Mrs. Taiwo Ajai Lycett, Officer Order of the Niger (OON), is a legend in the entertainment world. Her late husband, Mr. Tom Lycett mandated her to come home, so that her people could also enjoy her talent which only white audiences in United Kingdom, Europe hitherto enjoyed. She told FLORA ONWUDIWE in this interview about and other sundry issues. Excerpts.
What struck you in the play, Hear Word! When you were approached to be a participant?
To me, it is all about women, about the plight of women; Hear Word! Is all exclusively about the plight of women in our society, in the world generally but particularly in our society, where we have over 50 percent of women in the population and yet women are so downtrodden. Traditionally, we were not downtrodden as you know; our women had always been very powerful. But in modern times, there have been some aberrations and then you have certain things from the past like widowhood rites. So I was interested in the child abuse, child marriages which is still rampant in this day and age. Men of 50 marrying seven or 10 year-old-girls. Of course, I was immediately drawn to the plight of women and the girl-child.
You said the play is exclusively about women giving account of their experiences; does this movement not suggest feminism?
What is wrong with feminism? Why are people scared of feminism? I am worried also because women don’t want to be associated with feminism because they are afraid, this is what Hear Word! Is doing, that women should have intellectual freedom, emotional freedom, but that is not rejecting men. Feminism is giving power that you already have, it is ensuring the power that women already have. Feminism is not a western ideology.
If you recall, feminism movement started in the late 1800s…?
Feminism has been in Africa for a long time. In Abeokuta Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti sacked Alake of Abeokuta, it is in history, it is real. In her time the colonialists were placing taxes on women. When they went to market it was the money that they made that they used to pay school fees and everything. And the women then got together and said, ‘why aren’t our men telling them the real situation. Why aren’t they representing us properly?’ And they protested? Now, that feminism is of the highest kind, which is looking after their home fronts; feminism is not anti-men. Actually, it is helping the men. You know how we raised our children, he must not cry and once a man is born, from the beginning that child is told the responsibility he is going to shoulder. He is the one going to look after the home front, mother, father and he is going have a wife and the wife must stay at home and he has to look after the wife, all his life those burdens have been put on him. Then life moved on, the world moved on such that women are now working to help men, that’s feminism.
Mrs Ransome-Kuti was among the few women elites that were exposed to western education and that boosted her confidence and courage to succeed and did what she did at her time…
That is the responsibility of educated men and women, not just women. And the inability to use our education is what you are seeing in our political scene right now. Growth in our socio- life is contingent upon the use of that education, if you don’t use something you lose it. She was educated and she used the things that are good about that to help our society. That is the whole point of being educated; not being educated you can summarize that to mean ignorance. Somebody is a little bit well informed, it is incumbent of that person to use that external infer ration that you have in the interest of your people to elevate your people’s situation condition.
Hear Word! Advocates issues affecting women, could you explain how it differs from the earliest feminist movement?
The message you haven’t seen is that in Africa we are dealing with our problem as well, that is overwhelming message, we have with Hear word! That nobody is telling us what to do, that we are not mirroring, what they are doing. If we have 51 percent of women that are being underutilised is that not detrimental to the developmental of human race. But of course it is. So why is it? I hear it is negative for women to be championing some minority and that is what we have lacking in our body polity. The rich are not championing the poor, the politicians are not looking after the masses, but it is their responsibility to champion people who are less privileged. Women are the people who raise families; women are the people who raise the men, you have to educate women about the way to behave, the way they assert themselves. The down side of it is, what you are seeing now where our people, the followership, are not be raised to be assertive. And you are seeing it in our body polity now. The people in power are doing what they like, the masses can’t say anything, they have not been brought up to do that, where they have put that is where they should stay.
So Hear Word! Is about what?
The play is about telling women that we have a responsibility to make our society work well. If you call it a movement we need more movements like what they are doing now, raising children to think properly; women have not trained their children to know what their rights are.
Are you still saying that Hear Word! Is not a movement?
Of course it is a movement but it is a movement of ideas, I am only debunking what you are saying that it is some kind of feminist movement; it is feminist movement but a movement of ideas of how to order society, of social engineering. What we are doing is not a movement of ‘we don’t like men.’
You claimed that Hear word is an ideology movement; does the message tally with the title of the play?
Very much so. Absolutely, very apt. Hear word! Is the pidgin for “Listen,” speak the truth about your condition. A woman is abused in her marriage. And we are saying to women ‘listen speak the truth, Hear word Nigerian woman, isn’t that what our title is? That’s the true title, Hear word o! Don’t keep quiet o! Say the truth, this is the condition. If you say the truth perchance somebody can help.
You said that women involved in the play, Hear Word! Are each other’s keeper; now the suggestion is that the platform brings all women together as a family with love for one another. But it is a different ball game, when they leave the stage, how do you explain that?
When Joke Silva son’s got married everybody was there, when a member of our cast Debby Ohiri got married everybody was there, not just physically but financially. When Elvina’s father died everybody was there; you don’t know us that is why you are saying this. When I clocked 78 two weeks ago, everybody was there; we are sisters for life.
You featured in one of the most popular British comedies, Frank &Spencer, would you say it was the peak of your career?
No, it wasn’t, but it was the first time Nigeria noticed me in something, that is why it is a peak for them because it was a very popular programme. It won an international movie award, Montreaux Film Festival. It was a good programme. I did various things in Edinburgh International Festival, Dublin international festival. I had been to Yugoslavia, Mexico, I had been all over. I had done General Hospital, that particular comedy is very popular even in England. Just as the people are raving here about it, they are raving in Europe, and that one is always on international flights all over the world. I am still receiving recognition for it till today. So it was a good programme for me, it gives me attention here in Nigeria, it is not a peak of my career, the peak of my career is yet to come. I would even say working at the level I am working at 78 that I’m coming close to the peak of my career.
How did you cope with racism?
Do you know that in the world nobody can stop you? What that should tell you is that, in this world when you have the spirit, the talent, competence, nothing can stop you. Because over there meritocracy reigns. If you are good they go for you, they don’t care about the colour of your skin. It is the sort of things we are talking about in our politics, if you are good, it should not matter whether you are Igbo or Yoruba or whatever. But we are practicing ethnicity, we don’t put the right people in the right job. But over there if you are intelligent, that is it; they want their shows to be successful. They audition, they look for people who have talents; I never suffered from that. I never said it existed but what I took from that was that if you are authentic, there is nobody that can compete with you. You will notice in those days 40 to 50 years ago I was as African as anybody else, I was physically as African as you can be. So we are the people who think they think we are ‘bush’ so we have to buy somebody’s hair, you notice how all of you are wearing long European hair. They don’t care what you look like, in fact they respect you more, if you look yourself because you bring diversity into the world, but everybody is looking the same now. Long hair is not ours; if God wanted to give us long hair He would have done so. But we don’t like our own hair. Ideologically, I detest that kind of self-living that we parade around, now those are the things you should be attacking because unless we do all that the world wouldn’t pay attention to us, wouldn’t respect us. Yes, 40, 50 years ago I was an African working in Europe. If you know your job and you do it well people would want to know you.
Your late husband Mr. Tom Lycett discovered that your name was making waves in UK, Europe and advised that you should go home; if he had not brought this to your attention, did you intend to stay put?
It was not like that. My husband was so proud of the waves I was making in Europe. Although, Nigerians were hearing about what I was doing, they were hearing about it second hand. He was telling me ‘that your people don’t know of the impact you are making in Europe, you must let them know what you are doing and how you are representing them.’ That’s what he meant, didn’t ask me to return home. When I came to Nigeria he came to live with me here; he’s buried at Atan Cemetery. He just felt that why should both of us be letting Europe enjoy my talent, that I should be contributing that talent to Nigeria. His feeling was ‘your people don’t really know the impact you are making here. Go home and share your talent with your people.’ And I returned home, so when I had to stay back, he said ‘find me a job and I would come with you because I can’t run a marriage where I’m in Europe and you are here.’ So he joined me here.
What you intended studying abroad was not what you ended up with?
I am a very spiritual person, my career as an actor was ordained. I was not planning to be an actor and somehow I didn’t have the faintest idea, I wanted to be a lawyer. I enjoyed watching films and enjoyed going to watch Ogunde in Glory Memorial Hall in Nigeria when we were growing up. Obviously, it was meant to be, that is how I became that. When I came it was supposed to be one off, but the reaction of people to my debut was stunning. People started asking who my agent was. In fact an agent signed me on there and then and I started working, so I have to conclude that it was ordained. My thinking was, I am not an actor but people were hailing me as an actor and giving me job so I moved forward. But I also thought what if they found out that I was not even an actor, so I elected to find out about acting. I started training and most of my earnings went into training myself and that is what you see. In other words, once I saw that was the way acting was chosen for me, I decided to train myself. I went to drama school, dance school, voice classes; I did everything.
You lost two husbands, do you sometimes ascribe the circumstances to spiritual forces as Africans are wont to?
I am not at all one to be superstitious; it is stupid to be superstitious. People are born, people die and nobody knows when anybody is going to die and when you marry somebody, they will die sometimes and if they die, what‘s that got to do with you? It’s got nothing to do with you, it is their journey. Each of us has a journey and what it means is that the person’s journey is finished. Like the widow rites we are talking about in the play, Hear Word through which people think wives who lost their husbands must have killed them. That is the Nigerian thinking, that oh you have been married twice, oko ti kun le lori leme ji (that you have buried two husbands). That is stupid, they had their own journeys, they died, it’s got nothing to do with me; their deaths have nothing to do with them marrying me. People die for all manner of reasons, it could be an illness. How can you blame an illness on the spouse, which is what we are projecting with the widowhood rites in Hear Word! The woman who is already brokenhearted is the one you now accuse of murder!
At 78, it is expected you would have slowed down but you are still energetic and full of strength. Do you think of retirement at all?
Why should I retire? You don’t retire from life. I think what most people should pick from that is that life is a continuum and life is what you make of it and if you are 50, 60, you think you are old you are old. Your mind is the engine of your life and if you work on yourself and work with yourself, you can live forever. Well, that is what the Bible teaches us, yes we die but when you are living you must continue to live. You must obey the law of nature, I do obey the law of nature, I obey natural laws and of course I work very hard. I don’t give myself excuses because I am 60, 70, therefore there is something that I cannot do. Nothing impossible.
I wouldn’t have been in BBNaija house without my wife’s consent –Mike
Professional athlete, Mike Olayemi Edwards, emerged as one of the favourites of fans and viewers in the course of the recently-concluded fourth season of Big Brother Naija reality TV show.
Apart from emerging first runner-up of the Big Brother ‘Pepper Dem’ edition, Mike, a product of a Nigerian mother and a Jamaican father, won many over by not becoming entangled with any woman in the house. He spoke to ADEDAYO ODULAJA in this interview
What is your view on the fact that Nigerians can’t stop talking about how you stayed faithful to your wife during the course of BBNaija 4?
I am a strong individual, a strong man and I didn’t show my weakness, so, to me that was just amazing. I expect nothing less from my girl. To remain in the house for 99 days I never had any personal doubts for me. It’s just normal. I made a commitment before I even said I do, I made it clear to myself to be faithful till death.
But was there any time you were tempted by any of the ladies or anything you saw?
No, there was no time like that. It was all about my resolve from the beginning.
Your wife has hinted of your plan to relocate to Nigeria from your UK base. Do you plan to see that through?
Yes, I plan to move to Nigeria immediately. My wife and I are making plans together. Right now, we are still discussing and making arrangements. For now, we are taking it day by day.
Being an athlete already means you are in the limelight of sorts, why did you decide go for Big Brother?
It was simply because I consider it one of the greatest platforms in the world and I wanted to challenge myself by going for it. To be honest, it was something I saw in the challenge and it was the fear of the unknown. It was more attractive to me because I knew that it was what I wanted to do, challenge myself beyond. You know, if you do the same thing expecting different results, it’s insanity. So, I knew, let’s try something like this and see how far we can go and it ended up being a great opportunity. I will never regret it.
You apparently fared well in terms of rating but do you think anything worked against you winning the show?
I can’t really say because I knew I was real. I can’t be anybody else but myself. I am confident enough to know that it pays to be myself. Truth be told, I feel like I can go through a lot of ups and downs and somehow find the way to persevere and you know, I’m an athlete. I can’t stop being me at this stage, I don’t know anything else that could be used as a strategy aside from me being myself. I know consistency is always key for me. So, that’s the only way I could describe it. I trust the process of being consistent every day, and I wanted to walk out a winner and it didn’t fail me, I walked out a winner.
So would you say you were disappointed with the final outcome?
No, absolutely not. I knew that stepping into the house was a win for me, anything else was a bonus. So, I always felt I am in the best time in my life, I just kept reminding myself that that’s why it was easy for me to have so much cruise because ultimately I knew we were all winners in our all unique ways.
What were some of the sacrifices you would say you made in the BBNaija house towards winning?
Of course, the sacrifices I made were disconnecting from my wife for 99 days. If I didn’t have the consent of my wife I wouldn’t have taken part in the show. I am a married man, I don’t have to discuss things that don’t need to be explained, and I think that’s the relationship I have with my wife.
Did you at any point think it was getting more difficult than you envisaged
Those were the times when I thought Biggie was at least going to surprise me with a visit by my family members or someone I know but it never happened and I had to hang in there.
You have a Cigar brand that seems to be the focus of your attention now. What’s it about?
Aireyys Cigar brand is an extension of myself. I have always seen myself as a brand. It is a distinguished taste, if you love it, you like it. My wife and my team, ran the business while I was away.
What is the status of your professional career as an athlete?
I represented Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the African Senior Athletics Championship in Asaba in 2018. So, right now my focus is to set up my future with my family, so, that’s my priority right now.
How would you rate your familiarity with Nigerian culture?
I am every bit a Nigerian. My mother is Nigerian and my dad is Jamaican.
What are your thoughts about the Big Brother platform now having been a part of it especially as you regard it as a huge, global platform of opportunities.
It remains a truly global and exciting platform for me but I walked out of it with the lesson of never taking things too seriously. Also that one has to be brave enough to have an open heart. You never know when you’re going home, literally.
My dad asked my brothers to stop me from auditions –LamiRose
LamiRose Alih is a Nollywood actress and a film producer, she speaks with DEBORAH OCHENI about her ready to go outfits, love for comfy wears, her preferred celebrity style, why she will not not wear clothes that reveal her nipples and lots more.
What was growing up like?
Growing up was so interesting, until things went bad for my parents that they had to relocate from Kano to the village. Things got so tough while in the village, but in all, we thank God for life. How long have you been in the entertainment industry and how did the journey start?
I have been in the industry for a while now but it wasn’t really consistent until 2017 when I decided to go fully into it. My journey started when I followed my friend to an audition and I was called to be one of the cast in the crowd scene. That was how my acting career started.
What inspired the decision to become an actress?
Well, I have always wanted to be on the screen while growing up, I admire newscasters and I love watching Stephanie Okereke and Genevieve Nnaji then. Each time I saw them on the screen I will be like, “I am going to be like this someday.”
That was what inspired me and I started working towards it. What was the experience like facing the camera for the first time? It wasn’t funny at all because I used to be a very shy person, so facing the camera was a problem.
Are your parents in support of your career?
No, they were not in support of it at first, my dad was like “when people are looking for something meaningful to do with their lives my own daughter says it’s film she wants to act”, and he will order my brothers to close-mark me from going for auditions.
Because of that, when I was filling my JAMB form I had to apply for Theatre Arts unknown to my parents instead of Law that was my dream course so that by the time I am done with school, they would accept my choice of career since that’s the course I studied in school. And behold my plan worked out well.
Which movie brought you to limelight? I would say “bride price and Asoebi girl. Be- cause it ran on Africa Magic Epic for a long time and I played a sub lead role in it.
That really made me popular.
How many movies have you featured in so far?
I have featured in over 15 movies, namely, Bride Price, The Regent King, Her Proposal, Putting Pen to Paper, Soil, A day Outside, Living in Abuja, to mention a few including my own movie “Upon a Promise” currently showing on Africa Magic Showcase and “Oge Nkpuhie coming out soon on Africa Magic Igbo. Asides acting which other business are you into? I work with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, I also run my own business
I have a clothing line, I freelance, let’s just say I do everything thats legitimate business.
Are you a trend conformist?
No, really I wear anything that suits me, not necessarily what’s trending or in vogue. Which celebrity style do you admire most? Kimora Lee and in Nigeria I would say Mercy Aigbe. I admire their styles a lot. Is there anything you will never be caught wearing? Anything that shows nipples is a no no for me. Which is your costliest fashion possession? That should be my Herms bag. How much did you buy it? Let me not even mention the amount here, I prefer to keep the price secret.
Which is your signature perfume?
I play with all because I sell perfumes as well but my best would be Gorgio Armani for women.
The fragrance is something else. Which accessories do you live for?
I love Wristwatches and earrings a whole lot.
How do you love your hairdo?
I like hair with curls or straight and my best style is side parting, the make has to be natural for me to be able to rock.
Which footwear do you love most?
I like sneakers because I don’t joke with my comfort, I don’t compromise my comfort for fashion.
What is your ready to go outfits?
Jean, T-shirt, face-cap and sneakers but I am not a tom boy.
How comfortable do you feel in jeans and Tshirt?
I feel very comfortable because they are my favourite wears.
Which outfits take up most space in your wardrobe?
T-shirts and sneakers. What determines what you wear? I dress according to the occasion that I am going for or place.
What makes a woman well dressed?
A woman is well dressed when what she wears is not too revealing.
Who is your best designer?
Toyin Abraham “Titans’ Empire.
Do you consider any fashion items indispensable?
Shoes are not easily dispensable.
How lucrative is acting as a career in Nigeria?
Acting is a very lucrative career trust me, especially as an actor.
Would you say you are satisfied with your choice of career?
There’s nothing as fulfilling as doing what you have passion for, acting gives me peace of mind.
How would you compare Nollywood to entertainment industry in other climes?
You can’t compare our industry to, say, Hollywood for now.
But on the average we have really improved in so many areas we are a work in progress and we will surely get there How easily do you buy your fashion items in Nigeria?
Very easy, I am the type that don’t really plan shopping.
If I see anything I like either online or in a shop I will just but, it so, it’s really not difficult.
NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES NEED TO REVIEW LAW CURRICULUM –OKOROCHA
‘Nigeria is not really a democracy at the moment’
Mrs. Chinyere Okorocha has been an expert in Intellectual Property Law for 28 years. She is the current Vice Chairperson of Nigerian Bar Association Women’s Forum. She told FLORA ONWUDIWE that the reason the association was formed was because women were seen as minority. Of course, there was also the issue of gender inequality and other related matters that affect women in the society.
Could you say a few things about yourself and your journey into the Law profession? Why did I become a lawyer?
Actually, I became a lawyer because I wasn’t good in Mathematics, and secondly because my father was a lawyer. You know they say that your parents will influence you, whether consciously or unconsciously. The fact that my father was a lawyer played a huge role, even though, he never pup pressure on me. I didn’t really like Mathematics in school, so I felt I should do something in the Arts, something I was familiar with and that was Law.
Why did you choose to specialise in Intellectual Property Law?
When I started my career some 28 years ago, the law firm where I did my Law Office attachment, done when you are still a Law student, used to be called Bentley, Edu and Co and that firm specialised in Intellectual Property Law. So, when I went to that firm with everybody strolling in to do Litigation and General Practice, I had the opportunity of working with someone who was a specialist in Intellectual Property Law and it sparked my interest. Intellectual property is the leading property of the mind, things that you use your intellect to create.
It could be the name of a product or you design a solution to a problem or even as a copyright which relates to actors, singers and artistes. I find it very interesting when I am driving on the road to work and I see billboards of maybe Pepsi or Coca Cola and I know that it is a registered trademark in Nigeria or I pick up a piece of medicine to drink, it has a name and it is solving a problem. I have headache and I pick up Emzor or Paracetamol that can make me well, so I find it very interesting. So, in every area of life intellectual property is there.
The cars we drive, the names of the cars have something to do with intellectual property. All areas of life are products of Intellectual property. So, I fell in love with that area of Law.
And I decided it was something that I really wanted to know a little bit more about.
You are the Vice Chairperson of the Nigerian Bar Association Women’s Forum. What are the issues affecting women in the society that the body is making a case for?
The Nigerian Bar Association Women’s Forum was just set up, inaugurated in September; very recently. I was called upon by the President of the NBA, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN, to be the Vice Chairperson of the Women’s Forum.
Why was it necessary to have a women’s forum. In the world today, there are a lot of gender issues, gender inequality etc. There are issues that are peculiar to Nigerian women lawyers. If you go to the various areas of leadership, women are always in the minority.
There are issues to do with harassment both in the office and even in the Legal profession. In fact, at the recent NBA annual conference that held in Lagos, we had one session on sexual harassment in the workplace; the place was jam packed. People were discussing the issues, issues of intimidation, issues of discrimination, so there are peculiar issues. So, the Women’s Forum tends to focus on the solution to those types of problems, as well as personal development of women, mentorship. You find out that there are a lot of young lawyers, female lawyers, sometimes they don’t know how to dress, they don’t know how to ensure career progression, so the best way to go about it is polishing up their skills in the workplace. We therefore run programmes that will address those issues that are peculiar to female practitioners.
As an expert in Intellectual Property Law, does it mean you don’t veer into other areas of law?
A c t u – ally, as a lawyer, you can choose to be a Barrister or Solicitor. Barristers are the ones who actually go to court while solicitors deal more with commercial law. In Nigeria we have what we call a fuse bar; so once you go through the Bar school in your profession successfully, you are a Barrister and solicitor, and you can go to court or you can decide to be a commercial practitioner. Earlier on in my career, I did a lot of litigation; I went to court and handled all manner of cases.
But along the line, the more senior you get, the more you are able to choose what you like and what you don’t like. I didn’t particularly like going to court because they will alw a y s delay your cases, The Judge might not sit; you prepare your case, and the Judge will either not seat because there is no electricity in the court or he travelled or something. I did not like the unnecessary delays in the court, so Intellectual property law was a way of me pursuing a passion as well as being able to still remain a lawyer which I love. Intellectual Property Law is under Commercial Law.
It has been said that many law graduates are half-baked and not properly grounded; how do you respond to this?
I have long been an advocate that something needs to be done about the Curriculum in the University today, and I am saying this generally as an employer of labour.
When young graduates come to me with particular reference, when they come for interviews, and you give them written essays or to tell them to write about topical issues, honestly, I always find them wanting. If I give them law related questions, a lot of the time, they fall short. So, I have always been an advocate of the fact that we need to tweak the curriculum in our universities for the students studying law to have law practical base, so that by the time they go through that formal education there some skills they would pick up. I am a treasurer and a council member of one of the sessions of the NBA, that is a session on Business Law, known as NCL. Under the NCL, one of the things we try to do is develop what we call a Young Lawyers Committee.
The committee basically looks into issues affecting young lawyers and looks for capacity gaps that we, the older lawyers, can help them fill. So over the course of the year we run various programmes, training programmes, for them. We try and involve them in day to day practice. We look for those gaps in real life and see how to bridge them. But I think a wider conversation would be to have universities look at how their curriculum can be tweaked to ensure that when a student comes out as undergraduate, there is something there that can form a foundation which you can now build a good career on.
Fees at the Nigerian Law School are high and this has made it difficult for students to attend Law School and be called to bar; how you can make a case for them?
The truth of the matter is that in other to provide quality education in any country, it requires a lot of money, resources. If you were to go to a university abroad and see what they have in place for students you would marvel; so I think that I would defend the high fees. I think that it is a direct reflection of the economy but sustaining a certain level of quality of teaching in the country comes with a huge capital outlay and we’re trying to make the quality of our own law school commensurate with what is obtainable elsewhere. My advice to those who want to go to school but can’t afford it? It is a tough one, it is tough but I think I would not be an advocate of reduction of fees. I will not because I think it will have a direct impact on the quality of education that we want to achieve. But there has to be a way to mitigate it, I don’t know. And young law students who are unable to attend Law School because of high fees, what happens to them Y o u must go through the Law School before you are q u a l i – fied to be a practitioner.
A lot of lawyers aspire to be Senior Advocates of Nigeria, what are the selection processes?
M a n y years ago, it was felt that a special acveloping colade or recognition should be given to those who have excelled in the act of advocacy, by handling very difficult cases. And one school of thought also feels that just as you have SANs who are Barristers, who actually handle cases in court, there should be a parallel accolade given to senior Commercial Lawyers, who are also doing some groundbreaking issues of law and setting precedents and standards. I choose not to get into that argument, but I give respect where respect is due because to be a SAN in Nigeria is not a little thing.
You know there is a lot of hierarchy in law, so we give them the respect due to them. But I wouldn’t mind that they also have discussion which also recognises senior commercial lawyers who have excelled in various specific areas of the law; let there be also some sort of recognition for them too.
Many court orders have not been obeyed by government, is this in the interest of Nigerian democracy?
The bedrock of any society is obeying the Rule of Law. And it is very sad that a lot of the time when you go through the rigours of getting your case through in court and coming out successful, sometimes the rulings are thwarted. I think that it is really part of the process of a society t h a t i s developing.
You know that the law in Nigeria as it is today developed from what we called Common Law. Common Law is basically the law that was started by the British when they colonized us many years ago and so their own society has evolved to a stage where the Rule of Law is obeyed.
But in Nigeria we are not yet there. So these are some of the issues that we raised, that we discussed at the NBA annual conference; there was a whole session where we dealt with the issues which revealed to us that the Rule of Law is not respected. Somehow, I feel that in Nigeria, even though they say we are in democracy, we are not really a democracy, because anybody who is in government almost always has the final say. But as lawyers there will be discussions that we will continue to engage in and we will continue to fight for the Rule of Law to stand. If a judgement has been made against you, there is a process in place for you to go and seek redress, you have the Court of Appeal, you also have the Supreme Court where you can seek redress.
The Judiciary which is the last hope of the common man has been hijacked; where do you think the common man can get justice in this country?
There will always be an opportunity for the common man to get justice. It then means justice delayed is not justice denied. My advice would be that you should continue to stand up for what is right, you continue to advocate for what is right; it is important for the common man. Sometimes, when you are going on a journey alone it can be a very lonely place but if you pull together and have one voice, there will be more of an opportunityfor you to be heard. I really believe that if we form a group, that is involved in advocacy in other to stand for what is right; we will go a long way in ensuring that.
Ii is said you can’t talk about IP law without talking about Chinyere Okorocha. You have put in 28 years in this aspect of Law and what you profess is that the original owners of any creative work need to be legally conscious whenever people infringe on their property.
What has the IP group done to make it known to the common man who is ignorant of the cause you are championing. In terms of being an expert in IP law, there are also other experts in Nigeria who are involved in Intellectual Property law. I wouldn’t want to call it novel aspect of the law, in fact, it is well known on the list of the allocation of the courts in the specific practice areas IP law has been recognized. And there are certain courts in Nigeria that specialize in dealing with the commercial issues that arise from intellectual property infringement.
For about Seven years, I was the chairperson of the IP community of NBA session of Business Law. One of the things we tried to do at that time was to run various programmes and had yearly programme sensitizing people on importance of IP Law. Yes it is true, a lot of people don’t know how to go about it, they don’t even know it exists, they don’t know that the property of the mind can be perfected. So, for the seven years period I held that office, we ran sensitisation programmes.
We partnered with the government, partnered with the USA, UN and various organisations to try and sensitise people. We also had programme with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the trademark and design registry in Abuja, which is where one aspect of the IP trademarks are registered, and at the end of the day, I think we made a lasting impact. And it is maybe two or three years ago I handed over to someone else. So behind-the-scenes we are working, I am also part of the discussion to create IP policy for Nigeria.
You know in the international circle they value IP more than we do in Nigeria; creativity is the bedrock of any society, if people stop creating, then they die. In a society like Nigeria, the focus is on oil and anything that has nothing to do with the oil industry does not get the recognition it deserves.
I am also involved in a bill before the National Assembly to update the IP Law particularly the trademark act. Unfortunately, our laws are very archaic and outdated, our trademark act is a replica of maybe 1939 act of the UK. Throughout my career I was among the people advocating for a change and improvement in our laws that allow us to practice IP in line with the international best practices. I think it is an ongoing thing, the little I have done has made some impact; we are hopeful that in the future we will be able to say that we have made a very robust IP policy for the country which is publicised and the public is sensitised and everybody knows what their rights are.
You said parents usually influence their children in choosing careers.
Did your father make any input in your choice of career? Just the other day in my house, I was going through some clothes and I found his wig and gown, and it brought tears to my eyes.
My father, Eugene Aligweke, is late and I found his wig and gown. When my elder brother was sorting out some of my dad’s things, he thought that since I am the only lawyer in father’s family I should have the wig and gown.
He gave them to me and you know that is what lawyers wear in court. So, I found them in my house the other day and it brought tears to my eyes. I loved my father and I know he loved me too. He had a great influence in my life, he was such an upright man, and he believed in honesty. He had integrity. We didn’t have money when we were growing up but we had love, we had the fear of God, and those were the types of value we had growing up. In everything you do tell the truth, know your are valuable, know you can make a difference; these were the traits, that I think I took from him in this journey called life.
So, yes he was a huge influence to me. When I was a young lawyer, learning to become a lawyer in law school and even when I started work, I always referred to him to seek his opinions and he was always happy to provide them.
Chic bridal hairstyles
The month November is usually filled with many wedding celebrations.
If you and your spouse have concluded arrangement to celebrate your day anytime from now then you don’t need to settle for basics when it comes to your hairdo because you will be the centre of atten- tion and many of your invited guests will be interested in your hairstyle, so ensure you do something out of usual.
Classic up-do bridal hairstyle is too boring for modern brides, whether you’re getting married or acting as a bridesmaid at a wedding this month, Saturday Telegraph has got some per- fect wedding hairstyles for you to choose from so that looking back on wedding photographs in the distant future does not make you cringe.
Milk kitchen: The story of wet nursing
‘I felt so honoured to have given him his first decent feed as a new born
Wet-nursing, was, in recent past an essential practice that allowed for infant survival after many mothers died in childbirth. Some medical conditions also prevented a number of mothers from breastfeeding their babies at birth. In this report, ISIOMA MADIKE, takes a historical tour of this exercise that was the norm in many government hospitals in the past
Nigerians seldom hear about wet nursing these days — but it’s still happening around the world. Wet nursing (or milk sharing) became a talking point after a Queensland mother posted a photo of herself breastfeeding her nephew on the Facebook page for her blog, The Milk Meg, sometimes in 2016. “My gorgeous little nephew!” wrote mother of three, Meg Nagle, who is a lactation consultant. “While my sister was at work today I tried to give him a bottle of her expressed milk a few times (which he wouldn’t take). I could see he was tired so I popped him on the boob and voila, he was asleep in minutes.”
Her post triggered a discussion about breastfeeding someone else’s baby, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, with many women sharing their own wet nursing stories. With medical evidence pointing overwhelmingly to the health benefits of breast milk, wet nursing found a niche among women who, for medical reasons, can’t nurse. Back home in Nigeria, this reporter encountered a retired Matron, Mrs Abike Balogun, who claimed to have practiced as a wet nurse at some point in her over 30 years sojourn in nursing. It started informally, she told this reporter, before “I was co-opted into it professionally.” Balogun said: “My sister gave birth to my beautiful nephew at the time.
She was exhausted in hospital and he wasn’t quite lactating, and she actually asked me to ‘please feed him’. I felt so honoured to have given him his first decent feed as a new born and to help my poor sister get some much needed rest. It was a wonderful experience I’d not forget in a hurry.”
Balogun later nursed seven other kids, after she related her experience to some of her nursing colleagues. “While I was narrating my experience and how excited I was to have done that, little did I know that I was into something big. In what looked like a coincidence, there was a woman who just gave birth in the hospital I was working and was not lactating. So, when the Chief Medical Director heard of my story, he summoned me to his office and thereafter pleaded with me to help breastfeed the child whose mother was in distress.
“The woman in question also had a medical condition she was battling with and had to be kept in the hospital longer that she should have. Within the period I took over the duty of a mother as I breastfed the baby as if he was mine. Many who were in the hospital didn’t know what was happening. We had to do it in such a way that the woman would not feel humiliated.
“The baby was perfectly healthy, and the mother didn’t have milk but even if she had, she would not have been allowed to breastfeed him. I was weaning my daughter, Bola, but I still had a lot of milk that I was pumping, so I breastfed the baby like I would my own child. Although I wasn’t under any pressure as I could not imagine having to force my child to wean, and I wouldn’t advise any other mother to feel under pressure to do that. “I just needed to help out as I assumed the role of a professional wet nurse, even though I was not trained as one.
Till date I cannot say if people still train as wet nurses. My view of wet nursing is that it feels right and is a natural important thing for the child.” And because of the manner Balogun handled the assignment of helping to breastfeed that particular child, the CMD commissioned her to take up the assignment, with a remuneration attached to it whenever the need arose.
She had stopped child bearing at the time but still lactate unbelievably. She accepted the challenge without qualms. “I saw it as a special calling and I did it with joy. After my first experience, I went on to help breastfeed about seven other ‘unknown’ kids, of which I was paid handsomely.
As a trained nurse we see a lot of women with different challenges, most of them, with sever medical conditions. So, naturally, you are left with no option but to lend a helping hand at that point. However you feel about wet nursing, it’s difficult to argue against the benefits of feeding an infant in the most natural way possible,” Balogun said.
Incidentally, some of the younger women in the nursing profession in the country have confessed they have not come across a wet nurse before. For those who admitted the existence, they claimed it only happened in the past, but not anymore. One of such nurses at the General Hospital, Orile-Agege, Lagos, who identified herself simply as Mosun, told one of our reporters that it used to be a common feature in most big government maternity homes, especially the general hospitals in the cities. She said: “Yes, it existed here in Nigeria, but I doubt if we still have them in our hospitals again. You know things have changed and many of the old good practices have gone with the initiators. I can tell you that most of our young nurses we have around today may not have an idea what a wet nurse is all about.
“Those days, for one reason or the other, some mothers don’t lactate, especially young mothers. There are also those who may have some health challenges that could prevent them from breastfeeding their babies. In other instance, some nurses are seconded to breastfeed babies that their mothers died during childbirth. In such situations, these specially trained nurses, come in handy. Apart from the fact that they lactate easily, they are also helped with some drugs to enable them to do that effectively. “Of course they must have been screened to make sure they too have no diseases that could harm the newborns.
The government employed, paid and put them on a special scale to encourage people to take up the job. Even at that, most people do not know that such nurses exist in such hospitals. It’s only those in need that were aware of such special nurses. Breastfeeding someone else’s baby was unthinkable for mothers at the time. Incredibly, despite the health risks, it’s secretly making a comeback.”
“One reason why it’s no longer in vogue may be the fact that most mother nowadays prefer formulas despite the fact that government hospitals try to discourage that to promote exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of birth. But how do you regulate those that patronise private hospitals?” Another nurse at the popular Ayinke maternity at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, who only preferred to be addressed as Olawunmi, appears not to be aware of the existence of wet nursing in Nigeria. Although she has an idea of what wet nursing is but said that the country is yet to graduate to that level.
“I don’t think we have graduated to that level in Nigeria. The wet nurses help to breastfeed other people’s babies, especially if their mothers are dead or can’t produce milk on their own. It’s possible they are specially trained for that; I don’t think I’m sure of that; essentially their duty is to breastfeed babies that their mothers are dead or can’t lactate,” she said. Another Matron in County Hospital, Aguda-Ogba, Lagos, who equally plead-ed not to be identified, said: “We don’t have such training in nursing, mostly in Nigeria; you can only find such probably in other civilised climes.
What we do here is that once the woman dies the grandmother can wash her breast to feed the baby or if there is no one to feed the baby we suggest formulas and water in order to sustain the child. Though I have heard people refer to such practice as wet nursing abroad.” Also, the President, Nigerian Association of Nurses and Midwives, AbdulRafiu Adeniji, said: “It is only professional nurses that I know about in the country. I don’t know about wet nurses. The work of a professional nurse is all encompassing. But what we have that is related to that is paediatric nursing; wet nursing is not yet a registered profession in Nigeria. Although as a nurse, you are a surrogate mother; you take credit of infants and the elderly from nonage to the grave. “As a professional nurse you should be able to work in all areas but we have what we call paediatric nurses in Nigeria. They have their own specialty.
We have those who deal with infants and those who deal with the special cases like infants born with deformities or with cardiac arrest. “We also have people who are naturally gifted in tending to infants and elderly but in Nigeria the only recognised nursing dealing with infants is paediatric nursing which have a lot of sub-specialisation under them. Wet nursing is not a focus in Nigeria. We only have midwives and paediatric nurses.” Dr. Peter Ogunnubi, a consultant psychiatrist and Chief Executive Officer of Grace Cottage Clinic in Lagos, admitted he has little knowledge about wet nursing in this part of the world.
“Wet nursing is a practice that is popular in more civilised worlds. Though I would not say if they are specially trained but I know because of death of mothers while giving birth and for reasons that the woman is not lactating, that can suffice. “It’s also recommended when the woman has some kind of health challenge which could prevent her from breastfeeding her child.
There are also those who do that informally in which case relatives or grandmothers could be engaged to help breastfeed a child when the need arises. We have such here in Nigeria but it is not so pronounced,” he said. The acceptability or not of the concept of wet nursing may vary from one belief to the other. A professor of Islamic Eschatology, Muslim activist, social commentator and an advocate of dialogue, Ishaq Akintola, for instance, listed the condition under which it could be encouraged.
He said: “If the mother of a new baby suddenly dies, a wet nurse can assist in breastfeeding. They are even employed in Arab culture; it was part of their culture in the past to adopt somebody to breastfeed their children. Any area of humanitarian support is approved and supported by Islam.” Chief Olorunwa Ayekonilogbon, the priest of Ifa deity, also believes wet nursing to be to part of the African tradition. “This is not something new to us as Africans.
Whenever a mother dies while giving birth, the child will automatically be given to another woman to nurse, but it’s usually close relatives. I believe this is what is now being referred to as wet nursing,” Ayekonilogbon said. Wet-nursing, the practice of a woman feeding an infant that is not biologically her child her breast, was a practical way to provide nutrition for newborns. Research has shown that breastfed children enjoy lifelong health benefits – they have higher IQs, get sick less, are not likely to be obese and not likely to develop allergies, diabetes and heart disease in later life.
This may be the reason why pressure has mounted on new mothers to put down the bottle. Breastfeeding, according to medical experts, provides infants with protection from dehydration and minimised exposure to contaminated food and thus becomes essential for their survival.
The ideal wet nurse is one who is able to produce the best nutrition for an infant, based on specific characteristics. She must be unmarried, and should not have sexual intercourse and/or become pregnant (both of which will lower the qualities of her milk).
They should also only breastfeed one child at a time. Additionally, a wet nurse must be on a regulated diet so her milk will not become unsuitable for the child. However, doctors usually caution that such nurses should be in good health so there is no transmission of infection through breast milk.
To ensure the safety of the child, doctors advise screening mothers for viruses such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C. Even at that, they have over time harped on the fact that lactation has a direct beneficial effect on the infant in that it promotes its growth and normal development and confers protection against various infantile diseases, especially infections.
In some civilisations wet nursing occurred mainly on a casual basis where lactating relatives or neighbours fed another child along with (tandem lactation), or after weaning their own infant. In others words it was a highly organised practice among certain classes of the population. Unlike the rich however, poor families are usually not able to afford the services of a wet nurse as it often does not come cheap. It was not until 1928 that the first unit for infants was opened with a milk kitchen and in-house wet nurses. Like infant mortality, maternal mortality was very high in ancient Egypt.
The subsequent reliance on wet nurses to provide nutrition for orphaned infants increased and wet nurses were promoted to the level of worship. A social distinction between classes, emphasised by the use of wet nurses, is first recorded in this time period, as royalty primarily used wet nurses to feed their infants.
Immediately after a queen gave birth, her infant was given to the wet nurse, who then breastfed the newborn. Royal wet nurses were carefully selected, highly respected and are shown on guest lists at events. During the Middle Ages also, wet nursing continued to serve as an indicator of social class, and many of them were slaves or ex-slaves.
In Western Europe, wealthy and noble families often employed wet nurses because breastfeeding was inconvenient and women could regain their fertility. The profession re-emerged as desirable in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries when noble and upper-class women hired wet nurses to feed their infants.
They subsequently became highly respected, well paid and received both food and lodging for their services. Even at that, it only happened in rare cases, if the mother died in childbirth or was unable to breastfeed. However, defects in the child’s disposition were often attributed to the practice.
•Additional reports from Tosin Makanjuola, Olamide Solana and Okiki Craig
LAMENTATION OF FIREFIGHTERS
‘I shall be making a donation of three fire trucks to avert reccurrences’
It appears we are in a spell of fire despite the daily rains that have defied normal season. Within a short space of time, hell had let loose in major cities across the country, as incidents of fire outbreaks continued to wreck havocs. However these happenings have somewhat exposed the dearth of firefighting equipment in most fire service stations. ISIOMA MADIKE reports
The old-school rap song is famous for the chant, “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don’t need no water, let the mother f–ker burn.”
This chant has been used in movies, dance competitions and live shows by various funk or rap artistes. Of late, it has become the new anthem across the Nigerian landscape as news merchants struggle to outdo one another with screaming headlines of fire incidents.
A day after fire ignited by a fallen tanker killed at least three persons in Onitsha another fuel tanker also fell and caught fire in the commercial city of Anambra State.
The incident occurred on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway around 3 a.m. according to eyewitnesses. In the two incidents, lives as well as property valued in billions of naira were report edly lost. There have been similar incidents around the popular Otedola Bridge on the Ibadan-Lagos Expressway where, on a number of times, tankers fully loaded with petroleum products fell, leaked and exploded. It’s been the same harrowing experience across the country with firefighters doing little, according to opinions, to salvage anything from the flames.
When the first Onitsha Market fire incident occurred, the Anambra State Fire Service reportedly failed to show up with their firefighting equipment. It took the gallantry of the Delta State Fire Service to lend a helping hand. The help however, came a little too late with what many had laboured for years gone with the flames.
However, the unfortunate incidents have continued to elicit reactions from across Nigeria. For instance, the senator representing Anambra North District, Stella Oduah, in a statement, reportedly said she would donate three fire trucks to help in firefighting in the state.
She had said: “Sequel to my earlier statement where I promised to look into ways of ameliorating the plight of victims in the fuel tanker inferno, I shall be making a donation of three fire trucks to the Federal Fire Service in Onitsha to ensure they are better equipped to avert a recurrence like this.”
Oduah’s pronouncement, according to opinions, only highlighted the dearth of firefighting equipment in most cities across Nigeria where they are most needed. Awka Determined to improve the performance of the fire service in the state, Anambra State government has said it will employ at least 120 personnel to beef up the staff strength in the service.
It also stated that the state fire service, which is currently under the Ministry of Public Utilities, would become a parastatal known as Anambra State Fire Agency, directly under the office of the governor.
According to the fire Chief/Director, Anambra Fire Service, Engineer Agbili Martins, who spoke to Saturday Telegraph, the body will no longer be answerable to the Ministry of Public Utilities but the office of the governor. “Before, we did not have direct link with the governor, but through the ministry of public utilities. “Now, we are under the governor’s office and this, according to the governor, is for efficiency and optimal productivity.
The governor has also approved the recruitment of at least 120 personnel who will be trained to become firefighters and they would after their training deployed to the various fire stations in the state.” Agbili noted that refreshers training would soon commence for staff of the agency in order to inject new impetus on service delivery and productivity in the department.
He said that some firefighting trucks in the agency that are in various states of disrepair were currently being refurbished for rapid responds to distress calls at any given time.
He however explained that the largest firefighting tanker that came to render service on that fateful day in Onitsha had problems, adding that even the staff of Delta State fire service that came to assist were attacked by the angry mob who also stoned men and officers of the Anambra fire Agency.
“They were attacking them and there was nothing we could do in that situation. When you look at the distance from Upper-Iweka to Ochanja Market you will agree with me that had it been that the mob allowed us to do our job the extent of damage would have been reduced greatly and it wouldn’t have got to Ochanja.
“Even when our colleagues from Asaba came to join us, the mob did not allow them to come in because they were chased away with stones.” Incidentally, the governor was silent on the dearth of the equipment, which many highlighted as the major reason why the Onitsha incident got out of hand. Abia The Zonal Commander, Aba Zone of Abia State Fire Service, Okezie Uche, has also said that the state fire service will not run away from its duties of extinguishing fire should such situation present itself.
Uche, who was reacting to question from one of our reporters, called for more support on the area of equipment and staff discipline. He said that Aba Zonal Command covered nine local government areas out of the 17 LGAs in Abia State. “I’ll say that if there’s fire outbreak, we’ll not just relax.
We’ll surely do our best because it’s our duty to do so. You can see what hap- pened in Anambra, I may say that lack of equipment inhibited the firefighters there from doing what was needful. “In my command, what we do most here is improvised method. Anywhere we go to and we notice situations that are technically beyond our control as a result of lack of equipment like Breathing Apparatus (BA), we’ll use our initiative. However, if we have fire outbreak in high rising buildings like in four-storey edifice, honestly, there’s nothing much we can do because we don’t have high rising turn table appliances like crane.
“In our station right now, there’s no electricity for over two years. We have hydrant which is our main source of water. Look at it there, but we don’t have light to pump anything here. The Electricity Distribution Company cut off our light because they said we owe them about N500, 000. “Here in this zone we have two fire engines. The bigger one is called Water Tender while the other one is called Fire Truck. The Fire Tender contains 24,000 gallons of water while the Fire Truck contains 1,000 gallons of water.
But if there’s a big fire outbreak and we turn out with the 1,000 gallons capacity fire truck, there’s nothing much we can do. The truth is that the big Fire Tender needs serious repair because it’s not functioning properly. If possible, a new one will help make things better. We are already entering the dry season and our work become more crucial. ”However, the state Assembly has passed a bill that will give us autonomy and make us function better. It will put everything about us including allowances in place.
Our staff strength is 17, we cover nine LGAs and it is weighing us down. Aside that there’s a big problem of sabotage within us here; as you can see, out of every normal staff that ought to be on morning duty, only one is here and do you know why?” Ibadan Meanwhile, the Deputy Director, Fire Service, Oyo State, Adewuyi Moshood, has admitted that the state fire service has acute shortage of equipment as well as acute shortage of manpower. He also acknowledged that fire service throughout the country, which is so significant, is poorly funded.
This was extensively discussed during our conference in Kwara State in August this year, he added. Moshood said: “The state governments are to care for the welfare of fire service across the country because it falls under Concurrent List. It is the state government that funds and legislates on fire service across the country. So, for that humble reason, these are some of the challenges we have.”
On the question of funding of the Service, he said: “Actually, there used to be budget allocation for fire service every year, but the funds are usually not accessible. This is one of the factors crippling the performances of the fire service generally, especially in Oyo State. A situation where an emergency responder does not have access to new equipment, what can he do? You can’t imagine the deplorable condition of our equipment now. Those we have now were purchased in 2009 or 2010.
“Also, if there is any other disaster apart from fire incident, it is still the firefighters that will be called. And there is special equipment for this, but I doubt if there is any state that can boast of the equipment to take care of such disaster like flooding. If this occurs or there are any related disasters, it is the fire service they would call on. This is forcing fire service personnel to be using initiatives and experience to carry out their performances. These are the conditions in which we find ourselves. “On the issue of welfare package, it is very pathetic.
This is because as I am talking to you, we are on it. But you know we have a new government in Oyo State. The new governor, Seyi Makinde, is adequately attending to our problems. “I can tell you and I can confirm categorically that in the last three dispensations, this will be the second time that a governor will visit the fire service office, because Makinde visited us recently to see things for himself. He was conducted round the premises, and he saw the deplorable condition our equipment are, and promised to find a lasting solution to it.” Lagos Unlike some of the above experiences, Lagos State, in the estimation of many had done fairly well in rapid response to fire incidents in recent times.
The state officials had been proactive also in many instances as they often go on enlightenment tour of various segments in the state to educate both individuals and corporate organisations. The state equally has 16 sub-stations across the state strategically positioned in highly risky areas and in places where many will be able to access the services whenever there is the need to do so.
Although officials of the state fire service were not forthcoming with necessary information when this reporter sought to speak with them on the issue, a senior official who pleaded not to be quoted told Saturday Telegraph that the state government had placed high premium to issues of safety. “You can see the equipment we have on ground here (head office), they are world class. We also have well trained personnel who perform their duties professionally.
Without sounding immodest, I can say that we are capable of competing with our counterparts anywhere in the world. “To make sure everyone is able to access our services, the government strategically positioned similar equipment in 16 other locations across the state.
When you go to those stations, you will be impressed with what you will find on ground. We also have enlightenment programmes to educate the populace because we do not only take delight in responding to fire incidents but to make sure we curtail the occurrence as it is cheaper to do so,” she said. At the Federal Fire Service centre at Ojuelegba, no official was equally willing to grant this reporter audience in spite of his repeated efforts to get them to speak on the issue.
However, this reporter sighted only one firefighting lorry parked in the vast compound, which did not look like it’s functional. In January, the state fire service had raised the alarm over the frequent fire outbreaks in the state, which it attributed to high level of unconsciousness in the handling of fire and other flammable materials as major causes.
The fire service said it recorded over 119 fire incidents across Lagos State. The then Acting Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaki Musibau, who made this known at Alausa, Ikeja, lamented that valuables worth millions and preventable lives were been lost daily to avoidable fire outbreaks. The former fire chief recalled that the directorate received nothing less than 17 fire emergencies weekly, which he said called for concern as a responsible and responsive government that placed safety of its citizenry at premium.
According to him, 11 rescue and eight false calls were received accordingly. Rasaki said that if not for the act of professionalism and tactics employed by the firefighters at scenes of the incidents across the state, the so-called small fires would have escalated and become a disaster.
“Fire outbreaks in the state have become a perennial problem, with many reported cases, which in no doubt pose serious threat to national economy and further leave enormous material damage, injury to persons and disruption of economic and social life. “Some of the fire cases are mostly caused by negligence on the part of those who use it, hence the need to prioritise the management and prevention of fire in our environment in order to avoid destruction of lives and properties” Rasaki said.
He noted that the fire officers as first responder to emergency and incident management had been empowered and equipped to tackle any form of natural and man-made incident across the state and further appealed to Lagosians to get familiar with the emergency toll free numbers 767/112.
Owerri Imo State has also said there is no cause for alarm as it has the fire power to fight fire in the state. Before his 100 days in office, Governor Emeka Ihedioha, had overhauled and upgraded the fire service in the state. The Director, Imo State Fire Service, Japheth Okereafor, said: “What we have here now were not set up or acquired overnight because of the Onitsha fire incident but because the new governor came with a ready plan for the fire service in Imo State.”
Okereafor maintained that his men were now very motivated to tackle any fire emergency unlike what was obtainable in the past. He added that with the coming of the new administration, all the zones – Owerri, Orlu, and Okigwe – now have functional fire engines to combat any fire emergency in their region.
He said: “As you can see, here in the head office, I have three sound fire engines and one in the Government House; I also have one in Okigwe and one in Orlu with ready men on ground. I must also add that the fire service was literally grounded for the most part of the Rochas Okorocha administration and nobody cared about it. Sokoto In Sokoto, the state government has ensured that the state fire service is fully equipped and provided with all necessary arrangements and Information Technology materials required for effective disaster control. “Apart from 18 firefighting vehicles at the headquarters and numerous backup vans, 23 local governments in the state were provided with one firefighting vehicle each,” the DG said.
With the establishment of the Zonal Federal Fire office in the state recently, Governor Aminu Tambuwal allocated a land for the construction of the zonal office in Sokoto.
This, Saturday Telegraph gathered, will complement the state fire service, which has over 18 functional firefighting vehicles and 13 operational fire stations equipped with modern firefighting tools within state metropolis. The present administration also bought 10 new vehicles, refurbished the existing ones, and constructed eight fire stations in addition to drilling two boreholes and provided two water tankers as back-up to facilitate the agency’s activities. The government has equally maintained the prompt supply of chemicals used in putting out fires as well as the provision of rain boots and jackets. This is in addition to the over 142 workers whose salaries are being paid regularly even as they are made to enjoy shift and hazard allowances. But like the famed Oliver Twist, some employees are appealing to the state government to provide the organisation with an ambulance to complement its services to victims without waiting for responses from hospitals which usually delay emergency services. They also appealed to the organisation to embark on sending them to rigorous training that will bring them up-to-date with modern techniques of firefighting.
Asaba The firefighting response of the Delta State government has been adjudged as one of the best in Nigeria. While the state government had acquired modern day equipment to tackle the menace of fire outbreak, the firefighting facility at the budding Asaba International Airport, has greatly boosted prowess of the state. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa recently commissioned two firefighting trucks procured by Federal Fire Service for its ‘Zone K’ Headquarters that is based in Asaba, the state capital, which is expected to covers Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states, and complements the state’s fire service. Liman has hailed the strength and quality of firefighters in the state during the commissioning and harped on the preparedness status of firefighting mobile and fixed assets.
The state Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, said that fire outbreaks had been prevented, adding that goods and that property worth billions of naira had secured from being gutted by fire. This, he attributed to the improved welfare package, training and retraining of workers and the procurement of necessary equipment to boost their morale for prompt responses to distress calls. He said: “That explains why our neighbouring Anambra State sought assistance from Delta State when it was recently faced with the challenge of petrol tanker fire outbreak, which sympathetically consumed marketplaces in Onitsha before it was curtailed.” Yenagoa Also, the Bayelsa State Fire Service has stepped up its services to the people of the state with new firefighting equipment readily available at the office premises to curb any fire incident that may occur. A visit to the office on Thursday at the Ovom area of Yenagoa showed a lot of water tankers and other equipment displayed with some ready staff available.
According to the Director of state Fire Service, Koko Agbodo, the state government has continuously tried to improve on the challenges facing the fire service in the state. He said: “The zonal office for the Federal Fire Service is in Port Harcourt. I’m sure you have not come here before. “If you have, you will know that I don’t talk to press. As a civil servant, I have the constraint of speaking with the press. I refer them to my ministry; the Ministry of Local Government Administration. But at the same time if there is a fire outbreak and journalists get me there, I used to answer their questions like the cause of the fire and other questions.
“Besides, any other information, I refer them to the ministry, although there is tremendous improvement. We are trying.” Meanwhile, the Federal Fire Service said it had established six additional zonal offices to boost service delivery across the country. Liman Ibrahim, its Comptroller-General, announced this at a press briefing in Abuja in September, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). He had said: “The essence of the spread is to deliver quality firefighting services, improve the response time to emergencies and complement efforts of the state fire services. When I came, we had presence only in Abuja, Lagos and the six geo-political zones. We believe that the new zones will widen our reach and strengthen us to do more.”
He listed the zones to include Zone G, with headquarters in Minna, which is expected to cater for Niger, Kogi and Kwara, while Zone H, with headquarters in Sokoto, will cater for Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi. Others included Zone I with headquarters in Yola, to cater for Adamawa, Taraba and Gombe, while Zone J, with headquarters in Owerri, will cater for Abia and Imo. Zone K, expected to cover Delta, Edo and Bayelsa, with headquarters in Asaba, while Zone L, with headquarters in Osogbo, will cater for Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states. Ibrahim said that the zonal headquarters would be equipped with firefighting trucks while experienced firemen would be deployed to man them.
He said that the Federal Government was focused on strengthening the state fire services for effectiveness and efficiency, adding that the FFS was already reaching out to state governors to secure their support and encouragement. “I want to believe that a strengthened state fire service complemented by our presence in the zones will go a long way in addressing the gaps in fire service delivery across the country. We have also received approval for the establishment of additional five fire service training schools, which will soon take off. They are to be located in Maiduguri, Calabar, Ilorin, Katsina and Umuahia.” Additional reports from Steve Uzoechi (Owerri), Emmanuel Ifeanyi (Aba), Okey Maduforo (Awka), Danladi Umar (Sokoto), Sola Adeyemo (Ibadan), Dominic Adewole (Asaba) and Pauline Onyibe (Yenagoa).
A woman’s hair is her crown and beauty –Hair boss
Linda Akachukwu Paul porpularly known as Hair Prof is the CEO of PDF Hair and Accessories; she spoke with DEBORAH OCHENI about her fashion philosophy, how making customers friends has helped in improving her sales, the lucrative nature of hair business in Nigeria and sundry issues
What is your personal style?
I love to keep it simple and comfortable. I love dresses made with our local fabric popularly known as ankara. The ankara materials have very beautiful and vibrant colours. On a regular day, I love my jeans and t-shirt.
What is your take on African wears?
African attires are unique. They represent our culture and identity and to let go of them will be like discarding our own culture. It is necessary to hold on to them if we wish to preserve our traditions. If we are not going to promote our customs then nobody will, and it is likely that they will become extinct. I love wearing them. They are beautiful. Our local prints are never going to go out of style.
Tell us the trending hair style
Anything wig is a hot deal now. We have varieties of them. Braided wigs, Human hair wigs, Synthetic and others. A lot of people go for wigs now because of its convenience
Why should style lovers invest in quality hair?
Anything quality stands the test of time. It saves cost because it is reusable. You can always revamp a good hair to create different styles.
Do you consider any fashion item indispensable?
For me, my hair extensions are indispensable.
While shopping, which fashion item catches your fancy?
I can’t take my eyes off a good hair, wristwatch and handbag.
Which fashion accessory do you live for?
Human Hair extensions. A woman’s hair is her crown and beauty.
Do you conform to trend? Which fashion trends do you love most?
I don’t follow trends. I create my style and it doesn’t have to be expensive or in vogue as long as I’m comfortable in them. That way I stand out. I love long dresses and I create the perfect style for my body. I love the way our Nigerian designers have taken our local ankara fabric to another level. Creating different and unique styles with them. With what is obtainable here now, you don’t even need the so-called designers to look great
Fashion wise, do you have a role model?
No. I don’t have a fashion role model.
Is there anything you’re unlikely to be caught wearing?
I admire and respect people who dress decently. You are never going to see me wear any- thing revealing, waist beads and ankle chain. I equally will not have a tattoo or pierce my body.
What is your ready to go outfits?
A pair of jeans and t-shirt
When it comes to fashion, would you say your physique works for you?
Yes it does. And that’s why I like to create my style and what suits me. You can’t be a plus size and go for a crop top or body con dress.
Which outfits take up most space in your wardrobe?
Jeans, t-shirts, blouses and long dresses. I feel comfortable in them. They occupy 80% of my wardrobe.
What is your costliest fashion possession?
How much did you get it? My gold jewellery. I love them because they appreciate in value. They are gifts from my husband on different occasions. I don’t know how much it cost him. But, going by the weight and market value of gold, I know they are costly.
How do you love your shoes?
I wear high heel shoes. Be it sandals or slippers, I love them with heels. I walk comfortably in them. I also wear flat occasionally like my sneakers. It all depends on my outfit for the day.
What determine what you wear?
It could be the occasion or activities I have for the day, weather or just my mood.
What do you think of modern designers?
The fashion industry is becoming saturated with lots of young modern designers. Their creativity is phenomenal. I follow a lot of them on Instagram and I’m happy to see young people carve a niche in the fashion industry successfully by their unique styles and designs.
Do you have a signature perfume?
I wear a combination of “Sì” by Giorgio Armani and “Lady Million” by Pacorabanne.
How do you love your hairdo and make-up.?
I love my makeup subtle. I freestyle my hair. I could just let it fall on my shoulders or pull it all back.
What was growing up like?
I grew up in Enugu with my siblings. I’m the second child and the first daughter of my parents. My parents are disciplinarians who wouldn’t spare the rod and spoil the child. As a teenager I enjoyed working in my father’s printing press when I’m home for holidays. He treated me like one of his employees and that made me responsible and hardworking. My mum multitasked as a university lecturer, hair dresser and baker. I guess her hair dressing trait rubbed off on me. I’ll say growing up was fun with lots of beautiful childhood memories
How lucrative is hair business and the level of patronage in Nigeria as compared to foreign countries?
Hair business is a viable and lucrative business in Nigeria. Most women today take extra measure to look good and are willing to spend even their last money to achieve this. One of the elements of a woman’s beauty is her hair. To achieve good looks, women make their hair with all types of hair extension and they do it almost every week. The demand for hair extension in the Nigerian markets is sky-rocketing every day.
Hair business in Nigeria most especially Lagos seems saturated, how do you intend to keep afloat?
Integrity is key in every business; I don’t compromise on quality while ensuring I give reasonable price. I make my customers loyal by giving incentives on products purchased. These sometimes come as gifts or huge discounts on products bought depending on the quantity. I recently started something I call “Pdf Bomb Sales”. During the sales period, customers get the opportunity to buy hairs at wholesale prices no matter the quantity. We have done two of the sales this year and will be rounding up the year with the “Mega Xmas Bomb Sales” coming up on the 23rd of November. I go beyond the business transaction to build a relationship with my customers. In that regard a lot of my customers have over time become great friends.
Who are your popular clients?
They are mostly my followers on social media. Students, working class ladies and boss ladies.
Would you say you are satisfied with your choice of business?
Very satisfied. I love what I do. I love working on hairs – colouring, styling, making wigs etc.
What is the major challenge boss ladies face?
Boss ladies work round the clock to remain on top. Also having to balance work and home for married ladies.
What is your advice to those who wish to attain the height that you are now?
Never give up and be passionate about what you do. There may be tough times, but the difficulties which you face will make you more determined to achieve your objectives and to win against all the odds.
DEPRESSION: THE IGNORANCE, THE STIGMA
It’s mental illness, nothing to be ashamed of – Gureje, professor of psychiatry
Many people, including medical experts, seem to agree on depression as the possible cause of most suicide incidents. Hopelessness, feelings of guilt, loss of interest, insomnia, and low self-esteem are some of the most popular symptoms of depression. And while effective prevention and treatment of such mood disorders have been known to reduce the scourge, however, ignorance and stigmatisation often prevents depressed patients from accessing needed treatment, especially in this part of the world. Yet, two renowned Ifa priests, perhaps unsurprisingly, maintain a different stance from the arguments canvassed by orthodox experts. ISIOMA MADIKE, in this report, aggregates these opinions.
Suicide seems to be rampant these days among Nigerians, especially students of higher institutions across the federation. It cuts across sex, religion and ethnicity. For instance, a student of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Faculty of Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, identified simply as Kolapo was said to have ended his life abruptly on Sunday when many were celebrating Easter. According to a source, Kolapo took his life after he repeatedly failed some courses. Saturday Telegraph learnt that Kolapo had battled frustration and depression over courses he borrowed and failed from both the departments of Civil Engineering and Computer Science.
The source, who is a student of the institution, said some of his close friends claimed they had, on many occasions approached him for counseling anytime he was worried, but he usually hesitated to corporate with them. “They had always lent him a helping hand by telling him never to give up,” the source said, adding, “He was an executive in his department association. Kolapo was supposed to have graduated with the 2016/2017 session, but for the failed courses.”
Another, known only as Ige, a 400-level Law student of the same institution also committed suicide at his residence outside the campus of the university, according to reports, few days after his lover allegedly broke up with him. It was authoritatively gathered that Ige, said to be above average academically by his colleagues, was found dead in his apartment at Asherifa area, a stone’s throw from the campus, not too long ago. His suicide note, reads in part: “Father, while reading this message, I would have been gone” before he allegedly ingested some substance later discovered to be poison. He was said to be a member of the Christ Apostolic Church Fellowship on campus and had met the lady who was said to have financed his education for over eight months of their relationship before the bubble burst. The lady, also a member of the same fellowship, was said to have broken up with Ige because of his poor background and could no longer cope with him.
This development, according to reports, subjected him to emotional trauma. He was said to have threatened that he would commit suicide should his lover remain adamant on her decision before he finally took his life. Ige was described by some students as a person who lived a lonely life. Before then, a 16-year-old 100-level student of Microbiology at the same school, identified only as Mercy, had killed herself. According to Premium Times report, Mercy allegedly took ‘Sniper’ days after she wrote on Facebook that she wanted to see God’s face and speak with him face to face. Her fellow students and a neighbour, according to the report, revealed that Mercy killed herself due to poor grade. One of her neighbours, which the report quoted, said she died after she took “rat poison mixed with battery extract.”
She lived off-campus at Sabo area of Ile-Ife, at the time of her death. She was said to have died of “emotional pressure” after she had ‘E’ in CHM 101 (Chemistry for first year students), a reportedly dreaded course for year one students in the science and technology-related faculties. One of her friends said: “Mercy often isolated herself in class and looked depressed. She told me she had ‘E’ in CHM101 and was going around unhappy before the incident.” In what is fast becoming a fad among students of higher learning in Nigeria, Niyi, who was studying microbiology from the University of Lagos, allegedly committed suicide also because he had failed some of his courses in 2018. His was said to be the second time a student from the department of microbiology in UNILAG committed suicide in a space of three years. Niyi’s sudden death came some weeks after another final year B. Agric student of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Abia State, was found dead in his room.
He was said to have committed suicide by hanging. From Abia to Nsukka where another final year student killed himself in 2016, it’s been harvest of suicides for Nigerian students. The final year student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was studying Agric Economics before he took his life. But this time around, the young man reportedly killed himself over a debt. Some reports speculated that he may have lost some money to betting. There was also a student of the Niger Delta University in Bayelsa State, identified simply as Daniel, who was said to have died after reportedly drinking Sniper (a deadly insecticide) upon discovering that he had about four carryovers. Daniel was rushed to the Tantua Hospital, Amassoma, according to reports, where it was realised that he had drank the whole bottle.
At that point, all efforts to save him, proved ineffective. His sister, identified only as Deborah, later took to her Facebook page to pay tribute to her brother. She wrote: “What a painful exit. That you’re no longer here will always cause me pain but you’re forever in my heart.” Also in 2016, a young student decided to end his life after he reportedly failed the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). The unidentified young man could not live with the fact that he could not make the cut off marks in the examinations and felt the only way out was to end it all. But students are not alone in this suicide missions.
Just recently, a University of Ibadan lecturer allegedly set self-ablaze after resignation. The Kaduna- born lecturer at the department of Mathematics, A.O Subair, reportedly set himself on fire at his resident, Phillipson Road, at the campus. The late lecturer, who tendered his resignation letter without any justifiable reason, had not evacuated his belongings from the staff quarters before deciding to kill himself. It was gathered that he had separated from his family and had challenges progressing in his career.
A member of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UI chapter, described the incident as pathetic while urging others to always confide in one another. He added that isolation could deepen depression. In January, an unidentified middleaged man was equally found hanging from a tree on Catholic Mission Road, opposite the Court of Appeal on Lagos Island. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), which reported the incident, said the man, clad in Ankara native attire, was found hanging on a rope which looked like a braided long scarf, tied to a fruit tree.
NAN correspondent, who was at the scene of the suspected suicide, reported that the episode drew the attention of a horde of people, who stood in groups chatting and wondering what could have pushed the man to hang himself. A popular Lagos Disc Jockey (DJ) had also committed suicide in the same January. The DJ was said to have deliberately wore white in the photos he attached to his suicide note instead of black because white was his favourite colour. He reportedly took sniper to end his life about six hours after he posted a suicide note on Instagram. He had apologised to his children and mother but did not state the reason for his action in the suicide note. Investigations however, suggested that the DJ had been having marital issues before his untimely death. “My Mum should forgive me for my action; it was a deliberate act,” he wrote.
He also called on his younger siblings to forgive him because he had to do what he did. A 22-year-old Chika similarly committed suicide in Ubaekwem community in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State recently. The deceased of Umuanasa clan, reportedly hung on a family mango tree for yet-to-be ascertained reason. Chika, according to The Nation, was an active youth in the Umuezekwe political ward of Ihiala LGA.
A family member, who preferred anonymity, told The Nation reporter that the act might not be unconnected to spiritual liberation defect due to the recurring suicide incidents that plague the family. The source said: “He was a single unemployed young man who had completed his SSS exams, with the hope to excel in business after schooling. One of his uncles also committed suicide at youthful age decades ago. The family had to subject itself to spiritual cleansing to avert recurrence of the unfortunate incident.” But one suicide that shook the nation to its foundation a few years back was that of Allwell Chiawolamoke Oji.
His tragic death reverberated across Nigeria with many giving suggestions on why the young doctor, who was widely viewed as successful by Nigerian standard, did what he thought was best for him. Incidentally, there has not been any consensus on the possible cause of the act since the incident happened. However, in all the suicide occurrences highlighted above, there seems to be the connecting line of depression, which many are ignorant of and as such lack the needed knowledge to deal with it.
Most people feel sad or depressed at times, according to medical experts, but believe it’s a normal reaction to loss or life’s struggles. Yet, experts said that when intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — lasts for many days to weeks and keeps you from living your life, it may be something more than sadness, at that point, they said, one could have clinical depression –a treatable medical condition.
According to the DSM-5, a manual doctors use to diagnose mental disorders, one have depression when five or more of these symptoms last for at least two weeks: A depressed mood during most of the day, especially in the morning, feeling tired or having a lack of energy almost every day, feeling worthless or guilty almost every day and a hard time focusing, remembering details, and making decisions. Others are sleeplessness or sleeping too much almost every day, having almost no interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day, thinking often about death or suicide (not just a fear of death), feeling restless or slowed down, lost or gained weight. WebMD also shows that sadness, sleeping problems, irritability, and more may be signs to seek help for depression.
It could equally occur when one feels irritable and restless, overeat or stop feeling hungry, have aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment, feeling sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings. While these symptoms are common, not everyone with depression will have the same ones, said Oye Gureje, a Professor of Psychiatry and Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neuroscience, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, University of Ibadan. How severe they are, how often they happen, and how long they last, he said, can vary.
He also said that symptoms may happen in patterns. For example, depression, Gureje said, may come with a change in seasons (a condition formerly called seasonal affective disorder). However, it’s not uncommon for people with depression to have physical signs of the condition, he added. They may include, according to him, joint pain, back pain, digestive problems, sleep trouble, and appetite changes. One might have slowed speech and movements, too.
The reason, the experts said, is that brain chemicals linked to depression, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, play a role in both mood and pain. He said: “Depression may have other specific features, such as anxious distress. That is worrying a lot about things that might happen or about losing control. Another typical feature is when one can feel good after happy events, but also feel hungrier, need to sleep a lot, and are sensitive to rejection. It could also be psychotic in which one believes things that aren’t true, or see and hear things that aren’t there.”
Other experts in the field of psychiatry have listed the symptoms to include sadness, feeling down, having a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. These, they said, are familiar to everyone but that only a few people would see it as mental issue that would require the attention of those trained to deal with such challenges. These, they believe, could affect life substantially, if they persist. In contrast, some Ifa priests, have diffused such insinuations when they said that suicide is mostly caused by evil manipulations and because people often live in denial, solutions have somewhat become essential community with many dying at the times they were not supposed to die.
Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said that 7.6 per cent of people over the age of 12 have depression in any twoweek period. This, according to CDC, is substantial and shows the scale of the issue. To the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide, and the leading cause of disability. They estimate that 350 million people are affected by depression, globally. Gureje said that depression is mental illness, which no one should be ashamed of. He believes that ignorance and stigma attached to mental health are the drivers of the scourge which often leads to suicide. He said: “We live in denial in this part of the world. When people are going through depression, they usually would first want to reject such suggestion, some may even take to prayers instead of seeking medical attention. But again, we attach stigma to mental issues in this clime.
“Imagine seeing someone around where people refer to as ‘Yaba left’, immediately such a person would be termed ‘mad’. Yet, this is one issue that could easily be nipped in the bud if professionals trained to handle such are called in on time. It’s something therapy or medication could solve.” Gureje, who said that depression seems to be more common among women than men, listed other symptoms to include lack of joy and reduced interest in things that used to bring person happiness. He though said that life events, such as bereavement, produce mood changes that can usually be distinguished from the features of depression.
The causes of depression, he further said, are not fully understood but are likely to be a complex combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychosocial factors. Another professor of psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Olayinka Omigbodun, said that diagnosis for depression should start with a consultation from a mental health expert. She defined it as a mood disorder characterised by persistently low mood and a feeling of sadness and loss of interest. “It is a persistent problem, not a passing one, lasting on average 6 to 8 months. Diagnosis of depression starts with a consultation with a doctor or mental health specialist.
It is important to seek the help of a health professional to rule out different causes of depression, ensure an accurate differential diagnosis, and secure safe and effective treatment. “As for most visits to the doctor, there may be a physical examination to check for physical causes and coexisting conditions. Questions will also be asked – ‘taking a history’ – to establish the symptoms, their time course, and so on. Some questionnaires help doctors to assess the severity of depression,” Omigbodun said. The experts however, pointed out that depression is different from the fluctuations in mood that people experience as a part of normal life. “Temporary emotional responses to the challenges of everyday life do not constitute depression.
“Likewise, even the feeling of grief resulting from the death of someone close is not itself depression if it does not persist. Depression can, however, be related to bereavement – when it follows a loss, psychologists call it a ‘complicated bereavement.’ There are other signs and symptoms. For instance, “delayed psychomotor skills, for example, slowed movement and speech fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt impaired ability to think, concentrate, or make decision, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or attempt at suicide are others,” Gureje added. He said that depression is likely to be due to a complex combination of factors that include: Genetics, biological, which are changes in neurotransmitter levels, environmental, psychological and social (psychosocial). Some people, he said, are at higher risk of depression than others with risk factors such as life events: These include bereavement, divorce, work issues, relationships with friends and family, financial problems, medical concerns, or acute stress. It could also be personality in which case those with less successful coping strategies or previous life trauma are more susceptible.
For genetic factors, having firstdegree relatives with depression increases the risk; childhood trauma also. Some prescription drugs, including corticosteroids, beta-blockers, interferon, and other prescription drugs could cause one to be depressed. Also, abuse of recreational drugs, abuse of alcohol, amphetamines, are strongly linked to depression. A past head injury or having had one episode of major depression could also increase the risk of a subsequent one, while chronic pain syndromes and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease make depression more likely.
Counseling or therapy may help a person manage the symptoms of depression. It is a treatable mental illness, experts insist. There are three components to the management of depression: Support, ranging from discussing practical solutions and contributing stresses, to educating family members. There is psychotherapy, also known as talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Another is drug treatment, specifically antidepressants. Suicide, experts said, is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for all ages. Unfortunately, it is difficult to prevent, in large part because the prevalence of risk factors is high among the general population.
This may be the reason Chief Omo-Oba Olorunwa Ayekonilogbon, the priest of Ifa deity, thinks science may never have solution to the issue of suicide. To the Ifa priest, such a theory could just be a smokescreen. Traditionally speaking, he said, only one theory could suffice in this case. Ayekonilogbon said: “It is simple; people are being controlled using an African traditional technique. This is Africa where a lot of happenings cannot be explained by science. There is African science which people use to manipulate the destinies of others. Some use it for good while others use it to cause harm and change destinies. It is called African remote control.
So, when issues like this are in focus, it can only be unlocked through the traditional means. Anything short of that is mere waste of time.” Also, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, another well-known Ifa priest, spoke in a manner that suggests that people could actually be programmed (hypnotized) to do what they were asked to do. Eedi, he explained, is a bad omen in Yoruba land. “It is a great offence for a person to commit suicide; an abomination.
Whoever does that is considered to have brought dishonour to his/her family. Yet, the traditional belief behind suicide is that some people do not just commit the act on their own, but for some mystical interventions.
“However, some people could find themselves in critical and unpleasant situations, and opt for suicide as the last resort instead of living to face the problem. Whenever it happens, proper inquiry is set up, and an Ifa priest is mostly called upon to prescribe atonement to cleanse the city,” he said. Elebuibon nevertheless agreed that it is possible for a person to harm himself or herself without any diabolical undertone. “We live in a world where we all have personal battles. We tend to overcome them each time they arise as a result of our mental strength but sometimes they conquer us. When this happens, a person may consider suicide as his/ her last resort,” the priest told Saturday Telegraph. He said it could be diagnosed through a session of Ifa consultation. When a person consults Ifa, according to him, the past, present and future will be revealed.
“Ifa gives warning about incoming dangers and the priest analyses the root cause of a certain predicament. Signs of hypnotism can range from change in attitude, manner of speaking and so on and only people close to the person can discover this. “However, a person suspected or confirmed to be under hypnotism should seek help immediately as failure will wreak havoc and may eventually lead to awful death of the particular person and many others. Without proper spiritual care, sometimes, the repercussions of some actions can influence a person’s life negatively. Such a person will begin to act under the control of mystical forces,” Elebuibon added. The renowned traditionalist also said there is history of suicide in Ifa mythology and that hypnotism can only be prevented through constant consultation with Ifa for spiritual fortification.
IRT WIDOWS: LIFE WITHOUT OUR HUSBANDS
‘Painful to see my husband’s corpse, less than two hours we spoke’
Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT) are part of an elite squad of the Nigeria Police. Sadly, some of these gallant officers have been killed in the line of duty. Their widows share their challenges with JULIANA FRANCIS.
Mrs. Eniola Sanusi (38), a mother of five children, was braiding a customer’s hair when our reporter got to her residence. Since the demise of her husband, Eniola has taken to plaiting of hair to feed her children. She is a widow of late Inspector Lanre Sanusi, member of the elite IRT Unit. She lives in Muta, Ogun State, where her late husband built a bungalow. Lanre died, leaving two girls and three boys to his young widow.
The first child is a 15-year-old girl. Others are nine, seven, four and five respectively. It’s been over a year that Lanre died, but Eniola is yet to come to terms with the harsh reality of his death.
Her narration of her experience was characterised by bout of tears. She said: “The last time I saw him was on November 5, 2017. It’s been a year and three months now since he died. I vividly recollect sending him a text message on November 8, 2017.
He then called about 6:35am. He told me that some of the criminals, whom he and his colleagues went to pursue, had been arrested. He said that two were still at large. He said that immediately they arrest the fleeing two, he would return home.”
Eniola disclosed that since the death of Lanre, she had come to realise the importance of saving money. She explained that before, she used to work and save, but her husband was always fond of borrowing her savings. He usually promised to refund, but never did. At a point, Lanre asked her to stop working and concentrate on caring for their children. According to Eniola, several times, she and Lanre had discussed about his establishing a business for her, but they had often felt there was enough time to do that. But fate later decreed otherwise.
She said: “The children were growing and I needed to start doing something to support the family. Sometimes, Lanre would leave home, without leaving money; I would then have to start sourcing for what the children would eat. That was why I asked him to establish a business for me. He promised to do that when he returns from that fateful last operation.” Eniola began to suspect something had gone wrong, after she sent series of text messages to Lanre without receiving any response.
She said: “I called his phone, but it was switched off. Whenever he went for operation, he didn’t switch off his phone. I was confused; this was a man I used to call at 12 midnight and he would pick his calls. Most times, I used to call just to tell him to take care of himself, and to be careful. I also used to tell him not to take any reckless chances, and to remember that he has children. I told him that I did not have anyone except him.” Eniola said that right from beginning, she had always been scared of the type of job Lanre did. She had urged him to go back to school to further his studies, so that he could quit police job and get another job. Eniola said: “I don’t like the police job; I don’t like this entire operation thing. Now, can you see me with five children? Only me? I don’t know what to do. “On the day my husband died, our last child was just four-monthold. The child started crying incessantly at 12 midnight. I was restless, I called his phone to tell him that his baby was crying, but it was not reachable.
The following day, I called his father; I asked if his son called him, he said no. His father asked me to get any of his friend’s phone number. “I have the phone number of one of his friends, Babalawo. I sent it to my father-in-law. Babalawo’s number was also not reachable. On Friday, I tried Babalawo’s number again, and it went through. I asked about my husband, he said that my husband had an accident. I asked what sort of accident? Why couldn’t Lanre call to tell me that he had an accident?”
Eniola decided to go to her fatherin- law’s house. When she got there, she was shocked to see crowd of people. Among the crowd were police personnel. A policewoman sighted Eniola and ran to hold her hands in a comforting manner. It was there that she heard the shattering news: “I heard that my husband was dead. Till date, nobody told me how Lanre died. Nothing,” she said weeping. “You know that on issues that have to do with in-laws, you have to be careful. My father-in-law is old.
The money he has is what he uses for feeding himself. It was my husband that used to take care of him. In fact, most members of the family depended on Lanre. Whenever Lanre had money, he thought of his siblings and father first before any other person,” she said. After Lanre died, his children stopped going to school. Eniola could not continue with the payment of the children’s school fees. But Mr Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Lanre’s boss and colleagues came to her rescue. He and other colleagues contributed money and gave it to her. “They assisted me in paying my
children’s school fees. They paid for first and second terms,” recalled Eniola. She said that when Lanre was alive, he bought her a car, which she uses to take the children to school. Lanre bought the car after he realised they were spending too much on school bus. After Lanre died, Eniola’s said in-laws took the car meant for school run and that of Lanre. She said: “I didn’t want trouble. I allowed things to be. In most cases, when a husband dies, the wife becomes the prime suspect, especially if she starts fighting to take possession of his property. I didn’t want that. I kept quiet.” According to Eniola, Lanre’s father sold the two cars and gave some of the proceeds to her and the children for their upkeep. With several mouths to feed and fees to pay, Eniola soon ran out of money. She recounted that sometimes, her father-in-law would send her and the children N1,000 for a month.
And sometimes, he would send N5,000 for three months. In an attempt to make ends meet, she changed the children’s school. “If not for Kyari and his men, I honestly don’t know what my children and I would have done. I have started plaiting of hair. Plaiting of hair was my hobby before Lanre asked me to stop. But now, I have no choice than to go back to it.” Lanre used a member of his family as his next of kin in his police pension scheme documents. Another widow our reporter was able to track down is Mary Agbasan (29).
She lives at the Alausa Police Barracks, Lagos State, with her three children. Mary and her children will soon be kicked out of the barracks according to the tradition of the Force. The law is what it is. Once a policeman dies, his family has to vacate the quarters for a serving policeman. A sad smile of reminisces flits across the face of Mary as she remembers how she met Felix. Mary, who is an Ordinary National Diploma Holder (OND), met Felix in her mum’s canteen. Mary’s mom was a food vendor close to the police headquarters. Felix was her customer. Mary, although then a student, helped out in the canteen. It was during one of her occasional visits to her mum’s canteen that she met Felix in 2012. This was how their love story started. That was where he saw her and a love story developed. The year was 2012. Mary said: “Felix was simply perfect. He was every woman’s dream of a husband.
His job always takes him away from home, but the times he spent with us were magical. They are memories we would treasure forever.” Mary remembered the last time she was with her husband and their last discussion. She said: “He was returning to Abuja, which was his base. I assisted him in packing his luggage. Sometimes, for two or three months, we wouldn’t see him. That last time, he had a case he was working on. He was called to come earlier to the office. I was pregnant then.”
“He was in a pensive mood. He said that he didn’t want to go. But we were hopeful that he would return to us within two months. Some weeks before he was supposed to return home, he called and asked how I was. He started fretting after I told him I wasn’t feeling well. “He asked if the baby was kicking, I said yes. Something was troubling me, but I couldn’t explain it. He told me that he wanted to tell me something. He asked who was with me, I said our first child. He said he didn’t want me to scream, that I should calm down. He asked me to call my younger sister, Mercy, who stays with us to be with me. I called my sister; when he was sure Mercy was with me, he told me that he had been shot.
“I screamed. I shouted that ‘this man has killed me’. I warned him not to go to that Abuja. I cried that night. He said that he was shot in the leg. I thanked God that it was only a leg wound. I told him that I would be coming to Abuja the following day. He said that I shouldn’t, that his colleagues were taking care of him. I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept asking God why he allowed such a thing to happen.” Surgery was carried out on the leg and Mary decided to go to Abuja to see Felix. She said: “I didn’t tell Felix I was coming. I just needed to see him. My family said I should not travel by road. I had to run from pillar to post to raise money for the airfare. I was at the airport when he called me.
He asked me where I was, that the place was noisy; I said I was in church. “He said that I should pray for him, I told him not to worry, I was praying for him. When I got to Abuja, one of my brothers living in Abuja took me straight to the hospital. “I opened the door of the ward he was admitted and when he saw me, he said: ‘Darling, what are you doing here?’ I told him that I came to see him.
He was happy to see me. He said that he had wanted me to come, but didn’t want to stress me because of my condition. He asked about the children, I told him they were with my mum and my sister was also with them. I stayed with him for 10 days before the hospital started complaining. They said I couldn’t continue to stay there because of my condition.
Moreover, the children were already calling, complaining that daddy and mummy were not around. “We had to do a video call, where we both spoke with the children. Our first child was just four years old. He asked his dad what happened to his leg, he told him he was injured. The son told him to get well soon and return home. When I was about to leave for Lagos, he asked me to pray for him. I held his hands and started crying; he cried along with me.
“On November 30, at about 4am, my second son began to breathe too fast. He would turn, look at me and said, ‘mummy see, mummy see.’ He climbed on my chest; I told him to be careful because of my stomach. He couldn’t talk, he was just shouting, ‘mummy see, mummy see.’ I tried to pet him, and then he wanted to leave the room, he wanted to go to the sitting room. I called my sister to take him to the sitting room. I could no longer go to bed. I started fiddling with my phone. “I decided to check if my husband was online. He was online last around 12am. I thought he would call by 5am, but he didn’t. That was the hour he used to call.
I played games on my phone and waited. I decided to call his line; but it rang out. I called until 12noon. “I called the boy in the hospital that was taking care of him. He said my husband was sleeping. I asked what sort of sleep; that I had been calling his line for hours.
The boy said he was given injection because he was complaining of pains. When it was 6:30pm, I called again; they said he was still sleeping. I called by 7pm, his phone still rang out. I called the boy again; he said he was still sleeping. I wasn’t settled. I was shivering. I couldn’t understand why my hands were trembling. “I tried to call his brother, Bode; his phone rang out too, I went to see him. He said that I shouldn’t worry; he asked me if I was going to church, I told him that I wasn’t going to church. I wanted to speak with my husband before going to church. Bode gave me some money.
He said that the children and I should use it to buy something for the weekend. “I just collected the money and tried to call my husband again. Yet, his phone rang out again. I went back to Bode; I told him that I was worried; I didn’t know what was going on. He said that he had called and that they told him Felix was sleeping.
Bode already knew my husband was dead, but he didn’t know how to break the news to me. “He just kept going up and down. He asked me to go home; I told him that I couldn’t. He asked if I had eaten, and I said I had not eaten. He said he was going out when I came in. “I was in his brother’s home when my sister came to call me. She said that another brother of Felix, Ade, was waiting for me. Ade came with his wife and two other people. I asked myself why Ade would come looking for me on such a day. I tried to get up, but I suddenly couldn’t walk; my legs were weak. Just as I was about to climb the stairs to our flat, I met Ade, he asked me the whereabouts of my husband, and I told him he was in Abuja. I asked him what happened; he said he only came to ask after me. “I was already crying. I kept asking him what happened. We went upstairs.
When I entered our apartment, I saw people. It was a day I’ll never forget. I just fell on the ground crying, I started asking everyone, ‘where is my husband?’ They tried to drag me up, telling me to mind my condition, that I would injure the baby. I asked what they were all doing in my house that morning. They said I should sit down, a woman held my hands. Ade said that what has happened has happened. I glanced out of the door net and saw Bode crying. I screamed; I got the news of my husband death in a very bad way. I couldn’t question God.”
Felix died on November 30, 2016. After his death, just like in the case of Eniola, members of the IRT Unit had to contribute money to assist Mary and the children. “I must confess that his boss Kyari, and his colleagues are Godsent. They really assisted the children and I. But I haven’t been sitting idle; I have been doing every petty business just to keep body and soul together. I sell drinks and distribute eggs. I’m still trying to gather all the necessary documents to get his pension scheme. I’m still looking for documents. I wish it’s just simple to wake him up and ask him darling where are those documents? But it’s not simple.” Collecting the pension is an herculean task.
Once the documents are not completed, the pension may be forfeited. In most cases, the documents are never completed. Asked how she had been coping with payment of school fees, Mary said: “It has been God all the way. The IRT men have been helpful and I thank them for it. They are really trying.” She added: “My husband got shot in the course of duty and died a hero. I must confess that since Felix died, it has not been easy.
No matter what people say, I know my husband died a hero. Till date, people stop me on the road to ask, ‘so you’re Felix’s wife, he was a good man.’ Nobody had ever spoken ill of him. That alone makes me proud of him. As people are remembering him for his good works and sacrifice to the nation, let them also remember that he has children that need help.” Mrs. Funmilayo Odubanjo is also a widow of an IRT operative.
Late Inspector Christopher Odubanjo died on July 22, 2018. When Christopher called Funmilayo on the phone that he needed to rush to office because he was needed there, she didn’t know that would be the last time she would be with him. Funmilayo, a mother of one, said: “He said that he was instructed to come down to the office. He was the team leader of his unit. He left that night, saying that he needed to go and see what was happening at the office. About 2am, we spoke. When it was at about 4am, his son woke up, asking for his daddy, I told him he had gone to work.
“I called and told him that his son was asking for him. He said that I should tell his son that he would be returning around 7am. At about 4:30am, I received a phone call from my husband’s line. The caller was not my husband. The caller asked if I knew the owner of the phone, I said ‘yes’, it was my husband’s phone. “The caller said that the owner of the phone just had an accident. He said they were taking him to general hospital.
Before I could ask further questions, the caller cut off the conversation. I called his elder sister and told her what the caller said. She said someone just called her too, and told her the same thing. en I got to the General hospi- tal, I called his phone number. It was switched off. I started asking for my husband at the hospital. They said he was alright. I didn’t know they were deceiving me. The hospital workers told me they were doing check-up on him. I begged them to just allow me to see him, just a glimpse to reassure myself, but they kept manoeuring me. “When I saw his elder sister and her husband, I asked them where my husband was, they said that he had been taken to the ward. The husband went outside. I didn’t know when I started shouting, ‘where is my husband, where is my husband.’ One of the doctors came to tell me that he was alright, that I should follow him to see Christopher. He took me to an ambulance. They dragged out a stretcher and Christopher was lying there; he was dead.” Funmilayo would later hear that Christopher had an accident at Awolowo area of Ikeja, but nobody told her how the accident occurred.
“It’s only God that knows how the accident happened. I still don’t understand what happened. I spoke with him just two hours before I was called that he had an accident,” said Funmilayo. She added: “I don’t know much about his death, but I know that it was too painful to see his corpse, less than two hours after speaking with him.” Funmilayo, who is also a policewoman, said that since Christopher’s death, only God had been helping her. And like Eniola and Mary, she disclosed that the IRT operatives had been caring and supportive. She added: “I can never forget his death; it was so shocking. In fact, up till now, it was like he travelled to Abuja for work and would soon return to us as usual.
I’m feeling like he would return, call and ask me to open the door for him. I miss him so much; he was a brother and father to me. He was my world.” The IRT Unit has prevented/ foiled hundreds of crimes across the nation and brought thousands of criminals to justice. Sadly, in the course of the numerous fights against deadly and notorious criminals across the country, the unit had lost 10 officers directly in the line of duty during gun battles with deadly armed robbers/kidnappers/terrorists. Just recently, three IRT operatives: Inspector Mark Edaile, Sergeant Usman Danzumi and Sergeant Dahiru Musa, were killed in Taraba State, after an army captain, ordered soldiers to open fire on them. Nigerians were outraged by the senseless killings.
My 32-year sojourn at NTA as producer of New Masquerade, New Village Headmaster, Cock Crow at Dawn
Mr. Peter Igho (MFR) was Executive Director Programmes (EDP), Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), before he retired in 2008. He was very popular through notable NTA programmes that ruled the nation’s airwaves for decades before they were rested. He told FLORA ONWUDIWE how some of these programmes were created and eventually rested. He also recalled unforgettable moments of his career on TV. Excerpts…
You worked for more than three decades before retirement; how has it been since leaving service?
Since my retirement, I have a lot to thank God for. After so many years of service to the nation with so many high points and accolades, I was happy that I was bowing out and would be able to take time out to rest well and devote more time to my family and friends. I was employed by the Federal Government when I graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1972 and was in that employment until I retired in 2008. Those were heady days. Full of energy and many creative ideas; I worked with so many talented colleagues and understanding and supportive bosses to achieve great content that clearly marked the golden years of NTA. In 2008 as I retired from the service to the NTA, all that was now over. Rest time and holidays were now waiting. Unfortunately, that was not to be. The year I retired, I had two major health challenges. However, by God’s grace and the support of family and friends, I surmounted them. A year later, in 2009, I was appointed Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Here again, I served with heart and soul and within four years until I left in 2013. I raised the organisation from an unknown department with two rooms as offices with 11 staff seconded from various government ministries, to one of the most active Federal Parastatals with over 16 offices around the country and raised over N3bn for good causes for the Federal Government. Since the Lottery Commission, I have returned to my Consultancy outfit and I’m still engaged in producing content and other TV and radio broadcast activities.
Was there anything left that you would have loved to accomplish if given the opportunity?
When I retired from NTA in 2008, I had served with the organisation for 32 years. In the years before that I had been on TV in one form or the other. So, ef-fectively, most of my working years had been with the NTA family. It was natural therefore that I would feel a sense of pain that I was bowing out. But there were no regrets. From the very first day I had applied myself with passion and all sense of seriousness to every assignment I had undertaken or been given. From Sokoto to Jos, to Kaduna, Lagos and Enugu where I had worked with great teams and produced content that were appreciated and loved all over the country and beyond. There were great dramas- Moment of Truth, A Matter of Conscience, Cock Crow At Dawn, Behind The Clouds, Second Chance, Supple Blues; Tele Movies, Mirror In The Sun, New Masquerade, New Village Headmaster, SAMANJA etc; great musical and entertainment programmes- Bala Miller Show, Sam Akpabot Show, Highlife Heritage, All Stars, All Ages (ASAA), Sunny Side of Life, Young World, Tales By Moonlight, Storyland; AM Express, documentaries – Giant In The Sun, Not In Our Character, No Victor No Vanquished (Nigeria Civil War) and a host of o t h e r s . Wi t h a l l these, there were no regrets and certainly nothing more in content production that I wanted to accomplish in the NTA.
You were among the pioneer staff of the NTV/ NTA Sokoto; what were the challenges?
In 1975, after three years of working as a Federal Education Officer, the Federal Government posted me to then North- West State, and teaching in Bida, I was seconded to Sokoto to join the pioneer staff of the state TV station- NTV Sokoto. A play I had written for my students- Ogaga’s Heart- had been one of the three winning entries in the 1974 National Festival of Arts and Culture. It was a great achievement and we were honored and appreciated by the state. I was expected to set up and head the Drama Department and produce drama programmes in English and Hausa. Challenges were many. The station building was actually originally meant for stores, with small and low roofs. There was therefore not much room for building of sets and professional lighting. Of greater concern was that all programmes were produced a n d transmitted “live.” There was no margin for error or retakes as you were on ‘air’ as soon as it was your time. There were not many professional ‘actors’ in Sokoto, so casting for our play was an uphill task. But we surmounted all these. It required a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. Sometimes, people would enter the studio and see us erecting and painting sets and not know who was the carpenter, painter or producer! When a play made it necessary for food to be eaten on set and there was no budget for it; I would send for my lunch from home. All in all, we surmounted all challenges and NTV Sokoto became the first among equals. Among the many productions in those early days were ‘Azal Ta Riga Fata’ (adaptation of Oedipus The King), ‘The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nothing But The Truth; Our Neighbours, Time To Register, A Matter of Conscience, Bakandamiya, and many more. All the state TV stations, including NTV Sokoto, were brought under one umbrella- NIGERIAN TV AUTHORITYNTA in 1977. The next year 1978 the NTA organised a drama competition among all the stations. NTA Sokoto’s entry Moment Of Truth, which I wrote, produced and directed, came first. When we found the studio too confining, I moved out to exterior locations. We pioneered shooting out on locations. Before then, all TV drama programmes- Village Headmaster, Samanja, Masquerade etc, were all studio-based productions. Sokoto also became the breeding ground for talents, Actors and Producers- Bello Abubakar, Matt Dadze, Gladys Dadze, Danladi Bako, Sadiq Daba, Tola Awobode, Florence Bolokor and many more. Yes, there were challenges but we surmounted them and excelled.
How did your early childhood affect your interest in Television and how did you realise your childhood dream.?
I was born in Jos, Plateau State. My father was a tin ore miner and was away for long periods at various mining camps. The income from mining then was not regular or even sure. There were long periods of nothing, and very few ones of plenty. My mother had to contend with such vicissitudes of income by trading in whatever was in season or popular- Boiled groundnuts, oranges, puff-puff and boiled guinea-fowl eggs. While some were displayed and sold in front of whichever house we lived in then, my elder brother Patrick and I would help out after school by hawking them around town. The eggs were our favorite wares and two of us were quite good at ‘knacking’ eggs. Many young boys and girls saw hawking as punishment and would complain. For my brother and I, it was fun. We had songs to promote whatever we were selling. But most importantly as restless and adventurous children, it gave us the opportunity to get around town, playing football or, the biggest fun of all, going to the cinema. There were three shows at Rex Cinema and, New Era Cinema each day- morning, afternoon and night. The shows were advertised on ‘boards’ displayed all over town. If we saw any good ‘attraction,‘ we would surely end up watching it even if it was a night show. My poor mother would wait for us on such nights, knowing very well that we had gone to the cinema. Several times, neighbours would come to extricate us from her floggings and they would chastise us. A few days later, we would be back to the cinema. There was no television then. Only cinemas and the movies we watched transformed us to different worlds- of the king in Indian movies whose calculating courtier who would betray the king, lock up the ‘actor’ and want to marry the king’s daughter, of Johnny Wesmuller as Jungle Jim (Tarzan) swinging from the tress to bring peace to villages at war. So many worlds, providing fun and escape from the harsh reality we were all growing up in. We were ‘addicted’ and, for me, even at that age captured by this form of storytelling. My parents, especially my mother had told us many stories that enthralled us and the cinemas showed us more stories using the moving image. Considering the early Indian films were with no subtitles, I could follow every movie. Many times, even adults would ask me to whisper to them what was happening in the movie. Years later, TV came to us in the North (RKTV) In 1962 in Kaduna. I was in secondary school and the family I lived with didn’t have a TV set. We would go to a neighbour’s house and peep through the window to watch the shows then in black and white. I recall the first one was ‘Little House On The Prairie.’ Not long after, I was not only watching TV but was part of it. I presented a Junior Quiz Programme and was one of The ‘Beatles’ musical group in a Variety Show called ‘In The Mood.’ I was now living my dream.
You had said that broadcasting is not glamour but business. Is this really so?
Are you not discouraging young people who are attracted to its glamour? I have been on sets in my days as a Producer/Director and fans would rush at the ‘stars’ to hug them or get autographs. At Red Carpets, people would line up to see the stars in their best designer clothes. In the markets, streets, everywhere they go, the ‘stars’ receive this great attention and admiration. So, clearly there is a lot of glitz and glamour in the broadcast and movie industry. So, I could not have said there is no glamour. I have myself lived and experienced it. However, that is only part of the reality. Anyone who is attracted to only this aspect of broadcasting is making a big mistake. To get to the level of admiration and followership, your show has to be a good one, a successful one. And this requires a great deal of dedication, hard work, passion and self-sacrifice. Nothing good comes easy. Broadcasting is not just for show but for the serious minded. Many programmes that have failed or lacked any quality were products of those who thought otherwise.
You produced, directed and, as Executive Producer supervised most of the great programmes of NTA- Moment of Truth, Cock Crow At Dawn, Behind The Clouds, Mirror In The Sun, New Masquerade, Samanja, New Village Headmaster, Second Chance, Bala Miller Show, Giant in the Sun -the list is endless. What is the secret behind such great creative outpouring?
Nothing good comes easy as I noted earlier. A lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice went into the productions. Most importantly the credit must go to the NTA management that encouraged and supported creativity. Moment of Truth, which I wrote, produced and directed, won first place at the NTA Drama Competition of 1978, a year after NTA was ‘born’. Soon after, the NTA management headed by Engineer Vincent Maduka, the pioneer Director General and a man of foresight, decided as a matter of policy, to invest money every year into major programmes. These would be given all necessary resources- funds, equipment, vehicles etc. These ‘nonperishable’ programmes would be different from the ‘perishable’ regular programmes. The first programme- ‘Programmes Project 1’ was a TV Documentary Series ‘Portrait of a Culture’ produced by Eddie Iroh/ Soji Oyinsan. Programmes Project 2 was ‘Cock Crow At Dawn.’ As winner of the NTA Drama Competition 1978, I was brought down from Sokoto by the Director of Programmes Dr Victoria Ezeokoli to handle the production.
The then President of Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo, had just come out with his agricultural initiative, Operation Feed The Nation, and NTA decided the series should be used to help promote the government’s agricultural endeavors. Hence the major agricultural theme of Cock Crow At Dawn. I chose to produce the series in Jos, not just because I was born there but also because of the open, rolling fields and water falls of the Jos Plateau provided the right scenic background for the series. I produced and directed 78 episodes and handed over to Dejumo Lewis and later to Matt Dadze. I was promoted Acting Gen-eral Manger In 1983 and put in charge of Network Productions. The year 1983 was to become one of the most productive years for me and the NTA – all programme types were produced- Bala Miller Show, Sam Akpabot Show, Giant In The Sun, Mirror In The Sun, the classic early productions- SAMANJA, Village Headmaster, Masquerade previously produced by stations, were revamped and scheduled for Network Transmission. We had Production Camps in Jos, Kaduna, Badagry, Enugu. We had the Tales By Moonlight team traveling around the country to ensure proper collection of stories from all cultures. Nigerian Dances, Food Basket, Giant In The Sun, Telemovies- had teams also covering the entire country. Every day of the week there were quality programmes on the NTA Network and almost all of them sponsored. Those were great times, great years. I had incredible, gifted, hardworking staff and artists. As I indicated earlier, this was all possible because the various Director Generals and their teams were in full support. Engr Maduka, Dr Walter Ofonagoro, Mohammed Ibrahim, Shingle Nwigwe, Dr Ezeokoli, Adamu Augie, Patrick Ityohegh, Segun Olusola, Abdulrahaman Michika, Kere Ahmed, Idi Jibrin, Bello Tunau, Dele Angulu- these were great ‘bosses.’ A few years later, the great output noticeably slowed down and almost all the programmes were taken off air.
These programmes had a great deal of cultural and social enlightenment and entertainment values that Nigerians and other nationals loved. What happened? One of the unique strengths of the NTA was the availability of many talents. In those days when you performed well in a play or could sing or dance well, you were advised to join the NTA to expose your talent. It was therefore no accident that many who had great talents were staff of the NTA. Matt Dadze, Ene Oloja, Zainab Bitrus, Sadiq Daba were staff and were in Cock Crow At Dawn and later Behind The Clouds. Dejumo Lewis was ‘Kabiyesi’ in New Village Headmaster. Chika Okpala was Zebrudaya in The New Masquerade and was also an employee of the NTA. The list goes on. For us as producers, using staff who were talented as artists had a double advantage. As staff, they could not misbehave or hold the production to ransom. They could be queried, lose the part in the production and possibly their jobs. Hence, they behaved. Secondly, using them saved money for the production as they were paid 50% of the usual fees since their salaries were also being paid in full. At the height of NTA‘s ‘golden’ years; when NTA had so many quality programmes on air and organisations were fighting over each other to sponsor them, we were given a management directive that led to resting almost all the scheduled sponsored programmes. The directive was that no NTA staff should act in any NTA drama programme. Any staff who wanted to act should resign his or her appointment. I recall that only one or two resigned- Matt Dadze and Chika Okpala. In the main though, all the programmes were affected and we had to rest the New Village Headmaster, Samanja, New Masquerade and Behind The Clouds. We closed down many of the Production Camps. That unfortunately was the beginning of the downward slide in concerted effort at productions. The other negative effect was that the NTA Network was the sole preserve for only Nigerian content. When this directive came and many programmes went off air, a foreign programme, a Mexican soap, ‘ The Rich Also Cry’ was introduced in the NTA Network belt. Over the years successive managements have come and with varying degrees of success tried to rekindle the flame. ‘Not In Our Character, Things Fall Apart, Asaa (All Styles All Ages), AM Express, Highlife Heritage, Stars of the Tube’ among the many that I supervised in later years. The truth is that NTA even at its lowest level still produces serious content that most other organisations cannot match! The resources available within the NTA, human and material, are quite high.
All over the world people pay a lot of money for quality archival programmes. The stations schedule them for many who want to go down memory lane. Besides, many of our young producers will have a lot to learn from them. What has happened to them?
Is it true that many are damaged or lost? You are right about the value of programmes recorded especially where they have been quite popular compulsive viewing content. They are in fact priceless as you cannot recapture the magic and experiences they represent. The NTA gave a lot of priority to producing them, at a great cost too. In terms of storage, effort was made to ensure good storage. Every station had a standard library. Unfortunately, over time, the condition of many of these deteriorated and affected many of the materials. Some found their way to markets where copies were made and sold.
Over the years, attempt has been made to improve the conditions of the libraries and formats for storage of programmes. I am aware that the present NTA management headed by Yakubu Ibn Mohammed is taking this seriously and is working to ensure that international standard is achieved in the storage and archiving of recorded materials. During the 40th Anniversary Celebrations of the NTA, many of the oldies were scheduled and transmitted. Many of us ‘veterans’ were also invited for interviews.
Outside Nigeria, what impact did those early programmes make? Were they ever shown outside Nigeria?
Nigeria was a member of many broadcast organisations in Africa and outside Africa. The major one in Africa was URTNA- Union of Radio and Television Organizations of Africa. There was programme exchange and many NTA programmes were in high demand. When General Momoh of Sierra Leone was going to be inaugurated as President, he personally requested the Nigerian president to send the New Masquerade team to be in the stadium as part of the inauguration. I led the team and from the airport in Sierra Leone to our hotels and to the stadium, Zebrudaya and his team were followed by large crowds of admirers. At the stadium, the President insisted Zebrudaya be introduced and should speak. When Zebrudaya spoke his brand of English, the entire stadium was in an uproar. We learnt that all programmes of the NTA shown in the various member countries were greatly loved. In the annual URTNA Competitions, NTA almost always won the awards. I reshot Moment of Truth and it was entered for the URTNA Competition. There were associate member countries- Portugal and Germany- along with the other African nations in the competition. We came first. In the ‘Prized Pieces’ Award for the best in Black Programming Worldwide held in the US, NTA came first with ‘Things Fall Apart’. I also received a Rockefeller’s Grant to address Producers/Directors of Public Broadcast Organizations around the world- INPUT- on Cock Crow At Dawn which had been selected for screening in South Carolina, USA. NTA programmes were admired all over for their technical quality, unique storylines and social relevance.
You said you achieved a lot in Television because you liked what you were doing. Was teaching therefore a wrong choice?
Definitely not. Like everything else I do, I put my heart and soul into my many years as a teacher. The outstanding results we achieved are as a result of that hard work, love for duty and dedication. I was in that school for only three years. I spent 32 years in TV Broadcasting; the longevity, accomplishment were other attributes, because I loved what I was doing.
You were appointed Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC); what were your experiences like?
That is another long story. Suffice it to say, I took up that assignment with all seriousness and zeal and I believe that in the four years I was there, left the organisation far better than I met it. The NLRC was in existence since 2005 but when I was appointed in 2009, there were only 11 staff with a few rooms as offices. Revenue inflow was low and the lottery environment was little known and viewed with suspicion. There were very many irregular lottery operators and many Nigerians couldn’t distinguish between licensed operators and illegal ones. The Lottery Commission was set up to regulate the Industry; ensure transparency, integrity in the operations and raise money for government for good causes, but had neither the resources or personnel to do so effectively. I was lucky to have had an understanding Minister, Senator Kazaure and very able directors when we started. I mounted high level multi media campaign, traversing the whole country educating Nigerians about the value of lottery as an empowerment tool that has been used all over the world by governments to raise funds for good causes- Education, sports, infrastructural development etc. By 2013, before I left, we had opened about 16 offices around the country, employed about 1500 staff and raised over N3bn for government good causes, ensured that all those who participated in any lottery scheme were given prizes promisedhouses, vehicles, scholarships, money etc. Our enforcement team went after illegal operators and ensured compliance. There was renewed interest in the Nigerian lottery from all over the world and new licenses were issued to broaden the scope to cover the entire country. Millions of Nigerians were empowered.
There were many! Every production had its challenges and when we confront the challenges and come up with great programmes, every incident is memorable. For us who pioneered working entirely on locations- exposed to the elements, we had more than our fair share of such situations. At the end, what the viewers see are the completed successful programmes. What they do not see are the pains and sometimes tears that go into making programmes. For us producers we continue to push our cast and crew, to sacrifice and move on. The show must go on. For example, a few days before we were to report to the Camp in Jos to start Cock Crow At Dawn, my wife had a miscarriage. I had travelled with her and my children from Sokoto to Jos, Kaduna and Zaria to contact my artists and crew. She was pregnant but I had been away from home for so long and I felt I should have them with me before finally leaving for Jos. By the time we returned to Sokoto, the stress was too much for her and she was rushed to the hospital. She lost the baby and had to stay in hospital for some days. I had however called all cast and crew to report to Camp that week and I had to be there to receive them all. Painfully I had to leave her in hospital to make sure the show continued. For every successful programme, there was a family where the husband and sometimes wives who had to stay for long periods away from home. But of course, we had great unforgettable moments too. Like many Nigerians who were watching only the three drama programmes on TV- Village Headmaster, Samanja, Masquerade, I was in love with all the characters and looked forward to meeting them, I was starstruck – Dejumo Lewis, Funsho Adeolu, Chika Okpala, Jegede Shokoya, Samanja etc. These were memorable times I had the honour of not only meeting them but getting close to them.
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