Chidera Onyegbule, daughter of comedian and actor, Okey Bakassi, won gold medals after winning both 100m and 200m sprints categories in her Canada base on Wednesday.
Her 49-year-old humour merchant father made it known on Instagram on Thursday, writing: “Congratulations to my darling daughter @chideraonyegbule 1st position in both 100m and 200m senior girls. She ran competitive 200m for the first time yesterday and won,” he wrote.
Okey Bakassi, who has lived and thrived in Nigeria, is married to Ezinne, who along with the three children they are blessed with, are based in Canada.
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.
e-Registration: Nigeria, foreigners in a dilemma
A few weeks ago, the Federal Government announced its plans to electronically register migrants in the country. The essence, according to the government, is to use it to establish a database of immigrants in Nigeria, which could help to check the growing insecurity occasioned by terrorism, drug trafficking and other trans-border crimes. While the directive is generating controversy among Nigerians, some of the foreigners say they are not aware of it. TOSIN MAKANJUOLA reports
The recent pronouncement by the Federal Government to profile immigrants in the country appears not have seated well with some Nigerians. One of such skeptics is a former presidential adviser, Echefuna Onyebeadi, who was quoted by The Guardian newspaper, to have faulted the move in his letter of July 13, “From Ruga to e-Registration of Immigrants: What Next?”. He was said to have accused the government of trying to “confer unsolicited and unlawful citizenship on illegal immigrants.”
The Guardian further quoted him to have also said that the government only wanted the exercise as a means to populating the already pauperised country with aliens. “They just want to confer citizenship through the backdoor on aliens under whatever guise to the detriment of Nigerian citizens,” Onyebeadi had said. For Yusuf Ali, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the government ought to have perfected the National Identity card scheme as it was done by all serious countries of the world.
That, according to the lawyer, does not only allow the government to know the numbers of its citizens, but will have reduced immigration by foreigners into the country. Ali said: “The starting point is to see to the proper registration of everyone in Nigeria in the data of National Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC). To all serious country in the world, that is the best way foreigners do not come and implicate your country. Of course, every country can take bigger step to ensure that foreigners are properly documented, but my take is for the government to first of all document Nigerians.” In his own reaction, the National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, believes that if the country is working well, any form of censoring is good.
To him, both foreigners and Nigerians, everybody should have a national registration number but for some reasons the political leadership was slow and they were not taking that seriously. He said: “There is need to know how many we are in order to know who are Nigerians and how many foreigners have joined us and where they are coming from? What the government is trying to do now is a good development but they are not showing sincerity in most of the things they do. This may be the reason why their actions usually appear suspect. “Doing a census in a country is proper. However, our political leaders have not shown enough commitment and sincerity to do what is right. So, because of the agenda motive in most of the things they do, people tend to criticise what they do.”
“We do not expect the ruling party to use presidential fiat to grant illegal immigrants citizenship of this country just because of their selfish, parochial and political agenda. This programme is definitely going to have dire consequences in the future. Nigeria is still struggling to address the issue of its diversity, yet someone is talking of add-ing more illegal immigrants? I doubt if it will be of any advantage to us,” Nwosu added. Yinka Odumakin, the spokesman for Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, also asked: “Are we are talking about the herdsmen, who are coming from the border side like chad and the rest, who is going to register them? Where will they take them to? What the government has to do is to ensure that our borders are well policed in all those places like Chad, Niger that are borderless. People are moving at will. So, when they have moved in and run around, who will go and minister to them there? “Those who are coming in through the airports are properly documented. But we don’t know what that means in reality, what they want to achieve, we don’t know.
The larger agenda we see in this is that what is the status of those who are registered? If they register them will they become citizens or what will they become? Will it just be an attempt to confirm an illegal migrant into the country who are troubling us and most responsible for some of the atrocities perpetrated in Nigeria? Can this exercise be a ploy to give them cover after their registration? Except government comes out to tell Nigerians what they mean by these programmes and what they want to achieve with it, it will be unconvincing to align with the motive behind it.
“Truth is the registration of migrants will not force the government to enforce the law against criminal herdsmen/terrorists, which it is not doing at the moment. There is no level of registration that will make Nigeria a safe place if the government is not out to protect all citizens as against special interests.” However statements credited to the Presidency and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) on the initiative may have fueled the seeming controversy on the exercise as the reports appeared to have conflicted.
While President Muhammadu Buhari had declared that the exercise is “for illegal migrants already in the country”, Sunday James, NIS spokesman and a Deputy Comptroller of Immigration (DCI), told The Guardian: “It is not illegal migrants; it is irregular migrants across the country we are registering. What we are doing now is to register every non-Nigerian.
“People are trying to misconstrue this directive by Mr. President. People should stop giving ethnic colouration to good plans by the government. It is good for Nigeria. At least, it would help in our security situation, governance and planning.” James quoted Section 22 (1 & 2) of the Immigration Regulation 2017, which he said empowered the service to maintain a register of all immigrants.
“It equally empowers the CGI to keep in the registry, information and particulars of an Immigrant as he may from time to time direct,” he further said. The government had also reacted by saying that the e-registration exercise was an attempt at obtaining a database of all irregular migrants residing in the country so as to halt the growing insecurity in the country, occasioned by terrorism, drug trafficking and other transborder crimes. The Comptroller-General of Immigration (CGI), Mohammed Babandede, who flagged-off the exercise, had called on all irregular migrants, who had stayed in the country for a period exceeding 90 days, to present themselves for registration.
Babandede said the data created would be forwarded to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), to generate what he referred to as, migrants’ identification number (MIN). He, however, warned that migrants, who failed to present themselves for registration within the stipulated period in line with the presidential directive, would be “removed”.
Babandede said: “It is our duty as stipulated in the immigration regulations to register any person who is not a citizen of Nigeria and the law says if you are going to stay or you have stayed for a period of 90 days.” Individuals that are eligible for this exercise are non-citizens of Nigeria who have attained the age of 18 years and resident in Nigeria or visitors who intend to stay in Nigeria for a period exceeding 90 days.
For the purpose of the e-Registration, NIS has categorised migrants into five categories – Employed Migrants, Students, Self Employed, Spouse of a Nigerian, and Dependants. Requirements for each migrant’s registration depend on if they are Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) nationals, nationals of other African countries or expatriate employees.
The exemption from this mandatory e-migrant registration, according to the NIS, is granted to individuals who are under the age of 18, those enjoying diplomatic immunity and visitors who intend to stay in Nigeria for less than 90 days. Apart from those, all regular and irregular migrants are required to register for free within the 6-month grace period of the commencement of the programme.
Having accurate data about the country’s citizens and foreigners living in Nigeria, according to the NIS, is critical for national planning and fighting insecurity. It also said that the guide of the current exercise provided the necessary information and requirements for migrants residing in Nigeria to be properly documented in line with global best practices.
The e-Registration is a two-part process which includes the enrolment and biometrics data capture and the receipt of an acknowledgement slip. This process is as follows: Migrant walks into any designated Migrant Registration Office in the migrant’s state of residence. He or she provides supporting documents (original International Passport and Residence Permit, for sighting while copies will be submitted) and other required information.
The registration officer enrolls the migrant using information provided and the officer captures the biometrics of the migrant while he crosschecks enrolled data and the registration officer confirms submitted documents. After completing the registration, the migrant is issued an acknowledgement slip showing registration details.
The e-Registration process, the NIS further said, was expected to ease the update of migrants’ status and provide a means of identification, alongside the Residence Permit. An additional motivation for the exercise is to curb the spate of insecurity, which is believed to be partly due to some undocumented immigrants from neighbouring countries, especially in the North-East region of the country. Incidentally, not all immigrants seem to be aware of the registration exercise. For instance, a middle-aged Togolese national, who identified herself simply as Shefiu, said she had been in the country for over 20 years, but was unaware of the e-Registration of foreigners in Nigeria as directed by the government. According to her, she has not faced any problem that will warrant her to go for any registration.
“It’s the registration you are talking about for every foreigner in Nigeria?” she asked ignorantly but adding, “Nobody told me about that but if I know how and where it’s done, I’d summit myself for such registration since I am not a criminal and has never been engaged in any underhand activities all along.” Another, from Cotonou, Benin Republic, also claimed ignorance about the e-Registration currently going on in Nigeria.
The Beninoise, who refused to be identified, told one of our reporters that she was not an illegal immigrant and as such would have nothing to do with any type of registration. “Is Nigerian planning to give us the South African treatments? They should concentrate on their problems with South Africa and leave us alone. We are from Benin and we are neither criminals nor trouble makers,” she said. Meanwhile, the Federal Government had extended the e-Registration when it handed down a six-month grace to enable all migrants across the country to register.
The President announced the period of “amnesty” for the free registration at the commissioning of the Migrant e-Registration, and Passport Application Processing Centre, at the Nigeria Immigration Service’s headquarters in Abuja. The President, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said that the establishment of the centres would enhance national security, while ensuring national development.
The migrants’ e-Registration, he added, would enable government to access statistics of migrants across the country, even as the Passport Application Processing Centre, aims to harness accurate data of citizens. “While the Migrant e-Registration Centre will collate and store data of non-Nigerians within our shore, the Passport Application Processing Centre, on the other hand will provide improved issuance of passport and eliminate touting as well as corruption in line with this government’s policy on ‘Ease of Doing Business.’ “It is on this note therefore that I am declaring a six-month amnesty period for irregular migrants already in the country to submit themselves to the Nigeria Immigration Service for the purpose of this registration, which will be carried out without any payment or penalties,” the President added.
However, artisans who decry preference for foreign counterparts seem to be reading the e-Registration differently. To many of them, it’s a payback time as government may have wanted to use the exercise to send them packing. Ouvidah Lucien, an artisan working at a site in Lagos complained that Nigerians did not appreciate works done by their own people. He said that the attitude was largely responsible for the demand of artisans from neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo and Republic of Benin among several others. He alleged that some contractors mostly engaged the services of foreign artisans to perpetrate fraud and inflate contract cost. He said: “Some contractors pay these artisans far higher than us because they bargain with them on what they will actually pay them and what they will get in return.
We have seen many of them disagree with these foreigners while working on building sites and those that brought them over monetary issues. “Many of them are good but not in all aspects. While some of them are good in roofing, others appear to be experts in the designing of wardrobes, tiles, PoP, and bricklaying. Unfortunately, a majority of them don’t appear to be sincere and are not usually consistent in their work; they bid lower prices to enable them to corner the jobs.
“Well, it’s not all the time that we make use of them, although many who use them are those who prefer substandard jobs because they come cheap unlike the Nigerian professionals.” Yet, a site engineer, who declined to give his name, said that there was nothing wrong in using foreigners at site work. He believes that such transfer of knowledge will be of mutual benefit to all site workers. “There is nothing wrong in it, it is all about sharing and transferring of knowledge. We can learn some techniques which we do not know from them and they can also learn from us. So, I don’t see any reason they should not be engage by anybody that requires their services.
“There is no nation that can do these things all alone. Besides, we supervise them to make sure they conform to the Nigerian standard. We are accommodating in Nigeria and that is the reason why they like coming to work here. It also shows that our economy is good and attractive enough to even foreigners who also contribute to the physical development of the country no matter how we look at it.” However, there are those who believe that foreign artisans are better and even more committed to their jobs. One of such people is Nnamdi Akabunma, a civil engineer. He told one of our reporters that he had had an opportunity of working alongside some of these foreign artisans from Ghana and Togo. He said: “I learnt a lot from them. We worked together at a building site at Sango Ota in Ogun State. One thing about them is that they took their time to learn the job and are very diligent. I don’t blame our local contractors for engaging them because as they always said one of such people on site could, in all sincerity, be equal to about five Nigerian artisans. “I must also tell you that they work with time and always strive to meet up with what is expected of them. The Nigerians will think more of what they are going to be paid instead of focusing on the job target. Our people hardly work to meet up with a specific time.”
Additional reports from Olamide Solana and Isaac Godspower
EDUCATION: Why many are left behind
‘Gender discrimination, a big
issue as girls face unique set of barriers’
Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future. This is why quality education is a right for all children as it remains the key to opportunities. But, as ISIOMA MADIKE finds out in this report, poor and inequitable access to former learning is still an issue of urgent national importance
Education, it is said, is a great driver of social, economic and political progress. As people learn to read, count and reason critically, their prospects for health and prosperity expand exponentially. But advances in education have not benefited everyone equally—and primary school enrollment rates tell only part of the regrettable story.
Thousands of children who start primary school are unable to finish and still more miss out on secondary school. A recent media dialogue to promote equity for children in some parts of the North facilitated by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with Child Right Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Abuja, revealed sometime unpleasant. A boy, who identified himself simply as Salisu, was found begging other pupils for something to eat at one of the primary schools in the region. Salisu, 10, was barely five years old when he left for a journey of the unknown.
He appeared too young to remember his surname when he landed on the streets to start fending for himself. He could not remember exactly what happened to his parents but said he lived with his uncle for about six months before he was beaten and sent out of the home for allegedly stealing two pieces of meat.
This sent him to the streets to start a life defined by extreme hardship. “That was how I ended up on the streets,” he said with the help of an interpreter. Wondering up and down the streets with no place to call his home has become the lifestyle of this homeless street kid since then.
He survives with little or no food in his belly with no hope of what the future holds for him. Being awakened by the morning breeze to go into the streets, guarding people’s vehicles, jostling for a few naira to buy food has become his daily activity. He struggles to find a safe place to sleep and proper blankets has become a major cause for concern for him as he usually resort to cardboards to warm his tiny body. Such is the life of other streets kids in most urban centres in Nigeria. They have been left out of all forms of education in Nigeria.
They said even though they were struggling and suffering, they are not worried about what comes along their way as long they are alive. With a fast-paced lifestyle becoming normal, everyone seeks the comforts of their house at the end of the day. But many take things for granted.
The truth is many are never thankful to God for making them fortunate enough to live and relish the successes of life. The day breaks and they get into motion. Either trying to do some chores or just pretending to, everyone seems busy. Even then everything seems so usual and complete, in a way. Life moves at its regular pace for most people.
But deserts do exist beyond their green pastures. It’s just that they are overlooked by their moneyblinded eyes. A child, maybe a couple of years old, was wandering on the streets, walking bare feet and in rags. He mopped cars with a filthy piece of cloth but no one seems to notice him.
However, only a few could clearly see those countless dreams brewing in Salisu’s hopeful eyes, his innocent smiles complemented by an easy-going expression on his face. He literally captured many minds for a while. As some moved closer, they saw an innocent soul in search of a few coins, which meant the world to him. Many of these young children on the streets would protest unnecessarily to slide down the windows, their little fingers got stuck in the gaps, gasping to be released, but nobody bothered. What an irony of life. A single coin, which holds no value for many, meant a meal to them.
Their starving eyes got stuck at a fortunate kid, almost their age, gulping a beverage and munching chips in his father’s air-conditioned car. Probably, they want a taste of the same. But then who is going to buy them all these? That’s the fate they were born with. They died every moment! Caught in the vicious circle of poverty and misfortunes, their chances at a normal life were snatched away mercilessly. Hardship killed their every little desire. It was quite obvious that life was a struggle for them. Fighting every moment for their survival, they begged for money or food.
Disregarded as lifeless rascals by the fortunate ones, they were born in a ruined shack and nurtured by poverty. Their only sources of entertainment were the used or discarded toys. On a daily basis, people rush towards their respective ways, paying no attention to these little children on the streets.
Standing unfriendly under no shade, they waited for no one in particular. From nowhere, some kindhearted people slipped a few wads in their tiny hands. They said nothing and left with a cold blank stare. The nights are often penetratingly cold and without any form of shelter, the cold can make a night seem excruciatingly long. Sometime, they are three, huddled up on a piece of cardboard and cover themselves with a sack and a piece of plastic on top of their frail thin bodies. Any unfamiliar noise awakens them; the constant fear of attack, robbery or what might be worse: a threat of Sodomy alarmingly lurks at every night-fall!
The boys and girls live a seminomadic life, constantly haunted by thugs, watchmen and even the police; their entire existence consists of surviving through the starkest poverty, relentlessly forced to move from one place to the next, seeking shelter in abandoned buildings or empty half-roof shops in the market place during the cold nights. The tens would lie close together, keeping each other warm and comforted throughout the night. Before long, dawn breaks and their day begins.
Their clothes are damp and dirty, smothered with mud, ash and feces; the stench from each of them is enough to make one’s stomach churn! And they bath in ponds. After bathing, they often come away smelling even worse than before. Once they have bathed and washed their clothes they let the morning sun dry them off and lay for the wind to dry their clothes. The bath made them unsteady and they laugh and tell jokes, like any other boy or girl their age would do. A bath makes them feel “brand new” and for a moment they forget their horrific existence, with conditions that more resemble ones of animals, than of human beings. Finally hunger sets in and gets the best of them; they hurry to a nearby junction where the traffic-jams consistently bring the cars to a slow stop. The kids spread out and wander from car to car begging for money. Hardly anyone gives them any; most people despise them and call them names or hurriedly close their windows and lock their doors at the mere sight of them. “It was so much easier to earn money this way a few years ago” Salisu said.
”Now we are often forced to steal or starve or find scraps of food in the garbage dumps.” Noon approaches and the children have only managed to get a few naira between them. As they head back, they decide to hide the money somewhere, out of fear of being robbed by older “street-boys and girls” who, every day demand money in exchange for protection. “A few naira is enough to lose your life over, if you put up a fight” one of the young chaps told Saturday Telegraph. The signs of starvation are inherent; the children’s bodies are frail, sickly and malnourished and their eyes blank and distant. They throw themselves down on the floor and fall asleep. Most of them have stories so dark they delivered them to the hands of the streets. Stories they never want to revisit but which they forever are unable to forget.
The early evening is spent stalking the large garbage piles on the nearby dump; relentlessly searching for something to fill their aching bellies with. As the darkness of night approaches and the traffic slowly dies down, the boys light a fire to stay warm by sitting there, their voices, their unheard dreams; dreams of a good life, of going to school, getting a job and a home – and in their hearts, the silent untold dream of being loved. These summed the pathetic life of street children sewn in abject poverty. It is a major barrier to school enrolment and completion. Many have said that it is the greatest barrier to high-quality education. Even when primary school is technically free, additional charges for uniforms, textbooks, teacher salaries and school maintenance create financial barriers for many families.
Parents consistently say these indirect costs keep them from sending their children to school. In such instances, the kids may never get the opportunity to go to school like their mates, even though they would have loved to. But they are not alone in this seeming cross road. A mother, who declined to be identified, told this reporter a story of her 17-year-old son, who had never been to school because he is deaf and has never had the opportunity to learn sign language. The child was put on a waiting list for a special school when he was eight years old but at 12 he was rejected for being too old. For 17 years, Musa has been sitting at home unable to communicate with anyone aside from pointing, despite being perfectly intellectually capable of learning and contributing to society.
A lot of African countries have been working hard to improve children’s access to basic education, but there’s still a lot left to be done. 32.6 million children of primary-school age and 25.7 million adolescents are still not going to school in sub-Saharan Africa. But worse, at over 10.5 million, Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world, recent reports said.
According to UNICEF, Nigeria’s population growth has put pressure on the country’s resources, public services and infrastructure. With children under the age of 15 accounting for 45 per cent of about 180 million population, the burden on education has become overwhelming. And while primary school enrolment has increased in recent years, net attendance is only about 70 per cent, which translates to Nigeria having over 10.5 million out-ofschool children. 60 per cent of those children are said to come from the northern part of Nigeria. The increased enrolment rates have also created challenges in ensuring quality education as resources are spread more thinly. It is not rare to see cases where there are 100 pupils for one teacher, or where students learn under trees or seat on bare floors because of lack of classrooms and chairs.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, in January, claimed that the number of outof- school kids in Nigeria dropped from 10.5 million to 8.6 million in the last three years: “When President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015, UNICEF said out-of-school children in Nigeria was about 10.5 million. “But I want to tell Nigerians that with the effort of this government, especially with the school feeding programme, it dropped from 10.5 million to 8.6 million as at last year.” While applauding the efforts of government in the feeding programme, many are not taking in by what Adamu said. Some have contested the assertion.
“That’s untrue. And we need to face the fact that the Nigerian education system has undoubtedly failed millions of children. In northeastern Nigeria, conflict has deprived many children of access to education. Teachers have been killed, and schools burned down or closed for security reasons,” one of the commentators, who craved anonymity, said.
Also, Save the Children Nigeria, a humanitarian organisation that promotes child rights, has said that more than six in 10 Nigerian children have no early childhood education. The organisation made this known in a campaign that focuses on reaching excluded children.
According to it, more children in the North than in the South face a daunting life, have no access to education and are more affected by poverty. “Sadly, Children deprived of basic primary education are largely located in the North with 15 states,” the group tweeted.
The statistics, according to the organisation, are worse for females. “Malnutrition is higher in the North than in the South and is far more among female children than males in Nigeria.” Recent reports by the UNICEF revealed a startling rise in child brides, occasioned by the incessant kidnaps of young girls by Boko Haram insurgents. The girls are often sexually abused and used as domestic slave, UNICEF had said. Save the Children Nigeria agrees with UNICEF as it said that early marriage is a serious issue and is more preponderant in the North. It said that Nigeria must end the practice of child marriage and the perpetuation of poverty through the practice, as early marriage shows how children are left behind in education as a result protection deprivation.
The organisation also asked the government to “fast-track the implementation of the Universal Basic Education Act with emphasis on education for girls”. But this issue is not limited to the North alone. For instance, the Anambra State Commissioner for Education, Professor Kate Omenugha, once said that the stereotype over the years in the East had been that the region is noted for the high rate of boy-child drop-out because of the commercial activities in cities like Onitsha and Nnewi. Surprisingly, she admitted, Anambra State has had its share of girl-child drop-out in the riverine areas were girls are married off at the age of 12 and less. The commissioner painted a gloomy picture of those riverine communities, which she said are mostly farmers and place little value to education.
She, however, said the state government is working assiduously to reverse the trend as several policies have been formulated to get the drop-outs enrolled in schools and provide lifelong skills that will equip the state to become one of the three top states with the lowest illiteracy rate. Another is shortage of classrooms. Largely rural and marginalised areas lack classrooms to accommodate those who are not in school. More classrooms will alleviate overcrowding, cut class sizes and reduce the long travel distances.
Children in rural areas sometimes trek two to three hours to attend school. Dilapidated classrooms also need refurbishing or upgrading to acceptable minimum standards for learning. There is also the need to fulfill the right to education in humanitarian crises. Many out-of school children live in conflict-affected areas. But in emergency situations, education can save and sustain lives.
A safe school environment can give children a sense of normalcy during a crisis. Schools can also aid in post-conflict reconstruction. Yet only two per cent of all humanitarian aid goes into education, according to reports. Gender discrimination is equally a big issue. Girls face a unique set of barriers to education, such as child marriage, early pregnancy, and expectations related to domestic labour, not to mention unsafe travel and a lack of sanitary facilities. Many in the North under-value girls’ education, with the result that fewer girls enroll and those who do, are more likely to drop out.
Some 34 million adolescent girls are out of school around the world, and women make up nearly two thirds (almost 500 million) of the world’s illiterate adults. The gender gap is said to have significantly narrowed in primary education but there has been limited progress at the secondary level. Child labour equally contributes handsomely to the nagging problem of education in Nigeria. Poverty and vulnerability are pushing far too many young children out of school and into the world of work. Some children remain in school, but are disadvantaged doubling up studies with work. For households living in poverty, children may be pulled out of school and into work in the face of external shocks such as rising costs, or a parent’s sickness or unemployment.
By leaving school to enter the labour market prematurely, children miss a chance to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of a cycle of poverty. Sometimes these children are exposed to the worst forms of labour that is damaging to their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Nutrition has also been identified as one of the most important factors for brain development of babies in the womb, and children from birth until about five. Mothers, who eat food rich in proteins, certain fats, iodine, and others, tend to pass these on to their babies, either in the womb or via breast milk.
These nutrients aid the brain development of babies and set the stage for their cognitive ability, or their capacity to learn. The nutritional requirements for brain development persist until children are about five years.
At this point, the stage is set for life. Children who get to the age of five in “peak” condition are set to learn more and do more for the rest of their lives, compared to children who do not get there in “peak” condition. To put this differently, children who get proper nutrition from the womb until their early childhood are going to be smarter and learn better than children who don’t get proper nutrition. This stage is set even before the child walks into a primary school. What this means is, even before they get to primary school, even before they get to the hands of the poor-quality teachers, even before they get to the dilapidated structures, they are already at a disadvantage; a disadvantage that stays with them for life.
The problems unfortunately do not end there. They continue into primary school too. However, the head teacher of Army Children Special Primary School in Tofa Local Government Area, Hajia Harira Ahmed, confirmed to this reporter that the government’s free feeding programme had achieved far-reaching success. This development, she said, had brought huge relief and has improved enrollment in schools within Kano State.
“Nutrition is a major issue in the rural areas and because our pupils can now access free food in school, the attraction has kept increasing. The free school fee is also a major motivation for indigent pupils and we are trying our best to make representation to government on the need to provide more free books than we are having at the moment,” Ahmed said. Infrastructure has remained a major issue in schools in Nigeria, as pupils still take lessons squeezed in a few chairs and desks available. The recent visit to some schools scattered across the country revealed a lot; the major stain being the steady decline of the buildings. It is obvious most of them are living in the glory of their past. The decay, however, is most visible in the classrooms and lavatories.
The World Bank Group had warned that the education sector in Nigeria is in crisis and currently widening the social inclusion gaps in the country. The group said this in its World Development Report for 2018 titled “Learning to Realise Education’s Promise” which was presented in Abuja in March this year. It called, in its report, for greater action and coordination of the education sector to achieve the objectives of poverty reduction.
It said millions of young students in low and middle-income brackets face the prospect of lost opportunities and lower wages in the future because their primary and secondary schools were failing to educate them to succeed in life. It further warned of a ‘learning crises as it believes that not only to be a wasted development opportunity but also a great injustice to children and young people everywhere.
Without learning, it said, education would fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all. The report observed that even after several years in school, millions of children could not read, write or do basic mathematics. This learning crisis, according to the report, is widening social gaps instead of narrowing them. It added that young students disadvantaged by poverty, conflict, gender or disability got to adulthood without even the most basic skills of life.
The schools, in the early days of Nigeria’s formation, were what one could wish for. But, not any more as many have degenerated and become eyesores. There is no longer any sign of their status as planned schools right from their entrances, particularly the primary and secondary schools.
Most of these school buildings have been bastardised over the years, while those wearing rainbow new looks have only paints applied without extensive repair work. Many of them lack access to water and sewage disposals. Roads leading to some of them are not easily accessible and are in terrible states of disrepair with heap of refuse that become worse whenever it rains. The once beautiful and attractive schools have today become environmental blights not only to people in their neighbourhood but also to the government, which built them. The schools are, indeed, becoming slums. Dirt, debris, acute shortage of basic amenities and infrastructural decay has crept in on the once vibrant institutions.
INSIDE STORY OF SOUTH AFRICA DRUG CARTELS
A growing drug epidemic appears to be silently taking over cities and towns in South Africa. The country seems to have become a key player in global drug distribution with many alleging that Nigerian dealers dominate the trade in recent times. ISIOMA MADIKE, in this report, looks at the booming drug cartel which, over time, has fueled the dangerous xenophobic attacks against other nationals
South Africa is gradually but steadily assuming the status of a xenophobic state, which is evil in the eyes of civilised world. The killings and destructions that are associated with it are unimaginable. Little wonder Nigerians are wailing with nationals of other countries agonising too.
However, the recent “madness”, which started on Tuesday, seemed to have united Nigerians, whom, on a normal day, enjoys touting ethnicity and religion to further crate a gorge among the populace.
Yet, some Nigerians do not see the need for the deluge of verbal retaliatory attacks on South Africa in this instance. Chinedum Agwaramgbo, one of such persons, alleged in his Facebook post, that Nigerians in that country actually engineered the hatred visited on them. He claimed that those living in South Africa deliberately and consistently contrive the drug war raging in that country and have “systematically destroyed the very fabric of the people, morally, culturally, economically and socially”.
He further alleged that Nigerians who immigrated to South Africa turned it to one of the major capital city of drugs in the world. The drug cartels, according to Agwaramgbo, began with the Yorubas and increasingly overtaken by the Igbos.
He said: “The Igbos in the drug business have effectively run the Yorubas out of S.A. to other southern African countries like Mozambique. The Nigerians have presently turned the country into a drug-war zone, killings galore with Igbos killing Igbos.
“Do you know that every day in S.A., a Nigerian, precisely an Igbo man, is killed in a drug-related case? I said every day not once a week or once in three days, every day. In fact the Igbo boys running the shows in S. A. have dominated areas they control and all these to the chagrin of the law enforcement agencies.
“Let me tell you a secret that is not so a secret. Do you know that every week at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport here in Enugu, corpses of Igbos slain in “drug battles” in different streets of S.A. are flown into the country? I have personally witnessed the receiving of seven corpses in three weeks in one instance.
“At one of those occasions (normally the corpses arrive on cargo flights of Ethiopian Airlines) I was present when three different families were in the manager’s office to receive their slain sons, two of those families were represented by the aged biological fathers to the dead boys. The third family represented by a younger man in age, an uncle to the third corpse. One of them asked the other elder, which city his son was in. He answered Jo’burg.
“Did the South Africans begin to hate us all of a sudden or they had always hated us all these while? Would you close your eyes to the evil we Nigerians have unleashed in South Africa simply because we saved them from apartheid era? So, because we assisted them that now gives us the gumption to destroy their society like we’ve persistently done ours?”
The post, as should be expected elicited stern reactions, with many pouring out their venoms on Agwaramgbo. To most people, drug issues are as old as the South African nationhood. It has always been a mushrooming trade in that part of the world.
The country, according to investigations, has been facing a growing epidemic with drugs said to have been quietly taking over major cities and small towns in the former apartheid enclave. This much was revealed at the policy briefing by Enact Project, a group, which comprises INTERPOL, in April, based on its research and on-the-ground interviews with drug users and dealers across South Africa.
“The drug route that crosses South Africa has created a regional heroin economy, with severe social and political repercussions. To a significant degree, heroin is a key commodity underpinning the criminal economy in South Africa and has facilitated the expansion of the criminal economy by pulling in new players as traffickers, dealers and users,” the group was quoted to have said.
Enact is a three-year project (2017-2019), which works to mitigate the impact of transnational organised crime on development, governance, security and the rule of law in Africa.
During the latter months of 2018, Enact conducted interviews with drug dealers, users, health professionals, outreach workers, law enforcement and gang members, to better understand the growing heroin epidemic in the country. It found that the trade in South Africa was far larger and more lucrative than previously thought – with the situation receiving “surprisingly little attention as a national issue”.
Names like nyaope, unga and sugars, are what those involved in the illicit trade call heroin. The dealers are said to maintain a low profile, and are largely non-violent so as not to draw attention. Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Tshwane largely control heroin trade, which is sold widely even in villages from taxi parks, train stations, and other fixed spots. It outsells many other drugs, and rivals tik (crystal meth).
A mid-level dealer (in a large gang controlling a fixed dealing point), according to findings, can make up to 200 sales a day from about 50 customers. With “good quality” heroin, they can make between R3,000 and R4,000 a day. Enact though said research into heroin use in South Africa had been lacking, it nonetheless pointed out the difficulty in pining down the exact number of use in the country.
“In Cape Town, dealers in gang-controlled neighbourhoods say that patrol vans treat their selling points as ATMs – a place to visit for small injections of cash. They claim there is no set price for bribes paid to police, but R50 to R100 was an average bribe payment for a low-level police officer in a patrol van. Police officers are said to visit a few times a week,” the group had said.
In January, a R700 million consignment of uncut cocaine from Brazil en route to Singapore and India, which was seized by authorities at Coega harbour outside Port Elizabeth, prompted a call from one of South Africa’s top cops for communities to disempower drug lords.
“By confiscating this cargo, we have severed the supply chain,” Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya, the national head of the Hawks, said of the massive bust.
The Hawks are South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), which targets organised and economic crime, corruption, and other serious criminality. The consignment of 706 cocaine bricks, each weighing 1kg, was found concealed at the bottom of the ship – below more than 3,669 containers.
When the ship docked to offload some of its cargo, a team from multiple law enforcement units pounced. A drug bust at the Port of Ngqura on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth that afternoon netted over R700 million in cocaine. The discovery was made after almost two weeks of tracking the cargo as a result of a tip-off by Interpol.
“Since December 27, 2018, the vessel was observed with the assistance of Interpol from both local and abroad. It had already been established that the vessel was going to dock at Coega harbour and continue to Singapore before going to its final destination in India with the illegal cargo. The crime was not only committed in the country where the cargo was harvested and produced; it was also committed in Brazil, where the cargo was clandestinely loaded into the ship. The crime continued in high seas and in South African waters,” said the Hawks in a statement.
The bust, according to a local newspaper, Herald in Port Elizabeth, was the latest in a number of busts involving drugs loaded onto ships from Brazil and then sent through South African ports. Lebeya had urged communities to stop empowering drug syndicates.
While applauding the bust, he acknowledged: “The war on drugs has neither been lost nor won. We are still going to put more efforts in targeting the supply of these dangerous, dependence-producing substances. We will not be allowing these substances to go and ruin the lives of innocent people, who are being turned into drug addicts.
“We are making a call to all communities not to do drugs. Do not demand drugs. Do not apply for a criminal record by doing drugs. If you stop demanding drugs, cartels will not be producing or delivering them. The empires of the cartels will fall. Sever the demand chain. The power to stop this is in your hands.”
Before the January bust, two suspects had been arrested in June 2018, in Namibia after a container with 412kg of cocaine was seized. It is alleged that the container was dispatched from Brazil via Cape Town and then to its final destination in Walvis Bay. A month later, the Hawks found a state-of-the-art underground mandrax-manufacturing laboratory in Harding, KwaZulu-Natal. Police minister, Bheki Cele, who confirmed that, said the mandrax and lab equipment valued at nearly R250 million were also seized.
The January bust was similar to one that took place in 2010, when R400 million worth of cocaine was found sealed inside the frame of a shipping container. That operation also followed a tip-off from Interpol and saw the container seized at Coega, also known as the Port of Ngqura. In the 2010 bust, a Cuban was arrested at home in his Hyde Park, Johannesburg. But, charges against him were later withdrawn following numerous delays in the case.
There had equally been accusations of collusion with criminals by the police to transport drugs while on duty. Bribes taking and falsifying information also led to the arrest of five Vredenburg police officers. The five officials were apprehended after a protracted undercover operation by the Western Cape Anti-Corruption Investigating Unit with Crime Intelligence, South African Police Service (SAPS), said.
“The suspects‚ between the ages of 31 and 38‚ faced an array of charges ranging from unauthorised disclosure of information and fraud to dealing in drugs as well as corruption. The suspects are alleged to have committed illicit activities while deployed to perform court and crime prevention duties. By virtue of the arrests, the suspects‚ two sergeants and two constables are automatically suspended.”
However, there have been other nationals, especially from neighbouring South African countries as well as from Eastern Africa who converge on South Africa that have made her a key player in the global distribution of drugs, according to a multinational research report. The Mpumalanga coal-mining towns of eMalahleni and Middelburg are said to have been “decimated” by the trade, as they are a popular stop for truckers ferrying the deadly drug along the Mozambique ports to Johannesburg.
Children as young as eight in these towns are alleged to be peddling heroin in schools, with one rehab reporting that they have treated 48 children for heroin addiction over a few past years. The report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GIATOC) and Interpol said corrupt police and customs officials have allowed international drug traffickers to swarm into South Africa.
It names Gauteng’s City Deep container depot as a heroin smugglers’ haven, and claimed that 75,000 South Africans inject heroin daily, the highest number in Africa.
In spite of this, fingers have always been pointed to Nigeria as the arrow head of the drug cartels. According to a report by the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, Nigerian dealers dominate the cocaine trade, which, it stated, had exploded in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
“Cocaine and crack cocaine were not commonly available in South Africa (prior to 1994). This market vacuum was filled when Nigerian nationals arrived in Johannesburg just as democracy was dawning,” it said.
The report was released at the time the African Union known then as Organisation of African Unity (OAU) held a conference in Ivory Coast on drug trafficking networks throughout Africa. “This conference is very significant for our country … desperate and unemployed South Africans are being lured by international syndicates with promises of easy money into becoming couriers,” said the then South Africa’s representative, Social Development Minister, Zola Skweyiya, before her departure.
According to the report, Nigerians settled next door to prostitutes, who were central to the demand for crack cocaine and its distribution. “Nigerian nationals had long been involved in the transnational trade in cocaine, heroin and addicted sex workers would rather smoke drugs with their clients than have sex with them, and so have a strong incentive to spread the drug,” it further said.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Nigerians camouflage with genuine businesses to conceal their illicit drug trade.
South Africa’s first arrest for crack cocaine in 1995 was a decade after the drug’s peak in the United States. But by 2001, some eight to 10 per cent of addicts admitted to treatment centres in South Africa were using cocaine, said researcher Andreas Pluddemann.
One reason for the Nigerian dealers’ success, the report said, is the fact that they do not consume their own drugs. In general, the Nigerians, it added, are not as violent as local dealers. The report’s editor, Ted Leggett, said that the Nigerian dealers organised themselves in residential hotels in Hillbrow, a seedy and dangerous inner-city neighbourhood of run-down apartment buildings in Johannesburg.
While this organisation could imply a syndicate structure, it is an organic network where the removal of a “top man” is futile, he said.
The report also advocated the decriminalisation of prostitution as “another way of removing power from the drug lords”. Findings revealed that emaciated prostitutes, trawling for their next fix, haunt the bars and corridors of these dingy hotels.
However, the incident of 2017 appears to have given credence to the allegation of drug cartels in South Africa. The fight for control of the lucrative South African market, more than 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) away came to St Philip’s Parish in Ozubulu, a village in the South-East Nigerian State of Anambra. Thirteen people were shot dead in an apparent reprisal attack between Nigerian drug barons operating in Johannesburg.
Piles of trash line the dirt road leading to Ozubulu, where an endless stream of people hawks everything from adulterated fuel to plastic flip-flops. But among the grinding poverty are huge villas with grand columns and intricate wrought iron gates – glaring anomalies in a region with epileptic power and disintegrating roads.
In August of that year, unknown gunmen interrupted the 6 a.m Sunday mass in the town, hoping to kill Aloysius Nnamdi Ikegwuonu, an alleged Johannesburg drugs kingpin known as “The Bishop”. He wasn’t there but his father and a one-year-old child were in the church and were among those gunned down. “What we had were gunshots, sporadic and reckless shootings,” said Jude Onwuaso, the parish priest.
Police had stated that about 11 people were killed in the church massacre with over 18 other worshippers wounded. But, there were conflicting reports over whether the attack was carried out by a lone gunman or a group of attackers. Although police said the shooting was the result of a feud between Nigerians from Ozubulu who were living abroad.
Anambra State Police Commissioner at the time, Garba Umar, had hinted that the violence could be linked to drug war. He said that the gunman had been hired to kill a local man who was believed to be in St Philip’s Catholic Church built by one of the Nigerian expatriates involved in the feud.
Pastor Linus Akpunonu, father of Chinedu Akpunonu (aka Obrocho), one of the alleged dramatis personae in the Ozubulu Church attack, had said God would have revealed to him if his son was involved in the criminal activity.
He had said: “I am ready for war… I see vision myself and I know that my son has no hand in the killing of innocent citizens at St. Philips Ozubulu. I want to challenge the Anambra State Government, the Ozubulu community and all those involved to invite, if they like, all the seers, to tell Nigerians what happened to the worshippers at St Phillips.”
Akpunonum, in an interview with one of our correspondents then had said that his son had nothing to do with the killing, rather with one Ginika from Mbaise in Imo State, who served him in South Africa. “They had problem in South Africa and all the members of Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa came home in 2014 with their minutes of meetings’ book and the matter was decided at Obi’s palace and Alloysius was told to leave my son alone.
“My son owns a supermarket in South Africa,” the pastor further said, adding, “They told us that one Ginika from Mbaise, who served Alloysius, had a problem with him and left him to join my son and that was also part of the problem they brought home because the boy sued him at the Ozubulu Development Union in South Africa. The boy later died mysteriously with other of his colleagues from the same Umuezekwe Village.”
Meanwhile, families of the dead, who were suspected to belong to drug gangs, licked their pains in solitude as many of them were said not to have approved the vocation their slain sons went into in foreign lands. Most people interviewed on the identity of the South Africa-based business tycoons by our correspondents declined comment while those who spoke did not want their names in print. One of them however, said they were not happy at the turn of events in Ozubulu.
The anonymous source had said: “These young men are evil. See the road leading to where one of them built his mansion. Does it look like the road to the house of somebody who is as rich?
“Many of them in South Africa have formed a drug cartel and that is the reason why they don’t last to enjoy their wealth. Theirs is drug money; evil money. It is sad that all we now do in this town is to burry young men who knew nothing more than drug. This is shameful and we are not happy about what is happening here. May God save us from evil people.”
There was an unconfirmed allegation that pointed to the burial of about three young Ozubulu sons, which sparked suspicion that “Bishop” may have been around to witness the burial. “The people that carried out the shooting and killing of innocent souls on that fateful day were rival drug groups. We heard they wanted to take revenge but missed their target. Instead of retreating, they decided to snuff life out of blameless individuals,” another source, who declined to give his name, had said.
Ozubulu had made headlines for drugs before then. In 2015, for instance, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had busted a meth lab allegedly belonging to Ikejiaku Sylvester Chukwunwendu, also known as “Blessed Benita”. He was charged with meth production and trafficking in the village.
“He’s one of the biggest kingpins we’ve got,” said state prosecutor, Lambert Nor, who claimed that some of Chukwunwendu’s couriers had been executed in China for drug trafficking. Security experts had their fear that as production increases, meth will find a domestic market like in South Africa, where “tik” — as it’s known on the street — has been described as an “epidemic” and is the most abused drug in the South African Western Cape Province.
But, while speaking on the current xenophobic crisis in South Africa, an unidentified Somali, who claimed to be the Chairman of a board in Somalia, said: “MTN is everywhere, ShopRite is everywhere, and MultiChoice. We are not attacking them, why are they now attacking us? Not all Nigerians are drug dealers, not all Mozambique are bad, not all Zimbabweans are cars hijackers but every day there is constant intimidation, interference and harassment of their business.”
Nigerians have also been reacting. For instance, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, advised the Federal Government to suspend diplomatic ties with South Africa. He condemned the incessant attacks on Nigerians and other African nationals in South Africa, describing it as “unAfrican, barbaric, and unparalleled acts of in gratitude”.
The former speaker of the parliament of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regretted that the government of South Africa had failed to wield the big stick to end the assaults.
And in what appears to be the government’s alignment with the populace, the presidency announced the pulling out of Nigeria from the ongoing World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa. Before the government’s action, notable Nigerian entertainers, spearheaded by Tiwa Savage, have cancelled their engagements in that country to protest the attacks on fellow citizens.
An exc ursion to Radio Nigeria as a pupil made me love broadc asting –Emmanuel- Ojo
A broadcast journalist who studied English and Literary Studies at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ayo’ Emmanuel-Ojo is popular for his radio programme and podcast, People, Places and Culture, which interrogates global tourism and cultural systems by looking at the happenings that define tourism in Africa. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, Emmanuel-Ojo, a golden star award recipient from a youth-based organisation in Houston Texas, United States, talks about his experience as an OAP, running Greenspirit Media and hosting one of the most listened-to shows on tourism and cultural programmes in the Diaspora.
How difficult do you consider being able to carve a niche for oneself as an OAP based on your own experience?
This is a big question. To the glory of God, I have worked on both radio and television. Although I am fully on radio now.
Carving a niche for yourself is not easy, knowing full well that everyone wants to do entertainment but passion is the key. I grew up in an art family. My dad took me round and showed me places.
This, to a very large extent, made me develop a strong passion for art, culture, tourism and politics. With this, I find my strength in art, lifestyle and politics. Although as a young broadcaster, you have to be very versatile but knowing your area of strength is key. With this in mind, getting a stand in the industry was not difficult at all.
What is your journey like and why did you choose to be an OAP?
This is a very long story.
The love for broadcasting/journalism started when I was in primary school. I remember my primary school, ATMA-D Nursery and Primary School, now known as West Prime Model School in Bodija area of Ibadan, took us to Radio Nigeria, Ibadan, for an excursion. Stepping into that premises then, something clicked and I just love the profession.
At that level, I had the privilege of meeting the Voice-Over actor of Living Spring Chapel then in the studio. He spoke to me as a child and his words are still clear in my head even though I cannot remember his name now.
Growing up, things just fell in place. I later discovered my talent in voice acting and content creation, interestingly, radio embraced me before TV. I am a graduate of English and Literary studies from the prestigious Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. I have worked as a script writer, voice actor, a content producer, an event compere, a lover of children and a serial entrepreneur and currently work with Wellsradio, Nigeria’s fastest growing online radio.
Could you still cast you mind back to some of the challenges you faced in the process of becoming an OAP? Challenges are everywhere and I must say mine aren’t an exception. I started out as an intern, which really helped me.
But I must also mention that access to the microphone was the challenge initially. I later realised that it is one of those things you have to face to get to the top. How were you able to overcome this? One of the greatest gifts of God to me are my parents. Growing up, my dad used to tell me not to despise the days of little beginnings.
I didn’t stop pushing, even when the opportunities were not forthcoming, I kept on reading and retraining myself, aside from that, I had mentors in the industry who I look up to. Their stories inspire me a lot and with these in mind, together with my drive and passion, it was always a matter of time.
If you had your mind set on broadcasting since primary school, why did you choose to study English and not Mass-communication?
In fact, I wanted to study Law and not English Language. Although I have always loved the media.
For your information, I had my first shot at radio right after secondary school. So, I know that the media has something for me but still I had my eyes on studying law.
As God would have it, I was offered English Language at the Olabisi Onabanjo University but having had my first shot on radio just after secondary school meant I had senior colleagues to talk to.
They mentored me and gave me the best counsel I needed at that time.
Are there experiences you have had as an OAP that are not so good?
I have had memorable moments but I do not see them as bad, rather; I learn from them and move on. Trust me, such moments made me who I am today.
What would be your advice to people who desire to work as an OAP?
Passion, training/education and consistency are the most important ingredients they have to keep in mind all the time.
Since your passion developed through a national broadcaster, do you wish to work in any Federal broadcasting commission?
Absolutely, but of course it would have to be as a full staff this time.
That is because I had a short time with Bronze FM in the Aduwawa area of Benin City and I loved it.
Which other course could you have studied apart from Law or English/Mass Communication?
There was no other course that would allow me exhibit my love and passion. Law might have to a certain extent but I do not regret studying English language at all. Trust me when I say that I cannot imagine myself studying something else.
Although I still have my eyes on the legal profession.
So can we then say that is a future goal, which others do you have?
The future is now and I have started living it. Watch out for my talk show on YouTube and directto- home TV. It is going to be a big project, there are other productions coming up but for some reasons, I cannot let them out yet. You just have to watch out via my social media platforms.
What would you say you have contributed to the industry and on which you hope to do more?
Sound Character is one of my core values. I tell people the media has a lot to do in this area. One of these contributions is through my talk show programs: Stigma2Stardom with Ayo and Gender World on Wellsradio.
With these platforms, my contributions are not just for the industry but for the society at large.
Amebo, Garuba, Okoro, others to celebrate Villag e Headmaster at 50 –Prince Dag bolu
Mr. Dan Imoudu popularly known as Prince Dagbolu in the rested NTA’s foremost longest drama series Village Headmaster (VHM). He told FLORA ONWUDIWE that NTA, the mother that brought the people together in the late 60s would be celebrating the surviving legends of the TV drama series in October
We learnt that the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) would be celebrating Village Headmaster at 50, how prepared are you for the anniversary?
The anniversary is starting on the October 8, with a talk show, and we are inviting well known veterans in the industries to discuss past, present and the future, because that is what the Village Headmaster is all about. And there will be a live stage performance of the surviving cast of VHM and there will be a Gala nite, in which funds will be raised to launch a foundation.
The cast of the Village Headmaster Family (VHMF) will launch a foundation that will take care of the old ones in the entertainment industry. The VHM was said to have started in October 1968, why is the celebration coming now, when it ought to have taken place last year? Yes, the VHM is a household name.
We intended celebrating it last year but for forces beyond our control, we could not get it done, we felt that it has to be celebrated, so the change of one year, I think there is nothing bad, the most important thing is that we are celebrating Village Headmaster.
You are one of the surviving legends of VHM, what does the celebration mean to the surviving cast?
It means a lot because VHM is unlike other programmes.
It is a family and we had so much rapport and we had so many things we were doing for one another, apart from acting together and we were all there for ourselves.
We discovered that the VHM was unique itself, because everybody rose from the root to ranks to where he or she rose to at that time. Could you believe that somebody like Chief Eleyimi( the late Oba Funso Adeolu of Ode Remo) was once a carpenter in Oja Community, so everybody has to go through different steps .
Like I started with a minor (waka pass) next was crowd , I also became a policeman, the palmwine tapper before I was given the role of Prince Dagbolu, that people later came to identify me with, so it was more or less like a training school.
We‘ve had other drama series that hit the nation’s airwaves; and there has not been so much a noise, is it really worth celebrating, what makes VHM so special ?
It’s being celebrated because of the year’s it lasted, it was over 25 years. If it were to be in other countries, there should have been repeat broadcast of the programme.
VHM has its own cultural teachings, which is not reflected in most of the dramas on the airwaves. I will cite an instance; the Amebo’s Bar was more or less like a gossip centre. In a normal a village setting, you will find out that many of our children of this generation have not seen Calabash nor seen a local bar.
So these are things that make it unique, we felt all these things should be there, before we now, go back to our roots, most of the programmes that our children watched on the TV are only imitating the foreigners, there is no way you can play an English drama like an English man, it is not possible, you can’t do an African drama like a normal African man.
We learnt that the management of NTA is partnering with the cast and crew for the anniversary, what are we expecting from them?
The celebration was first mooted by the living cast, but we felt because NTA was the mother body that brought us together then we had to go to NTA to get the station informed. Surprisingly, they bought the idea and they are playing the principal partners and since they are major partners they fully prepared, right now they are taking most of the responsibilities and everything we are doing, we have agreed on so many things concerning the celebration and NTA is fully prepared to celebrate the cast and crew.
We are aware that the majority of the cast had died; could you name some of the surviving cast that your fans would be meeting during the events? The fans will meet Mrs Ibidun Allison(Amebo), Dan Imoudu(Chief Dagbolu), Jimi Johnson(Okoro), Eleyemi’s wife (Mrs. Dupe Onabanjo-Obazee, Melville Obriangho (Oghene), Asuquo Ukwak (Boniface), Dele Osawe(Teacher Fadele), amongst o thers.
We discovered that most drama series that had hit the airwaves do not take cognizance of the Cultural values, could you tell us if VHM portrays some of these values?
Yes, it was in that direction but at a time, the programme deviated from the original concept, it was getting us what was going on in the country thereby losing the cultural values, perhaps, it could have been part of it; the scripts were not as strong as it were before, it deviated from the original concept. So what led to its losing its original focus? A lot of politics were involved in it, and NTA cannot exonerate itself from some of problems we were having them.
The New Village headmaster was political. After this golden Jubilee, are we expecting the programme to come back on the airwaves?
Well, that depends on NTA, we are just celebrating ourselves. So, if NTA wants to bring it back, it is left for the station.
It was reported that at the early stage of the drama series, the characters were from different tribes across the country and it reflected in their roles, that was a signal of a united nation.
Now, if NTA brings it back, are we going to expect that unity especially now that the country is going berserk?
If it retains the original concept, yes,it will promote the unity of this country, because the characters come from different tribes, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and other tribes, you discovered that the characteristics of these characters are being portrayed in this programme, of course they will know that if the cast can exist together in that Oja Village, there is no reason why they cannot exist together outside the drama.
It can be integrated into the larger society. Some things happen in the society and when we interprete them in the script, the viewers will know. In one of the series in The New Village headmaster, the headmaster’s wife comes from the North and headmaster is not an Hausa, so it means that inter-tribal marriage can be encouraged and we can live in harmony.
You said that it could bring us together but sometimes it lampoons on some institutions in the society, how do you explain that? That makes it a complete programme, it tells us you what is happening in the society, it criticises some of the things that have to be criticised and it promotes what should be promoted.
Like there are some burning issues, like the RUGA settlement and kidnapping, the VHM will portray it in a dramatic form and how it will be resolved. Why is Village Headmaster family launching a foundation? The family is launching a foundation because this was a programme that started 50 years ago and some of us were on it for over 25 years, some of the cast are between the ages of 50-above and some are getting close to 80years. Again, some of the cast died in a pitiable state and nobody was there to help them.
The government cannot do everything, so the idea is that we should be our brother’s keeper and one of the greatest things in the Bible is that, “Love your neighbour as thy self” if you cannot love your neigbour why do you pray to God? For instance, somebody like Joe Layode(Teacher Garuba), he died wretchedly. It was very annoying, And some of the cast are ill now, and we have to assist them. Are you saying that the Foundation would not be strictly for the cast of VHM or the gestures will be extended to other people? The foundation is not to cater for the cast of VHM alone and other colleagues in the entertainment industry. Some of the patrons are well known in the society and accountability is the key word.
Every kobo spent would be accounted for. With God on our side, we will get there,The Village headmaster gave birth to Nollywood, whether, we like it or not. Yes, no matter small at least we will give them our widow’s mite. Some groups had established foundations and ended up stealing the money meant for the project, how will this foundation be different from such foundations? This is where I said the issue of accountability comes in.
Would you say somebody like Amebo and Bayo Awala one of the producers/directors of VHM, now a Reverend, that are involved will allow such thing to happen?
They are above money, these are the people that are involved in it, so there must be accountability, it is going to have a full fledge office with its own staff. Every year, we will publish our accounts. You said that the choice is NTA, if the programme must come back, how would the characters that played roles that pleased their fans, how would you get people to play the exact roles that made some fans became addicted to the programme? Along the line, there were people growing with us.
Such people are now being trained for each role, so that if a particular character does not come, someone else will step in to play the role. So look at the years now, some of those actors that were there are overdue for chieftaincy titles to be in the palace. Someone like Doyin (Lara Akinsola) had three children for Teacher Garuba) so we must see Doyin with those kids now, it is a moving story. Part of the cast will be embedded with the old cast.
MENINGITIS: The disease, the cure
Meningococcal meningitis, commonly referred to as cerebrospinal meningitis, is a serious infection of the meninges that affects the brain membrane. The country has been witnessing its outbreaks with the 2017 epidemic earmarked as one of the worst with high mortality. Recently the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) alerted that about 26.7 million Nigerian children are at risk of contracting this disease. ISIOMA MADIKE, in this report, attempts to find out how this could be tamed from medical experts
- Kissing, sneezing or living in close contacts with a carrier facilitates its spread –Medical experts
A Consultant Public Health Physician, Bayo Onajole, has disclosed that meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial form of meningitis, is a serious infection of the meninges that affects the brain membrane. According to the professor of Community Medicine, it can cause severe brain damage even as it is fatal in 50 per cent of cases if untreated. Several different bacteria, he said, can cause meningitis. But, Neisseria meningitidis, he further said, is the one with the potential to cause large epidemics.
“There are 12 serogroups of Neisseria meningitidis that have been identified, six of which (A, B, C, W, X and Y) can cause epidemics. Geographic distribution and epidemic potential differ according to serogroup,” the Consultant Public Health Physician at the College of Medicine, Uni-versity of Lagos / Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said. Onajole said that the bacteria are transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers.
He said: “Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters (such as a dormitory, sharing eating or drinking utensils) with an infected person (a carrier) – facilitates the spread of the disease.
“The average incubation period is four days, but can range between two and 10 days. Neisseria meningitidis only infects humans; there is no animal reservoir. The bacteria can be carried in the throat and sometimes, for reasons not fully understood, can overwhelm the body’s defenses allowing infection to spread through the bloodstream to the brain.
“It is believed that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the population carries Neisseria meningitidis in their throat at any given time. However, the carriage rate may be higher in epidemic situations.” Waheed Abayomi, another medical doctor and managing director of Crest Hospital, Egan-Igando, while agreeing with Onajole, said that the most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting.
He said: “Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate treatment is started, five to 10 per cent of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. Bacterial meningitis may result in brain damage, hearing loss or a learning disability in 10 to 20 per cent of survivors.
“A less common but even more severe (often fatal) form of meningococcal disease is meningococcal septicaemia, which is characterised by a haemorrhagic rash and rapid circulatory collapse.” According to the doctor, initial diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis can be made by clinical examination followed by a lumbar puncture, showing a purulent spinal fluid. The bacteria, he said, can sometimes be seen in microscopic examinations of the spinal fluid.
“The diagnosis is supported or confirmed by growing the bacteria from specimens of spinal fluid or blood, by agglutination tests or by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The identification of the serogroups and susceptibility testing to antibiotics are important to define control measures,” Abayomi said. For Onajole, meningococcal disease is potentially fatal and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. Admission to a hospital or health centre, he said, is necessary, although isolation of the patient, according to him, is not essential.
“Appropriate antibiotic treatment must be started as soon as possible, ideally after the lumbar puncture has been carried out, if such a puncture can be performed immediately. If treatment is started prior to the lumbar puncture it may be difficult to grow the bacteria from the spinal fluid and confirm the diagnosis.
“A range of antibiotics can treat the infection, including penicillin, ampicillin, chloramphenicol and ceftriaxone. Under epidemic conditions in Africa in areas with limited health infrastructure and resources, ceftriaxone is the drug of choice,” he said.
To prevent the disease, according to the consultant, three types of vaccines available. He however, said that polysaccharide vaccines have been available to prevent the disease for over 30 years. “Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines are available in either bivalent (groups A and C), trivalent (groups A, C and W), or tetravalent (groups A, C, Y and W) forms to control the disease. “For group B, polysaccharide vaccines cannot be developed, due to antigenic mimicry with polysaccharide in human neurologic tissues.
The first vaccine against NmB, made from a combination of four protein components, was released in 2014. “Since 1999, meningococcal conjugate vaccines against group C have been available and widely used. Tetravalent A, C, Y and W conjugate vaccines have also been licensed since 2005 for use in children and adults in some countries like Canada, the United States of America, and Europe,” he further said. Abayomi however, said that Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) is a disease characterised by inflammation of the meninges (protective membrane covering the brain and the spinal cord).
He said it can be caused by a variety of microbial pathogens including viral and bacterial organisms, noting that the main etiological agents in bacterial meningitis are Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus Influenzae. Just like Onajole, Abayomi agreed that Neisseria meningitidis (Meningococcus) is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Meningococcal meningitis occurs in small clusters throughout the world with seasonal variation, and accounts for a variable proportion of epidemic bacterial meningitis.
The largest burden of meningococcal disease, the world health body said, occurs in an area of sub-Saharan Africa known as the meningitis belt, which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. WHO further said that during the dry season between December to June, dust winds, cold nights and upper respiratory tract infections combine to damage the nasopharyngeal mucosa, increasing the risk of meningococcal disease. At the same time, transmission of Neisseria meningitidis, it also said, may be facilitated by overcrowded housing and by large population displacements at the regional level due to pilgrimages and traditional markets. WHO said: “This combination of factors explains the large epidemics which occur during the dry season in the meningitis belt. Following the successful roll-out of the MenA conjugate vaccine, epidemics due to Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A are disappearing, but other meningococcal serogroups such as NmW, NmX and NmC still cause epidemics albeit at a lower frequency and smaller size.”
The experts are in agreement with WHO when they noted that Meningococcal meningitis occurs in small clusters but stated that the outbreaks can occur in any part of the world, the largest of these usually occur mainly in the semi-arid areas of sub-Saharan Africa, designated the ‘African meningitis belt’.
Nigeria, according to them, is one of the countries situated within the meningitis belt with almost entire northern sphere of the country embedded in the belt geographically. This, they said, might be the reason the country has been witnessing outbreaks of meningitis, with the 2017 outbreak earmarked as one of the worst with high mortality.
Several guideline documents exist globally, which address specific compoinnents of meningitis response but there is none that is specific to the Nigerian context, leading to response efforts being uncoordinated and unstructured.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) which is a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has the responsibility of protecting the health of Nigerians through prevention, detection, and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Consequently, the NCDC developed a document as a “National Preparedness and Response Guideline for Cerebrospinal Meningitis Outbreak” in response to the growing need by stakeholders to streamline coordination efforts to prevent and respond to outbreaks of meningitis in Nigeria.
The purpose of the practical guideline was to provide guidance on the prevention, detection and response to cerebrospinal meningitis outbreaks in Nigeria through specific measures. These include prevention, early detection of suspected cases and prompt reporting of these cases from health facilities to higher levels, activation of response coordination structures at national and sub-national levels during outbreaks. It is equally saddled with the responsibility to strengthening surveillance and laboratory confirmation data at all levels and use of such information for immediate public health control response.
The document is the first of its kind in Nigeria that integrates all aspects of control such as Prevention, Surveillance, and Laboratory diagnosis. Others are Case Management, Risk Communication with Social Mobilisation, Vaccines/Logistics and Incident ForewordF8 Management Coordination for meningitis outbreaks with sample details of some useful practical annexes. Compliance with this guideline will improve the country’s response capacity in any subsequent outbreak of meningitis in Nigeria. Little wonder, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), a few weeks ago alerted the nation that about 26.7 million Nigerian children between ages one to seven years are at risk of contracting meningitis.
The Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, revealed this recently in Calabar, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN),in a message during the introduction of “Men A” vaccine into routine immunisation in Cross River. In the signed message, made available to journalists at the occasion, Shuaib said that Nigeria had 25 states and the FCT that fell within the meningitis belt. He said that the use of vaccines was the only way to prevent meningitis for now. Shuaib said: “The introduction of “MenA” vaccine into the EPI schedule will provide protection against Neisseria Meningitis Serotype A.” In his speech, Professor Ivara Esu, Deputy Governor of Cross River, said the state had trained hundreds of health workers to ensure the success of the exercise.
Esu said that since Cross River was among the 25 states that fell within the belt, the government would do everything possible to ensure that every eligible child was immunised. “Immunisation remains the protection against meningitis. Meningitis is a devastating disease that affects children. We will ensure that every eligible child in the state is immunised,” he said, while urging the women to take their children within 15 months of birth to the nearest government health facility for immunisation.
He expressed appreciation to all the partners in the fight against meningitis, including the WHO, United Nation’s Children Education Fund and the NPHCDA. Also, Rilwan Raji, the State Coordinator of WHO in Cross River, appealed to the state government to ensure the vaccines were well protected. Raji said there was a need for periodic review of routine immunisation in the state. He appealed to traditional rulers, religious and opinion leaders to sensitise their subjects and followers on the need to take advantage of the exercise to immunize their children. NPHCDA however, had earlier introduced meningitis vaccine into the national routine immunisation schedule to tackle this menace, according to reports. With the support of development partners, the Agency in August, 2019, introduced the meningitis A (MenA) vaccine into Nigeria’s routine immunisation (RI) programme.
The introduction of MenA vaccine into the RI schedule was effective nationwide as it provided protection against Neisseria meningitidis Serotype A, the microorganism responsible for meningitis A. This update was obtained from a thread of tweets from NPHCDA’s official twitter account @NphcdaNG. The MenA vaccine was administered free of charge as a single dose injection to children nine months of age, alongside measles and yellow fever vaccines. NPHCDA assured the public of the safety, potency and efficacy of the MenA vaccine and all other vaccines administered under national RI schedule.
WHO is said to be providing supportive guidance to intensify routine immunisation (RI) strategies in lowperforming Local Government Areas in selected priority states in Nigeria. One of such supportive guidance is the engagements with local government area teams during the Optimised Integrated Routine Immunisation Sessions (OIRIS). During these engagements, the local government area teams were taken through problem solving tools to identify root causes and develop strategies to resolving the problems.
In addition, there were face-to-face sessions where the local government area teams were able to share sensitive details about barriers to implementation of their plans for which national interventions are required. The Routine Immunisation Lots Quality Assurance Sampling (RILQAS), which started in the fourth quarter of 2017, has also been adopted by the country to assess the quality of RI service at the local government level. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
The swelling from meningitis typically triggers symptoms such sudden high fever, stiff neck, severe headache that seems different than normal, headache with nausea or vomiting, confusion or difficulty concentrating, seizures, sleepiness or difficulty waking, sensitivity to light, no appetite or thirst, skin rash (sometimes, such as in meningococcal meningitis). For the newborns and infants, the signs are high fever, constant crying, excessive sleepiness or irritability, inactivity or sluggishness, poor feeding, a bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby’s head (fontanel) and stiffness in a baby’s body and neck. However, early meningitis symptoms may mimic the flu (influenza) and may develop over several hours or over a few days and the infectious agent is virus while risk factors are alcoholism, diabetes, and Human Immuno Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS).
Most cases of meningitis are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections are other causes. Some cases of meningitis improve without treatment in a few weeks while others can be life-threatening and require emergency antibiotic treatment. Suspected persons with these sign are advised to see a doctor and seek immediate medical care.
Initial diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis can be made by clinical examination followed by a lumbar puncture showing a purulent spinal fluid. The bacteria can sometimes be seen in microscopic examinations of the spinal fluid. The diagnosis is supported or confirmed by growing the bacteria from specimens of spinal fluid or blood, by agglutination tests or by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The identification of the serogroups and susceptibility testing to antibiotics are important to define control measures.
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