada riders, so many businesses thrive on the bridge daily as petty traders see the location as a hub due to the influx of human and vehicular traffic. Traders display their wares on the bridge and line the road every evening, which include pepper, bread, fairly used clothes, shoes, and rechargeable lights to the admiration of passersby.

The house that came under siege

The house that came under siege

Seventy-two hours after Tuesday, August 12 incident, there were tell-tale signs of a community under siege. The worst hit was a single-storey building at No. 33, Kudirat Adenekan Street, where the Okada riders had converted into a park. The violent riot against the police had began over claims of extortion within and around Kudirat Adenekan, January 27 bridge, Chivita Avenue all in Ejigbo and Isolo LCDAs.
According to an eyewitness, many of the rioters were not Hausas because he is fluent in the language but what he heard the okada riders, in their hundreds saying, were not Hausa language. “They must be Chadians who took to the streets. They, in a violent rage, resisted the police and destroyed their vehicles. They police called for reinforcement and that was when the shooting spree began with the arrival of two police vans,” he said.
After more than three hours, the combined police team was resisted and they retreated from the scene. Thereafter, the band of okada riders took over the whole stretch of the road in exuberant jubilation at repelling the policemen when another incident lead to another shooting splurge.

One of the cars destroyed by the protesters

One of the cars destroyed by the protesters

While the hostility lasted, the road was shutdown by the protesters, preventing motorists from plying it at the Ejigbo and Ajao Estate end. Incidentally, a resident, Uche Ikeobi, living in the area, dared the odds and ventured out. Unfortunately, he ran into a mob that was still chanting victory songs and knocked down one of them.
Uche was immediately pounced on by the mob, unleashing mayhem on the young man, who broke away through the help of onlookers, but not without serious life-threatening injuries. He was pursued and the rioters attacked the property where the man escaped into. The young man in turn brought out his father’s dane gun and started shooting at his pursuers, which left three people seriously injured.
This incensed the mob, who began to destroy everything in sight, including three vehicles damaged beyond recognition. They broke loose the main entrance, took down doors leading to different apartments in search of the driver, looted valuables and threatened to kill the young man until the eventual arrival of Ejigbo DPO and some of his men, who whisked the man away.
While they were leaving, the mob continued to throw stones and other dangerous object towards the vehicle, leaving one policeman seriously injured. Not satisfied, the mob returned to the property and continued with their threat to burn down the house when members of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) intervened to broker a truce and calm frayed nerves.

A daily rowdy evening at the Ejigbo-Ajao Estate link bridge

A daily rowdy evening at the Ejigbo-Ajao Estate link bridge

Since Tuesday’s incident, it has been brazen acts of impunity displayed by the operators of motorcycles and tricycles. With the gloves off, residents have since been living with fear while such tendencies such as parking on the bridge and trading on the roads leading to the bridge have gone unchallenged.
An occupant of the house that was under siege, Mr. John Odi, said he has never witnessed such barefaced resistance to armed men in his life. “I have always believed a man’s resistance is weakened when he is confronting a gun but what I saw last week is difficult to explain.
“Some youths, majorly from the north, were raising all manner of weapons, planks, iron, stones and whatever they could lay their hands on to challenge policemen who were firing gunshots to discard the protesters. But the more they were firing, the more the boys were getting agitated. I went back in to avoid being hit by a stray bullet when five minutes later I saw my landlord’s son throwing stones back into the crowd.

Aja2 “We had to lock ourselves inside the toilet and we heard gunshots for more than two hours. They entered the compound and started smashing everything in sight. The cars parked in the compound, including mine were completely destroyed.”
Another occupant told The Guardian that his children are yet to recover from the trauma of the incident. “My children have been extremely traumatised. Each day, they beg me to move them out of the house and since last week, I have been taking them with me to the office, as they can’t stand being left at home. I am seriously considering relocating from this area,” he said.

Sex and Courage On the Campus

By Emmanuel Ukpong

IN a matter of days, a few thousand students are set to graduate from the Lagos State University (LASU). But Titi may not be one of them. Not that she isn’t willing to, not after a four-year programme that has been stretched to nearly five, thanks in no small part to incessant students’ riots and teachers’ strikes. It is just that her lecturers and project supervisor have vowed that Titi (not her real name) won’t graduate. It is her lot for stubbornly spurning their sexual advances, which is putting it mildly.

By my reckoning, Titi is not a prospect for the Nobel Prize in Economics, which is my polite way of saying she is an average student, who just gets by. Her lecturer knew this early enough: such intellectual vulnerability made Titi the perfect prey, you get the picture.

LASU1This set the stage for the lecturer, whom I shall call Sule. About three years ago, he pulled Titi aside after class and asked her out. She politely declined. Believing she was a typical female playing hard to get, Sule launched another round of advances but met a stiff wall. It was a strange experience for him; he wasn’t used to being rebuffed. Enough, he thought and began to deploy the tactics that have been perfected by the fairer sex: use what you have to get what you want. In Sule’s case, scores or grades. So he threatened Titi with low grades if she didn’t yield. But every threat seemed to stiffen her resolve.

For the uninitiated, this should ordinarily be no big deal: casual sex for good grades. But as I researched the subject further, it turned out to be more complicated than that. If Sule had his way once, chances were he would ask her out again and again and again. At LASU, sex with students isn’t just for personal pleasure; it is a trophy, something to display on the mantelpiece or brag about at staff club. Female students are passed around like an interesting book. It is common for perverted lecturers to say to each other over a drink, “She is sweet, you must try her.” Nor is it unheard of for a lecturer who has been rebuffed to ask a colleague who has more potent ammunition, usually a core course, to continue from where he flopped. Working hand in glove, and sometime in a 1-2-3 formation, they would plot and scheme and wear the poor thing into submission. This is why Titi’s resolute stand became such a sensation around the Faculty.

Titi suddenly became a person of interest; failed pursuers wanted to know more about her. Who is this cocky student? She was now in the crosshairs of not one, not two but at least three lecturers, all of them enlisted by Sule. The lecturers, including a professor, took turns but drew blank. Each devised an individual strategy, attacking from an exposed flank. It was a dud.

convocationAs the plot thickened, they unleashed spies after her, to dig up dirt and report on who she associated with. Some of her close friends became willing tools, largely in a bid to curry favour from the jackals who pass for lecturers.

As they piled up the pressure, Titi broke down, took ill often and, at one scary moment, told me she might hurt herself. “Sir,” she sobbed, “Assuming I accept, how will I do it? Undress, lie down, open my legs, close my eyes and say, “Oya”? To be frank, I had no answer, even if she was expecting one.

At that moment I thought to myself that Sule, like many men, just want women at all costs but makes no effort to understand them: if a woman isn’t interested in a man and has made up her mind about it, no force on earth – whether it’s mental, material or social – can persuade her.

With his mission now known to the wider circle of jackals and failure starring him in the face, Sule became even more determined. Failure would be a humiliation. He shifted to Plan B. With possible connivance of departmental authorities, he wangled his way to become Titi’s project supervisor. Sule broke the news to her in his office one afternoon. “I am your project supervisor,” he announced. “I will see where you will run to now.” Titi nearly had a fit. The cold words and the smirk on his face haunt her till this day.

Once that happened, there was little or no escape route for Titi. A project is critical to the award of a degree. It was a pressure point, and Sule pressed it rather skillfully at every turn: he refused to approve her topics; he kept finished chapters on his desk for weeks on end pretending to be busy. At one point, he cancelled two finished chapters, warning, “You think you are the only stubborn and proud girl in this department? I swear, you won’t graduate. Ask other girls…”

For Titi, each encounter with Sule ended with tears and bouts of frustration. She came under more intense pressure to yield, frighteningly from some lecturers and even from her fellow students who felt she was needlessly rigid; that one or two dates with Sule would have since settled the matter. She was causing herself and the entire department undue stress, they cautioned. Yes, entire department because by now some wiser academic heads had also intervened in the matter, urging Sule to let Titi be. You cannot force a girl to sleep with you, they pleaded, as if that point needed to be overstressed. In one comedy of errors, a junior lecturer that Titi had begged to intervene on her behalf approached one senior lecturer. It turned out that the senior lecturer was one of the three jackals, further complicating matters.

LASU Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa

LASU Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa

As the final exams approached, Sule and the jackals changed formation and switched to Plan C. While Sule retreated to a defence position, the other two, who had supervisory roles in the exams, attacked. With the project side already taking its toll and wearing down Titi, they tightened the noose with the exams, rather like sharks tasting blood. It was a minefield and Titi acted like the proverbial offender who, after being condemned to be roasted at the stakes, poured oil on her body. She would soon be toast.

It was the very first paper and barely 30 minutes into it when Titi passed a crumpled piece of paper to her neighbour. Precisely what Sule had been waiting for. One of the jackals, who was not in the exam hall but appeared to be watching through the window, sneaked behind Titi, seized her papers and ordered her out of the hall. Let’s be clear: there is absolutely no justification for cheating in exams, and Titi’s excuse that others cheated and were spared is hollow.

As you can imagine, the pack of jackals was over the moon and you could almost hear them popping the bubbly. Prematurely perhaps. Because last time I checked, Titi was still digging in her heels.

I have a teenage daughter in a UK college, far out of reach for Sule and his ilk, but I shudder to imagine her sharing the same fate with Titi. Titi’s story highlights the plight of young women in our universities. Every parent should be duly horrified.

Still, it is a credit to LASU authorities that they have managed to churn out graduates even though the environment is hardly conducive for learning. My wife graduated from LASU many years ago. Then, students’ population was already bursting at the seams, with only standing room in lectures halls. There have been significant improvements since then but a vast majority of the students live off campus, many in abject squalor. Titi resides among the natives, housed by an abusive and greedy landlady. The area is choked full of people and sanitation is almost zero. In just one year, her “hostel” has been burgled four times and robbed twice at gunpoint. In the last attack, she and her roommate escaped rape by whiskers. She has been threatened multiple times by local thugs and cultists, some demanding what has long eluded Sule.

DSC_0223It seems Titi just can’t win. It is not her fault that she is very attractive. But she should accept responsibility for choosing to wear false eyelids, which she doesn’t need, and for walking like Paris Hilton, which draws undue attention to her on campus.

But education in Nigeria is not what it used to be, just like little else is. At LASU, it seems all teachers think about is teaching and girls – sometimes in reverse order. I can’t help looking back at the University of Lagos and its lecturers. I listened to Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye on my car radio recently, and was pleased that he hasn’t lost any of his intellectual verve, his inventiveness with words, his sense of humour, his relevance. I have never read an awkward sentence from Prof. Olatunji Dare, the sainted journalism teacher who turned 70 recently. Prof. Idowu Shobowale has attained virtually all there is in Mass Communication research. As for Prof. Fred Opubor, it was a privilege studying at his feet. Ditto Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, who made his mark in the academia before proceeding to become perhaps the best foreign affairs minister Nigeria ever had. Prof. Onuora Nwuneli’s lectures were a delight; you just wanted him to continue.

It would be utterly unthinkable to associate these distinguished teachers with the kind of revolting putrefaction that a section of LASU now emits. My teachers were more interested in teaching, research, grants, prizes, UNESCO appointments, publishing. Even when they were bored, they kept their eyes – and hands – off the fairer sex and instead were more interested in sparring with Prof. Akinfeleye for the exalted seat of the Head of Department. Now, can Titi say that about her teachers?

It rankles because LASU is not some third-rate polytechnic located in the backwaters of Nigeria. It is in Lagos State, the Centre of Excellence.

Thousands of Nigerian girls are suffering in silence at the hands of lecturers in our universities. This calls for intervention from women leaders and groups. Titi’s is a classic case; her travail was tailor-made for Oby Ezekwesili, come to think of it. But Dr. Ezekwesili is too controversial at the moment and it might turn out to be a distraction. That leaves us with Joe Okey-Odumakin, that paragon of good social causes. She is the voice of the voiceless. She just might be that voice that Titi and other young women need to keep the jackals off their backs.

Esther, the Nigerian dress, makes history at the Smithsonian

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

The dress on display in Lagos

The dress on display in Lagos

American fashion icon, Ralph Lauren, who built a global multi-billion dollar enterprise, when asked the secret of his fame, once responded with a quip: “I don’t design clothes; I design dreams.” This is the statement Patience Torlowei, an artist from Nigeria and a specialist in the textile sector, has brought to life with her stunning dress, Esther.
Simply known among friends and associates as Patience, the founder of Patience Please, the first registered lingerie manufacturer in Nigeria, has caught global attention with Esther, her rave-making special piece of art that has berthed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
Esther is an encapsulated story of the struggles and pain of the Niger Delta; and more importantly, illustrates the power of hope and of one person to change the world by giving people hope.
The dress itself, is a stunning silk ball gown designed and hand painted by Ms. Torlowei. History was made when Esther became the first item of high fashion to be ever requested by the Smithsonian as a permanent exhibit.
However, before making its final journey to Smithsonian, Esther was hosted to a send-off cocktail party in Lagos and unveiled at the weekend before a select distinguished audience at the Metropolitan Club.

Foremost Accountant, Akintola Williams, the designer, Patience Torlowei at a send-off reception for Esther  in Lagos at the weekend.

Foremost Accountant, Akintola Williams, the designer, Patience Torlowei at a send-off reception for Esther in Lagos at the weekend.

Before unveiling the spectacle that has launched Nigeria at the biggest home for arts collection, distinguished nonagenarian, Mr. Akintola Williams, was full of praise for Esther. To him, there could be no better way to remold Nigeria’s battered image.

“This special piece of art making deserves our support. On August 3, she will be leaving our dear country to become a part of the Smithsonian Institute’s permanent collection as the first piece of high fashion ever to have been accepted by the Museum of African Art,” Mr. Williams explained.

“In light of Nigeria’s current image on the world stage, it is clear to me that such high and unique achievement as Esther deserve our support and our acknowledgement of this feat by a Nigerian designer and artist, who has made a mark in a significant moment of our country’s history,” he added to a rousing cheer.

Like all of life’s greatest stories, which would always be incomplete without the tinge of pain and sadness, the story of Esther, was narrated by her designer, Patience, in a stirring address that moved the audience almost to tears.

All men who have achieved great things have been great dreamers and it was this special dream that Patience rescued from the brink of botch, which has now deservedly earned her an international acclaim.

Evelyn Oputu, Patience and Abba Folawiyo

Evelyn Oputu, Patience and Abba Folawiyo

“We all go through life looking for a way to leave our own personal mark on the world. Some live their lives never discovering how they can do this, but I was, however, lucky enough to find my tools to leave my mark in the world of art and fashion,” Patience said to a stilled audience, which was already hanging on to her words.

“When things want to happen in life you have to prepare for them, you must go through the required fire. I came to Nigeria in 2009 with a heavy heart, a heart to change my country, to make a mark and Nigeria a hub for under-garment manufacturing, the first in Africa. I know I have to be refined, but I am grateful I met a few people who pulled me through that difficult moment of my life.

“One of the people I met that dusted me up and led me the distance is Ms. Evelyn Oputu. I remember what Oputu once said to me, ‘Patience, why are you so much talented; you are the best designer I can think of, how come it is not putting food on the table for you?’ It got me thinking hard and long on why I returned to Nigeria. I cried my eyes out and asked myself why did I come to Nigeria to be wretched. I was doing well in Europe.”

Dress4   Unknown to Patience, her name turned out to be a virtue, a bitter pill she had to chew. With such encouragement from the former Bank of Industry Managing Director, Patience picked herself up and once again dusted the tatters of her dream.

“I did a work for Oputu. She called me and told me I have to make her a dress for an event the next day in Abuja. So, I stayed up all through the night to get the dress ready and deliver it in the morning. Later the next day, she called me to say, ‘Patience, expect some calls.’ I didn’t worry about that any more, I was prepared to move back to Europe.

“I had started packing my bag when I got a call to be at a place where an event was being held for children. Incidentally, the jacket I wore resembled the one I made for Oputu, which according to her, caused a distraction while she was delivering her speech. Apparently, this dress was that good and they wanted to know who made it.

“One of the people I made it for went back to America and I got a call few weeks later, ‘Patience, what did you do to this dress you sewed? People have not stopped talking about it and even children are acknowledging me. I have never worn any thing in my entire life that has got me so noticed and it fits me like glove.’ That made my day, but there was more to come.

Evelyn Oputu, Patience and Maiden Alex Ibru

Evelyn Oputu, Patience and Maiden Alex Ibru

“She wore the dress to New York, it was to the Smithsonian Institute conference and everyone wanted to know where she got it from. Coincidentally, they were marking a fashion show for an ongoing exhibition and I was selected. I was given a date for this event in August shortly after my mum had passed away in July.

“Eventually the exhibition with the theme ‘Earth Matters’ was held in February and there were eight exhibitors from Africa; I was the only one from Nigeria. The other designers had sponsorships from their countries, four were presidential sponsorships, I had no one to sponsor me. I had to go with my meager sum but I love what I was doing.

“I chose to do something about Africa, with stories covering Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, South Africa and Nigeria. When I came up on stage, there was silence in the hall, followed by uproar and a standing ovation. Others were bidden goodbye from the exhibition, I was asked to stay back.” And that began Patience’s journey to stardom.

“I started to get media interviews because of this dress; they wanted to know the value of the dress so they could buy it; but instead I offered to donate it to the museum. I named her Esther, because of my mother. All this happened to me just after she died.”

The Smithsonian Institute, established in 1846 is a group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government. It has an eclectic holding of 137 million items, a nucleus of 19 museums, nine research centers and a zoo.

Dress6Esther’s designer, Patience has a factory based in Lagos and her design label produces quality lingerie to compliment a woman’s inner beauty and self-respect. She launched her first line in 2006 with Patience Torlowei BVBA, a bridal wear company.

Within two years, the brand has supplied wedding and cocktail dresses to over six countries in Europe alone. In 2008, the company added lingerie to its offerings because of the lack of wedding lingerie available to budding brides. This was further pushed by Patience’s personal love for exquisite underwear.

With a high demand coming from all over Europe for Patience Torlowei designs, she looked to Nigeria, her home country, for production, giving back to a country fighting to join the first world. By educating young unemployed people and giving consideration to the environmental, social and corporate governance issues, she has helped create a sustainable and responsible business that yields returns to a lot of young people.

Among the audience that saw off Esther to the Smithsonian included such fashion afficonado as Abba Folawiyo, Maiden Alex-Ibru, Lilian Unachukwu, Seni Williams, among many others.

Bidding Esther goodbye and ending the night of glitz, Prof. Pat Utomi, thanked the designer, for her masterpiece and wished her well in her future endeavours.