Dorothy Akpan is an interviewer’s delight. She is not only knowledgeable, she is also pleasant, witty, bold and daring. Akpan is a trained engineer and also versed in security profession where she was the national head of a firm. But unable to meet the target of N25 million monthly, she veered into the transport sector. With her rich experience in the security world, she is conquering with ease, the challenges the transport sector throws at her way. For her, passion is the energy behind the success story so far in her new venture. Akpan recently shunned a N500,000 paid job for Bolt driving. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes
For how long have you been a Bolt (Taxify) driver?
I’ve been driving bolt, precisely for a year now, actually started driving on the first of May last year.
What gave you the push to becoming a bolt driver as a woman?
Well, from my background, I studied electrical engineering, as such, I don’t see it as a big deal. I really do not see myself as a female, rather, I see myself as a male. I am motivated and I love to take bold steps, I didn’t see it as something that will be difficult for me to understand. Engineering was a male dominated course and so I saw it as something I could do because there is a saying that what a man can do a woman can do better. Secondly, I worked in a marketing field for a long time, I have marketed for engineering services, corporate services, health services and my last employment was security services. Been a marketer, I was exposed to road network and I did it for close to eight years, so driving in Lagos won’t be a problem because my road network knowledge is intact. It was my daily routine when I was a marketer.
Beside, the customers relations aspect wasn’t going to be a problem because when I was heading marketing, I was in charge of marketing and customer services, so I know there was no kind of client or customer I would not be able to handle. by God’s grace, due to the little exposure I had in customers relations, so be it tough or soft one, whichever way you come, I should be able to flow with you and accommodate you for the few hours I am going to drive with you. Those were the three things that gave me the drive because I know it is what I can do, everybody can do it, a man can do it, I should be able to do it and again because I have the fair knowledge of the road network, so I should be able to drive myself from point A to point B. Also, all thanks to Google map also which gives me easy link to move around the city of Lagos. And thirdly, ‘human factor’ the people you are going to carry should be people that you would be able to manage ad people you can have smooth communication with and be able to enjoy your ride with. I thank God because I don’t think I have ever gone below a very good rates because most of my customers enjoy my rides and when I look at that I’m like I can go with it.
What were you doing before going into driving Bolt?
Like I mentioned, I was the head of marketing, nationwide head in the company. For security reason, I am not going to mention the name of the company. So, marketing was a good platform, good exposure and experience and by the grace of God I was pretty good in it because I was progressing, it was not as if I was just stagnant, it wasn’t the salary I started with that I left with, I was actually progressing, we all know that, with marketing there is always a set target and due to the economy of the country, when target is difficult for me to meet, I looked at it and just had to check out.
What was your earning and your target like?
In the position of a national head, I was expected to turn in N25million monthly, so you can imagine where I am coming from and I tried everything because a tough marketer won’t shy away easily. I tried that from January till March and it did not add up. One lesson of life I cherish is that it’s not good to have a negative energy because you don’t know where you might meet someone tomorrow. So, I told my boss that it doesn’t add up, hence, I may have to drop my pen, and that was exactly what happened. I left amicably, there was no fight, in fact, I give him a plus because he was a wonderful boss, he gave me a very good package, three bedroom apartment and every resources I needed to work with. So, when it was time for me to leave, I just looked at it and ask what if I was the CEO, with the economy situation of the country it could be difficult for him because my salary was on a pretty good level and maybe he couldn’t t really pay this salary so I put myself in his shoes and did not have to fight with him, I just looked at it that maybe this would be too much for him to keep accommodating so we path ways amicably.
When you path, did you also let go of the good packages that came with the employment?
I actually left the company April and he did not take the accommodation away from me, I stayed in the accommodation up till December so I can’t say such a man was a bad man, but indeed he was a good man, so I have every reason to understand with him why he had to let me go. I have been marketing for like nine years, I have grown up to that position of been a national head and supervising 11 states, so what I actually looked at was that I have grown and thank God to my brother and a friend that I had that was a consultant, he told me you have put in so much energy, why don’t you think that it is time for you to work on your own thing? Why don’t you sit back and be a consultant also and be a broker for all this establishments you have worked for? And that was my driving force and it was like a chain because when I left, seriously, competitors came for me but when I looked at it, I am going to put in that same energy again or it is just going to be a fresh start and I did not want a situation when I will still see myself coming to this same bus stop of meeting targets or making me to want to hands up. Then, I just said okay, why not I do my own thing and that was what drove me to this. In all honesty, my package was too big that most of the people that came were not able to meet it up, so when I looked at that, the first thing I did I just divided my salary by 30days I needed to know my daily worth from where I came from, and when I saw my daily worth, I discovered that there were two types of business that was going to help me gets close to that and transportation was one of it and thanks to Uber and Bolt that came in that time. So, here I was and I asked myself why don’t I grow my company to becoming a fleet manager? Managing fleets of vehicles and drivers under me since I was coming from a place that got me exposed to a managerial position, as such, I was able to manage and coordinate people, and that experience is taking me thus far. I am not just a driver here, I am also a fleet manager, I gave myself a target having seen my daily worth from where I am coming from I wanted something of that margin, a business that will be giving me closed to that if not exactly that amount between 80 and 100% margin of the kind of salary that I left and that was really achievable.
I had to plot out the graph of how I was going to achieve this, so I look at the Uber, Bolt turns in N120,000 monthly and looking at where I was coming from I needed like four vehicles to get close to that.
Going this far, definitely there is going to be challenges, is it similar to where you are coming from?
With my security background and if I could deal with guards, you should know that I can deal with drivers successfully. I was not only dealing with guards, I was also dealing with stubborn marketers and drivers, already the human management was already in me and I wasn’t scared of where I was coming from. We have challenges and everybody know that challenge is a human factor.
What is it like with your male passengers, do they make passes at you, and how do you handle that?
Well, I want to say this so that anybody who finds his or herself in any field should know that there is always a preparation ground. I came from a marketing background in the university where I studied electrical electronic engineering and we were only three females that did that. So, men making passes at me is not a challenge at all because I had started dealing with it from my university days, and going to marketing everybody knows what marketing is all about and its challenges, everybody knows that there is always that other factors, so been here now, God has already prepared me from engineering background to know how to handle men.
When I did my industrial training, (IT) we were only two females and 52 males and that was still in my pretty young age because that was my second age in school so that was another opportunity to crack the male advances.
One motivating factor that I used to tell my girls during training session when I was in marketing was that, “you do not need to get down with a man to be able to get contracts, it’s not just necessary.” I tell them to “set your target that you are going to talk to five companies in a day, I meaning that in a week, you will be talking to 25 companies, in a month you are talking to 100 individuals, so like how many men you would go down with? Breaking it down this way for them, it is already a NO NO! So coming to my present job as a Bolt driver and meeting male advances, is not a problem and it can never be a challenge but I bet you that every male that rides with me takes something back home. Having left your marketing job for this, have you had course to regret that decision?
If there is anything I have enjoyed, it is the flexibility of my time and peace of mind. Marketing comes with tension, I used to be accessed on weekly basis, in my last job I was head of marketing nationwide, I had so many states to bother for and if these states were not functioning well, I am already looking and seeing myself as a failure so within three working days in a week I had to drive, keep driving, talking to the customers, kept pushing the girls and encouraging them, because I have to present my report on Mondays, and because the way my report was fashioned, you can’t lie. I used to take a full day to prepare my report, anytime I want to prepare my report, I don’t go to work because I have to give a comprehensive report, they have to see the stages of progress because that is what will enable you know if you are closed to your target or not, so you can imagine the tension that comes with it. I had to make sure everything was done accordingly to avoid mistakes. I didn’t get married on time because of this job. When you are just thinking of money, meeting targets, you don’t have time for relationships. I know how many men walked away from me because of that job seriously. I know of a guy that told me to go and resign, otherwise nothing more, then I asked him a hard question- what have you put in place for me? It is not resigning that is the problem, have you to put something in front of me or I should just resign and sit at home to be a full house wife? If you actually put something on ground for me then I would know the kind of man you really are, but for not putting any thing on ground, I already know where you want to fix me, a full time house wife taking care of the kids and that all, I wasn’t factor for that and so he left
What do you have to say about being security conscious while driving?
Been a driver you need to be security conscious and intelligent. I try as much as possible to look at my riders, access them and know their body languages. I have had a case where I went to pick three guys and when I got close to them to pick them I noticed one wasn’t even wearing a shirt, I had to roll up my glass and speed of, and I canceled the trip quickly, reported to Bolt that I could not do that trip because I suspected them. I narrated the story to them and that was it. So what I will tell the drivers is that there is no job that doesn’t have its own risk. Well I do not blame the drivers because truth be told, the money is actually made at night because there is less traffic. As a driver, you need to be very smart, most time, you need to go cashless, you don’t have to be with money, in case you meet them, you just surrender whatever they want, money, phone, anything they ask of you just surrender it.
Aliu: Women must be treated on merit, not sympathy
Mrs. Anetu Aliu, Director, women and Gender Affairs, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social development, has called on women not to limit themselves. Rather, she argues that women must say what they can do for their community and society at large. OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI writes
How possible is it to achieve gender equality in typical African setting particularly, Nigeria?
I believe worldwide that every community had this traditional way of making the women feel second in place in the social setting. But with time and understanding of the potential of women, the societal dynamics have proven to show that women can do much more better than anticipated by the male who are the leaders, or culture and society see as the leaders or heads every time. But with that, the social society both globally and continentally has tried to sensitize the world being that this women are part of the world population and to reduce dependency ratio to make life more meaningful, to make life more enjoyable by all, the potentials of women can be properly harness, hence to enjoy the demographic dividends of that population. Even in Nigeria where we did not have so much war, you find out that the ratio is almost the same ratio to men and women is almost the same- approximately 50%. Understanding the fact that it is just equals space for participation.
At what level? Peace, security, living or generally?
Generally! Population ratio of men to women is about 50% by the population censors, and if you have this population, best way to get the best in the society is engaging every member of the populace to contribute. Taking advantage of that population, if you harness three people potentials for instance can be better than harnessing one person’s potential. So, if you want to enjoy the demographic dividend of women, you just have to find a way or allow the women to harness their potential in the development process, allow them to participate fully. When we talk of gender equality, it is not equality but allowing equal access, allow women equal access to participation. Do not say the women cannot operate machine, cannot be mechanics, or do carpentry works, or that they cannot fly the airplane. No! Allow them and you will see many of them can even do better than many of their counterparts.
You think a woman-governor can do better?
I am telling you that fact. Allow women governors but not on sympathy ground, rather on merit and capability. Allow them but not just say because they say we should allow women governor, or you pick a woman believed to be a ‘yes sir-yes sir’ person. Put the templates on the ground, find the qualified woman like the men counterparts, give them the opportunity, and see.
You saw what Dora Akinwunmi did with NAFDAC? Any time any day, you see the former finance woman Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala- that woman is brilliant and super. She has the mental and physical energy to do anything a man can do and even do better. If we allow those kinds of quality women to participate, there is no way we will not have good governance in those kinds of states. This is type of equality or equity we are talking about. When we say gender equality, men always feel threatened. They believe that the women want to come and take over. No! All we are saying is just understanding, where we say empathy, understanding the fact that this person can do as much as you can do.
Talking about reducing dependency level for women in a typical male chauvinistic environment, how well can they participate without having to pay a price for it?
Yes, most women do not allow that kind of price. There is one thing I understand and which I do tell women, speak to what you can do, don’t speak to the fact that I am a woman, because I am a woman, you give me chance. Speak to what you can do, the men will come, tell their community what they want to do or promise that I want to do this for you. But you will see the woman will come and say I want to do this for women. No, it is wrong. The woman is supposed to be doing for both men and women, doing it for her community. Speak to the fact that, despite being a woman, you can do as much as the man can do for your community. Prove it that you going there not because you are a woman but because you can do as much as the man can do, or even better.
There is this rising trend of violence against women and of women against men, especially as it seems women are taking the lead in violence against men? I wouldn’t agree to that. They are not taking the lead, before ordinarily, if you actually have access to the unrecorded ones, you will have the unrecorded violence domestic violence against women. Both men and women, if we have access to the recorded ones, you will still find that violence against women is higher. The fortunate thing now is that we are happy, I’m happy with the fact that the reportage is coming out so that we can stem the trend of violence in the society violence against men or violence against women, violence is violence, it is not supposed to be condoned.
Of course, there are few cases of women violence against men, but that is not enough to say women are now becoming more violence than men, it is simply the reportage. There is still high level of violence against women that are not reported.
Will you agree that today’s women rising up to violence now?
Because the pressure in the society, the sensitisation is high, women are more sensitised about their rights. Before, the cultural orientation is ‘your mother will tell you, you are a woman, your husband or father slaps you, all you will say is sorry sir.’ They are never at faults; the woman is always at fault. If she can’t get pregnant, it is her fault, but sensitisation and education have proven that it is not only women in most cases. It could be either way and more it could even be more when it comes to fertility, it could be more in the male side because the major cause of infertility in human beings is sexually transmitted diseases, which is very common in men. Because of shyness they don’ treat it, but along the line when they marry and they cannot impregnate their women, they will say start giving stories that they impregnated their girlfriends years ago. But not knowing that the infection they had and did not treat on time or treat at all has affected their reproductive organs. Then, everything used to be the fault of women but now, women are coming to realise that is not always their faults and they have the right to protect themselves, they have a right to sexual enjoyment, they have a reproductive right of women, they are coming to realise that they can stand as human beings. Therefore, that is why they can now challenge their male counterparts and this result to friction and that friction result to a fight or physical exchange, which can result to injury or death.
You talked about women participation in politics and policies, what are the major plans in place for adequate women participation?
Policy making, women have all the participation rights and equal opportunities, you know policy making is at the federal ministries, employment through the civil service commission does not discriminate between men and women. Yes, I went through civil service for as low as level eight, nobody wants to ask whether you are a man or woman. In employment through the civil service commission, no discrimination, right from day one. I joined the service for over 30 years ago, in fact I have never experienced that. But for political participation, the answer is yes, there are many things in participating in politics-violence, and political party characteristics of men dominating political party, they are not government structures. Political parties are not government structures, they are non-governmental, and they develop their constitutions and operate on the constitution within the political associations. From my understanding, political violence has scared women away; violence is number one thing that scared women away both hidden and open violence. Then number two is financial, they do not have such financial means to play the game, you will hear politics is a game of finance and number.
So you will agree that politics is a field that is not fit or suitable for women?
That is a wrong word and impression to have. It is suitable and a field fit for women.
But with the violence and financial incapability, how do women measure up?
Look, will you because of an earthquake run away from Nigeria? There are Nigerian parables that said the son of the soil does not run away because the soil is boiling. What you should do as a woman, you stand and participate in the administration, and you determine to sit to be able to stem the violence in practice of politics in Nigeria.
There is this observation that women don’t support women
There are many under lining factors that you and I cannot see in the open. So, the challenge is that if they have to participate, it is not easy though, they have to see how they can stop those challenges and mitigate those challenges. Really, it is not question of women supporting women, like I told you earlier, women should seek support of both men and women because men seek support of both men and women.
So how can a typical African woman have a voice, be ascertained and not be intimidated?
Yes, they shouldn’t be intimidated by anything. Life itself is a risk, anything you do there are some risk factors. Always stick ahead of how to mitigate against those risk and how to bring your best to participate in anything you want to do. They should not let themselves be used as tools, and shouldn’t discourage their children to be used as thugs. Women should be bold enough to come and participate and be bold enough to say it the way it is.
What are the support of the husbands, how should they convince their husbands?
Conviction of the husband can be done at home. Yes, look at you a journalist you are already thinking like this if you have that failure feeling ,the negative feeling, it will destroy your confidence to work towards success. Always do not have that negative feeling. Okay, let’s say your husband is an extrovert, find a way to tell and convince him. You as the woman with ambition, try to work him out of that negative mood, then you have succeeded in that, you can discuss other things.
Arkila: Why influx of vulnerable children in Bauchi is worrisome
Mrs. Hassan Arkila is the Executive Chairman, Bauchi State Orphans and Vulnerable Agency (BASOVCA). In this interview with ALI GARBA in Bauchi, she speaks on her passion for the vulnerable, orphans and the need for everyone to support them
How did you receive the news of your appointment and what do you have to offer for the Agency?
Yes, the news of my appointment, when it came to me, was a thing of joy and I accepted with a gratitude, knowing full well that even before this appointment came, I have been living a life of charity to my people especially with children, women, youth and the vulnerable. I have been in Gombe. People of Gombe would speak about me better because I have been there since my youth. I got married when I was just 20 years old and I spent about 22 years in Gombe before coming back as a Caretaker Chairperson of Bogoro Local Government. So, people of Gombe from when I reported to this office gave this testimony about me on how I lived my life there in Gombe. Any Almajiri boy I see moving like that, any vulnerable I see moving anyhow, any orphan I see moving unattended to with wretched clothes on the body, I don’t tolerate it; I don’t accept, I don’t let go of it. Even if I am driving, I would have to park, call the person, measure the size of dress. Since I deal with second hand (Okirika) clothes, it is either by rushing them to my shop to go and pick some clothes to replace what they are wearing. If at all it is shoe, may be bad shoes, damaged shoes, I measure, I pick for them instead of giving them money. Almajiri, being who they are, if you give them money, they will end up spending it. So, I measure, I attach them to the nearest shop with another man and measure, then buy the shoe, give it to that particular person before they go their way.
You talked of passion. Is this something that motivated you or it is inherent?
Honestly, it is just something inherent in me because I did not grow up as an orphan. I did not grow up as a vulnerable but anytime then, I told my mother of blessed memory (she died last two years,); even in the village where I grew up Dasham Yelwa, that is in Bogoro Local Government. In the bushes like that, if I see a pastor or Alarama, Malam moving with bad shoes or are not looking presentable, I would tell my mother, ‘mummy if I became somebody, I will like to help these kind of people. They have not been attended to. It is like they are working but they are not being paid for what they are doing.’
In fact, a lady came to me and gave a testimony which I have even forgotten about then; 25years ago, when I was a student of Bakas Bauchi for helping a Fulani man, who was very sick at the Specialist Hospital, now Teaching Hospital Bauchi, when I emptied my pocket to help the man to buy drugs with my last transport money. It marvelled her and she said all that I had, I give it to that man who was in pains. I did not know I did that 25 years ago. I have done millions of this kind of assistance to people because they are the ones giving the testimony now. It is the feedback that is making us think that I did this and that is since childhood it is inbuilt in me.
Since you came to BASOVCA, what have you seen so far?
What I have seen so far, the management are trying their best and they very cooperative but what I noticed is we still have to do more because of the passion I came with. I came with serious passion in making sure to completely or dramatically change the lives of this vulnerable and the orphans because when I came, they had workers. But some of their attention that really needed to be given to this children, we need to do more. Secondly, in the area of health, there is something that they were using. It is called health ticket. When I came, this health tickets are exhausted; they were no longer working in the facility. These health tickets are being distributed in the 323 wards in Bauchi State, across the 20 LGAs of Bauchi State. Every General Hospital has this health ticket. It is the only means of identifying this vulnerable and orphans that are coming from BASOVCA and they should be attended too freely. So, I have come to improve on it.
We have education, where we are dealing presently with this issue. When I came, they were having 3,000 students across 29 LGAs. To me, that is not enough. We have to do more. How do I have to do it? Will check the pocket to know what we have here in the agency and then, do it so that they would be hand-in-hand considering the pocket. Truly, we want to improve the enrollment from 3,000. We will now make it up to 5,000. It is not going to be everybody. Let’s say 100 per local government or 200 per LGA. That means, we have thousands in every local government, who are vulnerable and orphans.
We have area of shelter. We have some people, who are coming from other places; issue of Boko Haram, kidnapping have brought them to Bauchi. We have millions of influx in Bauchi whereby it increased the number of orphans and vulnerable. Some came, they don’t have father, they don’t have mother. So, if they are from Bauchi State, we make sure that they have the immediate intervention by hiring a house for them to stay to relieve them from the pains pending when they will be fixed or join their families.
Households strengthening is one of the thematic areas where we need to give attention. You meet the house that has 7 – 10 orphans for example. If you give health ticket to 1-3 members in the family, to us, you have not touched the family. If we really want to impact on that family, we will go to the entire households, target the caregiver; that person that is taking care of that particular family. To us, we give him training by providing skills acquisition to them, train them in some basic skills and they become experts in tailoring, making pomades, name them.
What are the number of boys and girls you have on campus and which case you found more traumatising?
Here, we don’t deal with camps. I want to let the public know that it is not every camp that is related to this agency called BASOVCA, Bauchi State Orphans and Vulnerable Children Agency. Children are anybody below the age of 18 years. So, we are only responsible for a child between the age of zero to 18 years. Anybody above that is no longer a child and so is not supposed to be a beneficiary to what ever this agency is doing. So, I know there are many in the camps. Our own are not in the camps but we have households. May be, your own neighbour may have vulnerable. You may have orphans because they are not in camps; they are in their houses but we are able to capture them house to house. Those who are aware of it and bring them from LGAs, where we have focal persons and they are the workers of LGA. We are now confined in the LGA to give us focal persons, who are now registering this our people. In fact, based on what we have now, we have over 800,000 orphans and vulnerable. Not that they are still vulnerable and orphans; some of them have been taken care of. Some have grown beyond that age now but they have benefited.
How do you feel when you see children and women suffering as a result of crisis?
I feel bad and sometimes, I even weep. It is very very terrible and bad because I know they are going through pains. Sometimes, if you see somebody suffering, if you see somebody going through trauma, try as much as possible to put yourself in that person’s shoe. If you are the one now, how would you feel. So, it is very bad because they, the most vulnerable women suffer it and children whenever this kind of thing happened.
What should be done?
What should be done? We should try and involve more women into political appointments. We should involve women in advocacy; make sure women are complete actors in peace building. So many things happened but men always keep women aside. It is women that come out en mass to cry out and solicit for peace. I am telling you where there is serious crisis, where women would be allow to come and speak in one voice, before you know it, a lot of changes would take place and peace would be restored in that particular place. But women are most often kept aside but they are key actors in making sure that peace exists. So, women should be allowed to participate in politics and consider appointing the in key positions areas, so that they would make sure they provide lasting solution to peace in Nigeria and the world in general.
On the streets with big ambitions
It is no longer a new act to see children begging on the bridges, streets and even highways, but the hidden fact is that these children also have high hopes and aspirations, they have dreams and heart rending desires to be grown up better and different from what life has thrown at them. ESE OLOGE and AMADI ANNETTE report
he sun was scorching on Monday , may 27th, but this young children Ahmed Alabi, Misurat Moruyano, Ariyo Oluyode appeared not to have felt it as they walked on Oshodi Bridge area of Lagos begging for alms from passerby . In their desperate search, they take on a huge responsibility of fending for themselves and their outward appearance paints a vivid picture of their state of helplessness. They approached every passerby on the bridge with words to soften any heart , telling you about their grieves even if it is cock and bull stories in some cases.
Ariyo Olyoide, 13, an indigene of Ondo state, believed that going to school is a waste of time, hence, resolved to begging on the streets mostly Oshodi Bridge- his promised land of begging . He claimed to be making about N2000 daily, which is just enough to take care of his feeding and that of his siblings. “I am from Ondo state, I use to stay in Sango with my parents but I don’t stay with my dad anymore. I was leaving happily with my parents in Sango, until my mum died , I left school when I was in primary 6, I was just 9-year-old and I felt sad about taking responsibility at a young age because my dad changed and stopped fending for my two siblings and I. He decided that he could no longer train three of us at the same time, which means that I should stopped schooling. I felt bad about my father’s decision because most time, we stayed a day without eating, until someone comes to visit us when my dad was not around One day, I just sat to think about my condition that was when I decided to stop going to school and start begging so I can make money to eat and send to my siblings.
He continued that, “Now I beg to make money, not only to take care of myself but also to assist my siblings, I go home twice a month to see my siblings and drop money that will take care of their feedings for a month at a stretch.
When asked on his ambitions on what he wants to become, I hope to return to school so I can pursue my dream of becoming a banker, I see children of my age when they come back from school, I feel very encouraged to make more money so I can one day go back to school . When asked what really informed him of begging, Ahmed replied that when he tried to stop begging last year and opted to learn carpentry, two weeks into learning, he said his boss flogged him silly with wire on his back for little mistakes, also for coming late to work. “If I show you my back, you will just cry for me, I hate the work and I ran away from him and went back to begging,” he said.
Ahmed Alabi, 15, from Osun state, dream is to be a medical doctor someday. He said he came to Lagos at age 12 with the sole aim of begging for a living. But it wasn’t really a pleasant experience for Alabi as he wasn’t really able to take home enough money like some of his mates. ‘I dropped out of school at age 10; my parents couldn’t provide food for us to eat. I had to leave home, and I made up my mind and moved to Lagos. I told my elder brother about my decision to find something to do in Lagos and help my family member he agreed that he will help me lie to my parents on my where about on the condition, I bring money home every two weeks. That was how I came to Lagos. Upon arrival, I had no place to stay, I wandered in different places hoping to find something I can do until I met Ariyo Oluyiode on the Oshodi Bridge and he introduced me to begging and explained how it fetches them enough money for feeding. I made the decisions and started begging since 2017. I told my elder brother about my decision and he agreed to it, on one condition that I have to bring money back to Osun to take care of the family.
I sleep on the bridge with my friends that are also here. I go to Osun State, twice a week with up to N5,000 to give to my elder brother. If I don’t bring the money when I go home to visit my family, my brother would beat me up with belt and threatens to report to my parents that I beg for a living. I try my best to save up to 5,000 at least in a month so I can give to them at home. Luckily, my parents have never questioned me on how I get the money to bring to them. Of course, I feel bad and cry most times when I see school children of my age with their parents when they walk on the bridge going to school. I feel bad about my situation that nobody cares about me in my home and I wish I could attend a government school and be like other children that enjoy parental care.
Musirat Sulaiman’s life is a paradox. At eight, she was raped while hawking, left to fend for herself. By 12, she opted for the street of Lagos because she believes that begging is the only way for survival. According to her, she doesn’t really know her parents or any relatives and has no home to stay. Ironically, she is aware that begging robs children of education and thus their future, but believed that begging is the only way to eke home a living.
She said, “ I am from Ibadan, I don’t know my family members I can’t remember who my parents are , I only remember I left home when I was little and I started staying on the streets, it was very dangerous as a girl to be walking without no place to sleep, I left Ibadan when I was raped on the street in the middle of the night, I couldn’t see the persons face, he tied my mouth with a small clothe and raped me and I was just about 8-year- old then, I moved from Ibadan to Lagos with the little money I got from begging on the street. I believe that fate brought me to Oshodi where I met these children on the bridge here. I was very excited and we all became close, they are now my family since I don’t have anyone to call my parents and they never bothered to look for me.
Sulaiman’s said her dream was to become a lawyer but wasn’t sure if that is possible any longer because she has never been to school. “When I have the opportunity to go to school I will want to be a lawyer so I can fight for those people that rape young children, just like the way I was raped,” she said.
The above mentioned children are few out of thousands of children roaming aimlessly on the streets. Sad as well, most of them have become breadwinners for their families, begging on bridges which are their main means of livelihood. They experience many challenges begging on the bridges, they are often beaten by the older boys on the bridge while begging for money.
Sadly they narrate how the money they receive would be stolen by unknown people while asleep on the bridge . According to Oluyode begging on the bridge is not an easy thing, “most of the area boys chase us off from the bridge when they also come in the night and take away the money we have made for that day.”
These children have lot of dream like other privileged children and are being neglected by their parents. The rate of this homeless children on the street of Lagos such as the Oshodi bridge, Berger bridge, Mushin , Iyana Ipaja are quite disturbing.
“These are vulnerable children,” said human rights activist, Shehu Sani. He said further that, “they have in many cases turned to extremism and crime because they were sent away by their parents at a very tender age and they grow up under the care of teachers who use them.” He explained that there’s a very strong correlation between poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and the issue of the insurgency and insecurity.
He said that the Nigerian senate is considering a bill that would ban the ‘menace of street begging’ in cities all over the country.
Aliu: Women shouldn’t be intimidated to display their talents
Hajia Suwebat Aliu, Ekiti State Commandant of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) and wife of the popular actor, Chief Jimoh Aliu, not deterred by men’s reluctance to work with her, has proven that it is not about ego, but about the people’s interest and her passion for job mostly suitable for men. In this interview with ADEWUMI ADEMIJU at VGN office in Ado Ekiti, Mrs. Aliu analyses modalities put it in place by the vigilante group in tackling crime in the state
As a mother and wife, how do you blend with vigilante work and the home front?
It’s not easy at all but as much as possible, I try to put my home in order, because my kind of job desires urgent response to people’s demands .We are like Medical Doctors, we receive distress call every time. We find solutions to people’s security challenges like robberies and all sorts. I’m like a Woman Doctor Who takes care of sick people, always busy attending to various security challenges, but then I still in a way play my role as a wife and mother. I don’t have any other job than the security job, it became easier because my husband, Chief Jimoh Aliu is the South West Deputy Commander General (DCG), and he understands nature of the Job. I have no problem with the job at all because my husband is in real support, because he understands the nature of the Job.
Were you forced into the job or by circumstances?
I have interest in the job, I wasn’t forced at all. It’s voluntary. It’s all about interest to serve my people.
What will you consider the most challenging moment on this job?
What challenged me is the existence of two factions in Ekiti, the other faction is headed by a man, I’m a woman. The man used to tell me I can’t do what he as a man can do, but he forgets no gender issue in force. In VGN we are all men.
What are the perceptions of other fellow women about you being a female vigilante?
They often ask me how can a woman do this kind of a job, I do tell them it’s my area of interest. The love to serve my people in that capacity is naturally in me. I do encourage them to come over and register. Anything women do, they do it better with utmost focus and perfection. For instance in Syria, more women are in this type of job.
The Vigilante group seems to be in factions in Ekiti, what happened?
Before, VGN is one in all the 36 states and our National Commandant is Alhaji Ali Sokoto. The issue of factions came up when one Muhammad Jarun, the former State Commandant of Jigawa suddenly developed an inordinate ambition.
What really happened?
The National Commandant, Ali Sokoto saw the way, the former Jigawa State Commandant (Jarun) was working, he was performing well, capable as the State Commandant so Ali Sokoto promoted him to Acting Admin, National but suddenly, Jarun called a meeting of all the State Commandants. At the meeting, he declared that Ali Sokoto was not well learned.
He also said the person that brought the concept of Vigilante, who spent his money, ideas and spread it across the grassroots in all the states of the federation is not educated enough. Ali Sokoto spent his hard earned money to propagate Vigilante for security purposes in the country. Mohammed Jarun invited some Commandants to Abuja for a meeting. Whereas VGN Constitution states that decision to change Commandant can only be reached in a general meeting. He convinced those State Commandants by all means in his capacity to pass vote of no confidence on Ali Sokoto. Most of the Commandant that attended the meeting initially didn’t know his aim, being the acting admin National. They thought it was the Commandant General that authorised him to call the meeting on VGN activities. The Commandants that attended the meeting rejected the motion, while few supported him, so he said he has overthrown the Commandant General.(CG)
When the CG. Ali Sokoto heard the development; he said how could an organisation that has constitution, board of trustee change a Commandant General in that manner? If at all, it must change its CG, the board of trustee must be aware, the trustee was not aware.
When Jarun could not realise his aims, he took the case up to the highest stakeholders. Ali Sokoto was supported. Jarun was ordered to drop his faction motive.
My husband, Chief Jimoh Aliu is the Deputy Commandant General (DCG) South West. By his position, he’s in charge of six states -Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti and Lagos. Chief Aliu called for intervention of well meaning stakeholders and individuals. They asked Jarun to stop parading himself as CG while Ali Sokoto continues as CG.
After the scenario, the faction loyal to Jarun in Ekiti State refused to comply with the order of the Stakeholders which directed his boss, Jarun to stop parading himself as CG.
The Jarun faction in Ekiti headed by one Mr Olorunloni is still adamant to continue the inordinate desire. It got to a stage in Ekiti when the former Commissioner for Police-Bello Ahmed called Olorunloni and myself. The Police Commissioner enjoined us to join together, since we are fighting the same cause, he even suggested Olorunloni should be my deputy for peace to reign and as a man, he would be able to gear me up. The Police Commissioner said after all there are women police commissioners.
The Police commissioner advised us to join hands together to be able to receive necessary support from government, which he said might be impossible when there are factions. He also advised us to call a meeting, and deliberate on how to share the positions, this man said he cannot agree that he should be headed by a woman in his life. When he refused, they ordered him to stop parading himself as VGN Commandant in the state.
Even his boss (Jarun) lost all his cases up to the Apex Court so this man in Ekiti said that does not concern him. He started his own inordinate ambition in Ekiti, I wouldn’t know if he has his own certificate.
VGN is using only one certificate duly registered by Ali Sokoto when Jarun was the state commandant of Jigawa state. Ali Sokoto registered VGN with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). This is the only certificate that VGN is using all over the country.
Despite the peaceful interventions of all the security agencies -Police, Civil Defence, he remains adamant.
What roles are you playing as a woman to unify the factionalised vigilante groups?
I’m trying my best, the two factions are working together. Kudos to Governor Fayemi who recognises VGN in Ekiti, he has settled the grievances in the state. So, we are working together. The challenge now lies with the VGN National body.
With these factional groups on ground, how is VGN playing its roles in tackling crime within the state?
The factional situation does not affect our operation as indigenous security agency. We practice community policing. From the nature of our operation, we remain in our base to perform, we don’t transfer. We know our terrain, we understand our base. For instance, VGN in Ekiti knows who is who in the state. We work in conjunction with the Police, Civil Defence and DSS. They orientate us. Issue of faction does not affect our operation in Ekiti. The other group is also working. The fact remains that when President Muhammad Buhari (PMB) approves VGN at the National level. Truth shall prevail; we shall know which group is authentic and which one is fake. Now, we are working generally, we don’t fight with each other, we do meet at events. The State Governor, Kayode fayemi has approved that Paramilitary Organisation should work in conjunction with the conventional Security agencies to tackle crime.
How is VGN performing in this regard?
Governor Fayemi wants Ekiti State to be secured. For instance, no government has ever assisted VGN in the state. We buy all our paraphernalia by ourselves including office accommodation, we use our personal vehicles, and some of our vehicles have spoilt.
Governor Fayemi is a man of his words. During his campaign, he told us that he would carry the VGN along.
Immediately he emerged, he had meetings with us, he said he didn’t want us to fight. He instructed his Special Adviser on Security to superintendent us, to eliminate the issue of factions, so that we can work in synergy, he did same for OPC in the state, because there is still faction. I want him to make things faster, because crime issues are becoming too much. We need to be motivated, provision of needed logistics, but despite that, our work is not disturbed. We are working day and night. We join police to do night Patrol.
Also, residents know VGN telephone numbers to call in case of Day/Night robbery attack. Many people used to call me or operational department if they have any problem. We also urge our people to be security conscious. VGN does night guard in most areas /streets in the state.
So, how do you raise funds for effective performance giving that you are still waiting for government on logistics?
Our members do night guards, when they pay their salaries, we use part of the money to run the organisation. Nobody is helping us, including those who are well-to-do in the society, security issues are not for government alone, it’s for all. The well-to-do supposed to assist and motivate us. It’s in the South West that they don’t motivate vigilante. They assist them in the North. For instance in Kebbi State, they gave them 36Hillux, even in Kogi State, VGN, Police, Civil Defence were given 104 Hiluxes for more effective work. Although, commendations to governor Fayemi, he’s putting things together to assist us.
How will you advice youth in tackling crime?
Many youths are in VGN working to protect lives and properties of people across the 36states of the Federation and in all the 16Local Government of Ekiti State. Other youths should join this type of youths and work for Nigeria instead of evil practice.
How do you relax?
No time to relax, because emergency comes every time, no leave. I’m only coping because of my interest in the job. I could be called for any type of security meeting anywhere at any time.
What is your message to women out there?
Women shouldn’t believe in becoming full house wives. I advise them to move out on positive engagements, strive to fight for their rights. There are women as heads in prominent places. Women should not be intimidated. They should go out and display their God given talents. Women have strategies, they should use it positively.
Internet has negatively affected family values – Etefia
Gedar Etefia is the director of Church Girl, a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Calabar, the Cross River State capital. She is a mother of two and a graduate of Business Education, from the University of Calabar. In this interview with CLEMENT JAMES, she speaks on her NGO and social issues. Excerpts:
Tell us something about your NGO, Church Girl.
I actually grew up in church and I have come to realise that most girls have a lot of dreams, aspirations but they cannot actualise it because they lack the resources to do so and they lack the right mentorship to do so. So the whole idea of Church Girl is to get as many stranded girls as possible, train them, mentor them and project them. We want them to, at the end of day, be where they have always wanted to be. We want to be able to give them the platform to become whatever they want to become, especially in equipping them in the entertainment industry. You know most church girls are not into entertainment and when they get into it, they are no longer church people. So we want to get them down there and still get them to maintain their values.
Have you had any encounter with men before?
Yes, a lot. I actually did marketing for an insurance company and it is almost impossible to walk into a man’s office and you want to get an account or ask him to sign up for a policy without thinking that you can’t pay by way of doing some things. That is first stuff. Secondly, I have a relation who studied Theatre Art and then her parents refuse to allow her do movie acting because they believe she has to pay dearly with her body before she can a get a role. She actually wants to sign up for a beauty pageant and they will say no; she will have to walk naked. Those are the very few experiences I have had and which I can remember. The whole idea is to protect the girl-child who wants to be an actor, a model, a fashion designer or whatever. We are here to protect them and guide them to get to the top with our mentorship and our training.
In these days of child trafficking, how do you handle the girls?
We are not actually housing girls; of course we are not taking them away from their parents. What we do is that if we have to have a programme that requires camping, we actually going to make sure that all governmental paper works are done. We are not going through the back door. Everything has to be done; all proper authorities have to be notified, parents and every other person concerned have to be notified. We don’t believe in child trafficking even though we know that it is common. I actually discovered when I was having a conversation with my team the other day that one of the reasons for child trafficking is because women have refused to mentor girls, so they just grab them and throw them in to work for them. So the idea is not giving a girl a fish; it is teaching her how to fish. And so child traffickers are simply grabbing these girls and making them feel that they feeding them; but they are actually destroying them. We are hundred percent genuine, you can find us in our office, our website and of course, I am a co-Pastor of a church, one of the biggest churches in the city.
What do you think mothers should do to inculcate moral values in their children?
Well, the first thing we have to do, like I believe in training. My first child is six and my second is three. I teach them what they should know. What I try to do is to get parents to be more interested in their children. I know we work really hard especially this period when women also work. When I was growing up, my mum was a teacher she was always back home at one o’clock and we were also back about the same time. That means she had all the time, but now it is not like that again. Mothers actually work till six now, sometimes they come back very tired. I know we get tired most times but what I am trying to say is that in the midst of the tiredness, take some time out and look at these girls again. Talk to them. We are putting up good programmes, like we have twenty one letters from mum. It is going to be free and it is like mummy is talking is talking to you. You hardly see a mother these who will be honest to their child to say I actually did an abortion at twenty, I had my first boy friend at nineteen, I had the first sex at this period, and these are the things that happened to me; these were the mistakes I made. Mothers don’t do that. They want their daughters to see them as being perfect and that is the main reason we fall into the same mistakes our mothers made. But if our mothers had told us that if a man looks at you like this, this is what it means and this is what you should do to get what you want from the man without him getting the things he wants from you, I think we will be more safer. But we keep quiet and let me tell you, up until now I don’t know if my mother ever dated anybody apart from my dad. She doesn’t just talk about it and most mothers are like that. We want to take it upon ourselves to talk about these things with these girls. We want to do close-up mentorship so that when these things come their way, they can actually overcome.
With the dip in moral values, who do you think should be blamed?
Nobody is to blame; everybody is trying in their own way. I can’t blame the parents or teachers. Everybody is trying but the truth is that we are not working together. If we choose to work together as one, I am sure we will achieve more than we have achieved so far. Societal and family values are collapsing because of lack of concentration on the children. Everything has to do with the internet and the internet influence on this generation is so gripping that they cannot actually escape it. Nothing is censored; you do not decide what you see, it just comes up. In any case, I would rather that we also use the internet to fight crime by putting up the right posts that the girls can run into. We shouldn’t allow the wrong people to keep posting. So our own responsibility is to make positive use of the internet. And then parents should not also be swept off by the internet. They should allow for one on one interaction with the children.
We use village savings, loans to enroll girls in schools, delay early-marriages – Attah
Comfort Attah, CEO, Attah Sisters Helping Hand Foundation (ASH Foundation) in Bauchi State, is not only passionate, but deeply convinced about her vision. Driven by passion, she dared the norms and culture of her environment by helping the girl-child get educated and shun early marriages. This, she does by making use of the village savings and loans to surmount the challenges of running an NGO. Ali Garba writes
What is the brain behind ASH Foundation?
ASH Foundation was actually born out of the passion. I grew up as a child with passion for humanitarian services; I have had that zeal as a child.
What have you been doing in ASH foundation so far?
At ASH foundation, we are into women empowerment, girl-child education and we are into peace building. We are into good governance, we protect people’s right especially when children, women are abused. We observe and did research which revealed that women are abused on daily basis. So, we are into women right as an activists, I deal mainly with women, we do many women advocacy programmes. We are into skills acquisition training as well, we have trained many women in Bauchi state. In our records we were able to trained more than 2000 women from the very day of the inception of this Foundation to date. The girl-child education we have enrolled 1,066 pupils into school in the last eight years, we have protected the right of so many children and women that have been abused, molested and neglected by their husbands.
In peace building we have done a lot of collaboration with international and local organization in Bauchi State, we collaborated with Peace Director UK for the past four years now we have being on global consultation. Personally I have been involved in the global consultation where you meet a lot of experts, professionals from all over the world, people of very high integrity and experience sharing ideas on how to resolve conflicts and a way forward. The organisation have also partner with international women peace building in the past eight years and they made me their peace Ambassador here in Nigeria and I have taken IWPG to about nine states of Nigeria I completely introduce them in North East and I established network for peace for IWPG. I started with Bauchi extended it to northern east and took it to Jos, Kaduna and Benue state. These are some of the things that we have done so far.
We are also into youths activities because you cannot take away the place of youths where you are talking of capital development.
We have done a lot of mentoring to many young men.
As I said, ASH Foundation is a women lead organisation but the place of youths cannot be taken away.
There is this notion that most girl-child in the North prefer to marry early instead of going to school
We have conducted a research and we discovered a lot of things happen in the rural areas where the parents themselves are not educated. So we needed to do something to create awareness, they don’t even know the value of a girl-child education. To them, education doesn’t exist, we decided to do advocacy to sensitise them to create awareness on education and to tell them the value of education. We succeeded in doing that and we got good result, over the years, it has been a positive result from where we started. Why would the boy-child go to school and you would not allow the girl-child? In some cases, even the boy-child doesn’t go to school, so we try to educate them. Our organisation runs full scholarship on education and then we enrolled some of them but before you knew it, our monitoring team would come back telling us that out of 50 that we enrolled, only 20 are remaining in school, we keep trying by using different methods and strategy to encourage them and their parents towards education but it hasn’t yielded desired good result.
From our research, we discovered the girls are dropping out of school because they have to go hawking for their parents. The parents’ constant excuses are that they need to survive, poverty play a major role. We decided that any child we are going to enroll in school must be empowered. We also empower care givers, parents or guardians, this enable us to be able to enroll their children. We give them loans, with a condition from village savings which is handled by us. For instance, if we enroll 20 children in school, we make sure 20 parents are empowered to sustain the child in school. We can only support you with uniform and some bills. We now empower the women and we insist you must be on the village daily savings and loans that we term in Hausa Taimakon Kai da Kai. So this Taimakon Kai da Kai you will be saving money in two ways, you are into business because we give you grant, that is a compulsory that you need to be in village and saving loans. They are used in doing but this one in a better way, we provide you a card where you keep records of your savings, we have our monitors that monitor their activities and you can contribute something.
How do you foster peace building among the people?
We have done a lot of activities, our peace building have about three faces-peace building and conflicts resolution, peace clubs in schools and peace clubs in communities. We tell them about peace, value of peace, reason why we should have a peaceful co-existence, we should unite together; we also used religion perspective of Faith to talk peace. Our preventing method, include us warning the people about the danger of going into radical groups, danger of ideologist. Wherever we see signs, we try to go to that community and sensitise them especially youths because they are the ones that are mostly used as tools of violence.
As a young female CEO what challenges do you encounter from male CEOs?
I have faced many challenges, still facing some up to date while I have overcome some of those challenges. When I started from nowhere, it was not easy for me. I remembered those days when I run to some people for help, they would tell me NGO is not meant for little children, they would tell me, ‘go and work’! ‘After you become an adult, you can come and start running an NGO’. But I always replied that I have passion for this NGO because it involves women and children. Resources, acceptability, were another challenge I faced. I was not easily accepted, I have to go through trainings and after the training, I became fully convinced about myself.
I started with nothing, no money. I never had an office, I was rather using a borrowed-office from one of our trustee of the organisation, mostly I depend on the trustee to help me with one or two things.
Worries over rising suicide cases
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its recent report says 800,000 people commit suicide annually across the world.
WHO’s 2016 Global Health Observatory Data Repository, also estimates that 9.5 suicides per 100,000 occur in Nigerians.
The worry is that suicide continues to be on the rise, though it is a criminal offence in Nigeria. According to Section 327 of the Criminal Code, attempted suicide remains criminalised and the victim risks imprisonment for one year.
Besides the usual reasons adduced as the causes of suicide, Dr Olayinka Atilola, a Consultant Psychiatrist, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said mental health problem can also be responsible.
According to him, most people who commit suicide could do that as a result of mental health problem or a psycho-social problem
The psychiatrist listed psycho-social problems to include: anxiety, depression, hostility, hopelessness, which exist at the individual level, among others.
He called on the government to ensure the provision of mental health service in each of the primary health care centres across the country.
This, according to him, will provide a means of helping those who might want to attempt suicide, adding that the best approach to combat suicide is to provide psychiatric help.
“The federal and state governments should endeavour to have a programme that will allow people to talk about their health problems and other challenges of life that are daily confronting them which can serve as impetus to committing suicide.”
He noted that one of the causes of suicide is the increase in urban migration, which according to him, can cause increase in psycho-social problems.
Atilola also listed the signs of depression as: sustain unhappiness, losing interest in those things that earlier interest you, a feeling of consistent downiness and loss of appetite
According to him, mental health and depression cut across ages, group and strata.
Dr Funmi Akinola, a Consultant Psychiatrist, said that failed relationship, sexual and physical assault, financial challenges, among others, could also force one to take his or her life.
She noted that these factors can have emotional effect on an individual when they become so overwhelming and they seem to have no option than to take their lives.
Akinola called on the government to think of establishing a hot line strictly for those who are on a suicide attempt to forestall such attempt
Mr Haruna Abdullahi, publisher of World Entourage Magazine, while recounting his experience in a suicide attempt, said that the moment he lost his mother he became `empty and sullen.’
“I took to adulthood early in life in order to make my mother happy. I got married early to make her a grandmother.’’
According to him, life became torturing, bitter and fearful, when his mother died,
“Nothing interests me anymore, I became withdrawn, and I dropped in weight and zest, I was losing sleep, food became poisonous to me.’’
He stated that the world later became very uninteresting, adding that his mind was more for an end to “follow his mother to where she hurriedly went to.’’
Mr Bunmi Gabriel, a counselor and a minister in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), said that taking someone’s life as a result of depression will rather compound the problem than solve it, noting that time heals all wounds.
He noted that suicide could be both physical and spiritual, stating that those physical depression could emanate as a result of not achieving ones target as and when due.
“People should be encouraged to meet people and talk to them about their experiences, especially those of the same age bracket or those that are older who can relate with them some of the things they have passed through in life.”
He stressed the need for people to go out and associate with people either in church, community meeting, social gathering, where they can meet and share their experiences.
Mr Adedotun Ajiboye, Clinical Psychologist with Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti ,advised relations, friends and colleagues of persons suffering from depression to be extra vigilant to avert incidents of suicide.
Ajiboye noted that people who suffered depression had the tendency to become suicidal, while calling on friends and relation to always be proactive once they identify that a person is suicidal, adding that they should not be allowed to stay alone.
He also said that terminal medical condition, poverty, among others, are factors that often lead people to commit suicide.
He called for close monitoring of persons with depression in addition to taking them to see a psychiatrist who would prescribe anti-depressant drugs and follow up on such patients.
Ajiboye also advised that harmful objects such as knives should be kept away from people suffering from depression.
He advised that people should be their brother’s keepers, especially in the religious circles, saying that they should have welfare packages for people in these times of economic hardship.
“People are passing through a lot of tough times and they may not want to share their experiences, so religious leaders must learn to engage people.
“We must call our loved ones regularly to check on their welfare and see how we can be of assistance, you do not know if that call will just save a life,’’ the psychologist said.
He also advised people who were faced with some challenges to learn to share their problems, saying “a problem shared is a problem half solved.’’
Ajiboye explained that unstable mental condition was one of the factors that could make an individual to be prone to committing suicide.
Dr Ninyo Omidiji, a psychiatrist, reiterated that suicide is the third leading cause of death especially among young people world over.
According to him, you might have been horrified by homicide, but the number of people who kill themselves outnumber the number of those who die from homicide.
Omidiji said that “WHO stated that every passing 40 seconds, somebody somewhere is killing himself and for every completed suicide, there are about 20 other attempts at suicide that survived.’’
According to him, suicide is not an occasional spree, but are popularised, when a few cases are sensationalised by the media.
Ninyo called on Nigerians to be more kind and steadily supportive of one another, stating that social disintegration in the face of hard times is a contributory factor to suicide.
The psychiatrist expressed worry that victims of suicide hardly get the needed sympathy, especially in developing nations like Nigeria.
According to him, in Nigeria the subsisting law of the land still stipulates one year jail term for a survivor of suicide attempt, stating that the provision is ridiculous for someone that needs help.
• Femi Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Miyetti Allah women leader: Fulani women, children deserve better treatment
Hajiya Baheejah Mahmood is the national women leader of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. She is candid and eloquent. In this chat with ALI GARBA, she did not mince words in expressing the pains and trauma Fulani women herders, experience with their children. She stressed that their children do not attend school while their women do not enjoy their matrimonial homes…
What is it like for Women to rare cattle among men?
It’s normal because the Fulani women are born into it. Although, they are considered as the weaker sex and having limit to their endurance, they have specific roles reserved for them including rearing the calves and taking care of the home front.
What motivated you into cattle rearing instead of going into other jobs that are typical of Women?
Heritage and passion, besides it’s a lucrative business and keeps one busy. I do other jobs that women do, plus being a house wife and a mother
Do you rear cattle?
Yes, I do but not by myself. I keep them on my farm and engage the services of professional herdsmen to attend to them. You know like I said, it is not all Fulani that are herdsmen but most of them rear animals of one kind or the other. The President of Nigeria rear cattle too and yet he is the President. It will surprise me if the first lady Hajia Aisha Buhari does not rear animals. Again, rearing of animals could be done at home or on the farm using the ranching method, or choose to do the transhumance, that is crossing over to far away areas in search of greener pastures. The choice may also depend on the number of cattle that one has. In the North, it is common for ethnic groups to engage in rearing animals.
What are the likely challenges you face as a woman-cattle-rearer?
Like I said, I do not face much challenge since I don’t graze cattle around. I only rear them within my farm, the major challenge being that it’s a more expensive venture.
What about advances from male counterparts, how do you handle it if there is such?
No, l do not experience such, since I don’t rear the animals myself, but male advances to women is a natural phenomenon and every woman has a way of surviving through it.
There is a notion that most Fulani girl-child marry early instead of going to school. How true is that?
It is not a belief; it is actually the culture that the female children should marry early. But some Fulani female children do go to school, one thing you should know is that these early marriages are not peculiar to Fulanis alone, even Hausas and other tribes practice it but the practice is generally becoming outdated as a result of advocacy and sensitisation activities on the importance of education. On the flip side, even male children are married off as early as 17 years of age. So, it’s very true that some still practice early marriage.
What are the exact challenges you talked about that the Fulani face as cattle herders, especially their women, wives and children?
The Fulanis face many challenges that involve moving across the length and breadth of this country and even beyond with their cattle in search of greener pasture. It is not an easy feat as their health safety, and general well-being and that of their children and animals can all be compromised during such trips especially with the current insecurity reigning in the country. The Fulani women and children are more vulnerable in every situation when their husbands and fathers embark on such trips in search of greener pastures in places thousands of kilometres away. They are equally vulnerable when the whole family moves on such trips as the women have to back-strap the infants while the older children are made to trek through treacherous terrains on foots.
Children do not attend school, women do not enjoy their matrimonial homes, and they don’t enjoy any form of care, while they constitute the larger percentage of ethnicities of the northern part of the country. They have no access to all the social amenities and yet, they provide most of the proteins Nigerians depend on. When we talk of such Fulanis, we refer to the nomadic amongst them, while some have excelled to become professionals, top government officials, marketers, teachers, the Forces and in other fields of endeavour. Yet that does not change anything for the nomadic Fulanis, they still suffer in silence, the hatred, brutally marginalised, lack of sympathisers, voiceless, misrepresented, misunderstood and misguided by many different ethnic groups in the country that want to take advantage of them.
Why do you think other people see the Fulanis criminals and violent?
As I said earlier that the Fulanis are not criminals, they are hardworking entrepreneurs, self-reliant, honest, reserved and conservative people, they are law abiding, pay tax as and when due, and do not have access to basic amenities the rest of Nigerians enjoy. The Fulani are the most misunderstood. Unfortunately, because of their naivety, they come across people that take advantage of them and embellish them with bad influence. They are generally trusting and open minded to those they meet for the first time but people take advantage of that and lead them into all sorts of bad behaviour including what we are now experiencing in Nigeria. The Fulanis are not bad people, rather, what they need is our understanding and empathy so that those bad eggs amongst them can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Truth is, only a small percentage of Fulanis fall into this unfortunate category and gave the whole race a bad name which is widespread by media and other not-so- well meaning Nigerians.
The issue of Fulanis is politicised in Nigeria and they were labeled as criminals out of hatred and unfairness, but they are not. There are many tribes that have criminals committing various crimes and criminalities in Nigeria and beyond but have you ever heard the names of their tribes being mentioned. The people that stole from the Fulanis, killed them, thereby, making them become hostile. Whenever arrests of suspects are made, you have to go deep and find out who are their sponsors. If the sponsors are identified, then we will know the real actors behind Fulani criminality. A Fulani does not push cocaine, does not rob banks, and does not engage in 419. Rather, they rear animals in the most difficult ways and when that is taken away, they fall prey to evil doers within the society.
What, in your opinion is the Ruga-to-Ruga project?
The Ruga-to-Ruga project is a National program meant to benefit the Fulanis, the North and Nigeria at large. The Fulanis may be the direct beneficiaries of the program, but Nigerians will also benefit indirectly, especially those in the animal marketing and supply chain sector, the consumers, butchers, e.t.c. In comparison, a sea Port in Warri, or anywhere else, does not directly impact on the lives of people in the hinterland of Nigeria, but rather indirectly through their contribution to the economy. Likewise, the provision of Ruga settlements for the Fulani may not have direct bearing to the lives of people in the South and Eastern parts of Nigeria but will definitely have indirect impact through its contribution to food security, GDP of the Nation, employment, industrial sustainability through provision of raw material.
So, what is the way forward for peaceful coexistence?
Nigerians should learn to tolerate each other, be patient and avoid doing anything that will breed hatred , disaffection and disunity. We have to understand government is for all Nigerians. Recently, the Federal Government awarded a 3.9bn contact for building the Warri seaport, and the 90-hectare Ibadan Inland Dry port (IDP), estimated to gulp about $99.6 million (35.8 billion). After the contracts were awarded, the Fulani did not cry or say anything about it just for the interest of unity and peaceful coexistence.
An Igbo or Yoruba man will come and settle in the North doing his businesses even in the remotest villages peacefully. But why are they crying out loud when herdsmen momentarily relocate to their areas, living in the bushes and vacant or untenanted land? My advice to the Federal Government is that it should continue to initiate, implement and sustain laudable programs that will positively impact the lives of the citizens of the country.
The Ruga-to-Ruga is a laudable project, but the Government needs to involve those that are knowledgeable in all aspects of the program to implement it. As it is, life in the North is becoming more challenging due to worsening infrastructures and economic indices, so the Northern elites and Political leaders need to stand up and demand or lobby for developmental programs and projects to be implemented in the North that will be of economic, social and political value to its people. For example, border states like Katsina, Adamawa, Sokoto, Taraba should have their borders opened to enable them continue with their trans-border trade on which many of the citizens depend, therefore Government should remain focus in moving Nigeria forward at any cost. Nigerians should stop being judgmental and sentimental for no reason, after all, it’s part of development to even provide and protect animals and trees.
If the North can provide an enabling environment for all Nigerians, why not the other part reciprocate.
What is your leisure time like?
I relax engaging myself with hobbies like reading, watching entertainment TV, tending to animals and going to farm. I also enjoy working on humanitarian services. I have four children; three male and one female.
Women of power
They exude power, class, and influence. The key to any political door is firmly in their handbags. They are queens with cutting edge clouts in politics. In this report, OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI and WALE ELEGBEDE write on politically powerful and influential women in the current dispensation and what makes them tick
Since the return of democracy in 1999, women have largely made good impressions in different positions they have occupied- elective and appointments.
While it’s not still Eureka for women in elective offices as cries for marginalisation still pervade, there is no doubting the fact that either in government or not, the behind-the-scene influence of women in politics is real and active.
According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), women form 49.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population. Regardless of the handful number, female political representation at the last general election was negligible compared to their size. In 2019, only 2,970 women were on the electoral ballot, representing only 11.36 per cent of nominated candidates.
However, of the lot, four women emerged as deputy governor with their principals in Enugu, Kaduna, Ogun and Rivers. In the National Assembly, only 18 are women; seven in the Senate and 11 in the House of Representatives.
At the federal cabinet-level, though with a proposed enlarged cabinet number of 43, only seven women are members of the current Federal Executive Council, representing only 16.3 per cent of the cabinet.
Interestingly, despite the gender imbalance in the different levels of political compositions, women, in and out of politics, have been making their voices heard on issues of concern.
While some use their political offices and education to vent their stance and influence government positions, others are making audacious impressions through their proximity to power as either spouses or associates of leaders in power.
Aisha Buharia nee Halilu born 17 February 1971, First Lady of Nigeria who assumed office on 29 May 2015. A cosmetologist by training, beauty therapist and author, is also a mother of five and a grandmother. According to Wikipedia, Mrs Buhari holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and a Master’s Degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. Mrs Buhari is a vocal women’s right activist and child right Advocate, and she has criticized child marriage and homosexuality.
She is widely known and described as her husband’s best critic. She is well known for brutality when it comes to speaking the truth. She does not waste time to tongue-lash at whomever and whatever she believed is on the wrong path of her belief. There was a time she bombarded her husband’s government, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, on what she believed was going wrong in Nigeria. She said, “we must speak on whatever is going wrong in the country. The security agents should either assist to take action or allow the situation continues until bandits finished killing our people.”
Again, she sent a cryptic message to her husband through her tweeter handle over appointment of people into his cabinet. She tweeted that, “You cannot drive an agenda with people who don’t believe in that agenda…how you will achieve your purpose if you bring in people who fought against your agenda.”
Vocal and assertive, she does and says what she is convinced about. This shows when she announced her decision to be addressed as the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And this, she declared it to take effect immediately in order to resolve the issue of the title of wives of governors. “When my husband was newly elected, I personally chose to be called the wife of the President. But, I realised that it causes confusion from the state as to whether the wives of state governors are to be addressed as the first ladies or wives of the governors. So, forgive me for confusing you from the beginning, but now I chose to be called the first lady,” she asserted.
Dolapo, wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is always a delight to behold. Her carriage and mien is just like a dove. She is harmless, caring, courteous and supportive to her husband.
Despite being raised with a silver spoon as a granddaughter of the sage, Obafemi Awolowo, she still exudes humility, grace, and candor. She is a passionate woman who places a premium on substance and value.
Married to the VP in 1989, the couple is blessed with three kids. Considered to be a voice in Aso Rock, the nation’s number two woman is quite influential around the corridors of power despite her delicate poise.
Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa
The journalist turned politician is a very popular figure in both political and citizens circle. Her popularity soared during her stint at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), anchoring the weekly NTA Newsline programme.
In the advent of the Fourth Republic, she left the media to stand for election in the House of Representatives and was a representative from Lagos for three times up until 2015 when President Buhari appointed her as Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora.
In the current dispensation, she was appointed as Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the recently established Nigerian Diaspora Commission. With her latest position, the ex-lawmaker is perhaps in the middle of decision making as far as Nigeria and Nigerians interest abroad is concerned.
She is the wife of the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi. Aside from her role as dutiful wife of the governor, she is an intellectual of note who wields within and outside the Fountain of Knowledge State.
Her husband, who is the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum recently described her as his pillar of support and problem solver during their wedding anniversary. Her strength and influence were obvious during recent elections in Ekiti state.
She recently bagged the 2018 Zik Prize for Humanitarian Leadership alongside the former Ghanaian President, John Mahama and immediate past National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who won in the political leadership category.
Lolo Cecelia Ezeilo
She is the Deputy Governor of Enugu State and a legal practitioner by training. She worked in the Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS) as a programme producer and presenter before she joined active politics. In 2011, she was elected into Enugu State House of Assembly as the member representing Ezeagu Constituency.
After a decent first tenure as his deputy, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi renominated her for a second tenure in office. Ezeilo is the first female Deputy Governor of Enugu State since its creation in 1991.
Described as a modest, gentle and intelligent leader that anybody who is privileged to come in contact with her would like to identify with her, it was gathered that cordiality with his principal has made her a force to reckon with.
Dr. Hadiza Balarabe
She is the first elected female deputy governor in the history of Kaduna and she wields so much influence even before her swearing-in.
Dr Balarabe, was until her selection as running mate by Governor Nasir el-Rufai the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Primary Health Care Development Agency,
Born in 1966, Balarabe is from Sanga Local Government Area in Southern Kaduna.
Prior to joining the Kaduna State Government, Balarabe was the director of Public Health in the Federal Capital Territory.
A former senior registrar at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Balarabe studied Medicine at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, and graduated in 1988.
By all assessment, Noimot Salako Oyedele, a multi-talented professional with over 30 years of proven records of experience in Consulting, Contracting and Real Estate sectors is one of the most influential deputy governors in Nigeria.
Her choice as running mate by Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun came against all permutations and that quickly sent a signal that she is a round peg in a round hole.
Salako-Adeleke is the daughter of late Professor Lateef A. Salako who served in the state as Chairman of Ogun State Scholarship Board and Chairman Ogun State University Teaching Hospital Board of Management.
Ipalibo Harry Banigo •
Even in the face of intense challenge, Dr. Harry-Banigo Ipalibo epitomizes courage and inner strength. She is a medical doctor and the first female Deputy Governor of Rivers State.
Through her first term tenure with her principal, Governor Nyesom Wike, she had a seamless working relationship and that shot up her influence in the political circle. Expectedly, the same cordiality has picked up during their second term.
Senator Tinubu, the wife of APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is serving her third term in the Upper Chamber. She served as the First Lady of Lagos state for eight years. She was first elected into the Senate in 2011 and repeated the feat two different times.
Love or loathe her, she carries an uncommon conviction and she is forthright in her belief. A highly masses oriented personality, Yeye as she is fondly called hardly knock any door twice before it opens.
With the influence her husband already wields, its only an added sway for her that she possesses such panache and carriage that can’t be intimidated. Her network is far-reaching and she has many at her beck and call. She currently heads Senate Committee on Communication.
Some have described her like a cat with nine lives due to her never-say-die attitude. The banker-turned politician was a two-term member of the House of Representatives, representing Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency of Anambra State. She was deputy chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts in her second term.
In 2010, she contested for the governorship of Anambra State on the plank of the Peoples Progressive Party, PPA and lost. She also lost the race on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in 2014.
She won the Anambra Central senatorial seat in 2015 on the platform of the PDP in 2015 but lost the position to Senator Victor Umeh of APGA at the tribunal. She later defeated Umeh at the 2019 election to return to the senate. She is currently the Senate Committee chairman on Science and Technology.
Rose Oko was a member of the House of Representatives representing Yala/Ogoja Federal Constituency in the Seventh National Assembly on the card of the PDP. She was elected into office as the first female representative from her constituency in June 2011 and sat as deputy chairman House Committee on Education. She became the first female senator in Cross River North in 2015 and she retained the position at the last poll.
The former minister of Aviation is one of the three female senators that got re-elected.. She won the Anambra North senatorial seat for the first time in 2015 and repeated the feat last week.
Aishatu Ahmed Dahiru
Aisha Dahiru won Adamawa Central Senatorial seat on the platform of the APC, making her the only female senator-elect so far in Northern Nigeria. She could be the only female senator in the Ninth Senate as her predecessor, Binta Masi, lost her bid to return to the upper legislative chamber.
Regarded as a thoroughbred professional with immense influence across board, 59-year-old Ahmed was appointed Minister of State for Budget and Planning in 2015 and later substantive minister of finance in 2018 following the resignation of Kemi Adeosun. She is the daughter of Yahaya Hamza, the foster father of Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state.
She holds a degree in Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun. She once served as the executive secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
54-year-old Gbemisola is the daughter of Olusola Saraki, former strongman of Kwara politics, and a sibling of Bukola Saraki, president of the 8th senate. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 1999 representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency, Kwara State.
She holds a bachelors degree in economics from the University of Sussex. She did her national service at the Nigeria Bank for Commerce and Industry, Lagos. She worked for the Societe Generale Bank (Nigeria) as Head of Money Markets and later as Head of Domiciliary Accounts. From 1994 to 1999 she was Executive Director of Ashmount Insurance Brokers, Lagos.
Gbemisola was elected senator representing Kwara central senatorial district. She held this zposition till 2011 when she tried to succeed her brother who was governor of Kwara between 2003 and 2011 but she lost despite having the backing of her father. She defected to the APC in 2015 and was believed to have worked against her brother’s re-election at the last general elections. She is the Minister of Transport.
Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development,Mrs. Tallen is a popular politician from Plateau State who has served as Minister and deputy governor in her state. The 60-year-old later contested the governorship election in 2011 but lost to Jonah Jang. The University of Jos sociology graduate defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress before the 2015 election. She is the first female to be a deputy governor in the northern region. She is a board member of National Agency for Control of Aids (NACA).
Ikeazor is the executive secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). In 2011, she was elected the national women leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and emerged APC’s interim national women leader after the merger that produced the ruling party. In 2014, she was appointed to APC board of trustees.
Sharon started her primary school education at the St Mary’s Convent School Lagos and went to Queen of the Rosary College Onitsha for her secondary education and the Godolphin School Salisbury England for Higher Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. She obtained her Bachelor of Law (LL.B Hons.) from the University of Benin and Certificate of Practice from the Nigerian Law School in 1985.
Sharon runs a prison outreach programme that pays the fines of awaiting trial persons and also undertakes free legal representation for inmates. She is the Minister of State for Environment.
Passion blinds many into marriage – Nkpobre
Didi Nkpobre, a relationship coach and statistician with the National Bureau of statistics (NBS), is a woman generous about empowering others with her talents. With about 75 per cent success story in relationship fixing, she could be best described a cupid. She lets Oizah Ibezim into why she does this
When and how did this matchmaking start?
We have been love-matchmaking remotely-by word of mouth and through family, relatives and friends for seven years going now.
And what’s your testimony base like?
If people are coming for relationships fixing, doesn’t that seem that there is a problem of relationship among us?
I think we are in a stage where people don’t have time anymore to meet people. They are very busy, no time even for themselves. Hence, it’s easier to outsource relationships, dates for different purpose. We ensure we match-make the right people so that there will be no problem.
Is that typical African, does it look natural?
Yes, because from time memorial, even our grandmothers and parents match us up with cousins or distant relatives and families that they can vouch for.
As a relationship expert, based on the people you fix and your experience, between bind date and matchmaking, which is more beneficial to the couple?
They are both very similar, because in those days, they will say, oh I have someone I want you to marry, which is the same thing now and this is even better because now, you get to meet the person, then, you go on dating. That courting period, we don’t tell the couple what to do or say, it is strictly their affairs at that level.
However, marrying the person off use to be good because the parents involved know the spouses (children) since when they were born, in fact, both parents know each other before that, they already know that he/she is from a good family.
But the chemistry may not gel….
Yes the chemistry may not gel but, one thing certain, they have solid foundation of good parents and upbringing. So the parents keep pushing it, monitoring and nurturing it to maturity. People think marriage survives on love but it doesn’t, it’s not based on love. There are other things like family relationships, having the same values and more in common. At least, the parents try to help you unlike now that you don’t know where this person is from. The person doesn’t know where you are from also, you try and get to know the most you can get to know but it is not enough that they would go to the village and investigate that family and say ooh he is from a good family and she is from a good family. Nowadays, we call it guess work when we are just dating each other but on the platform, we are here to give small information that will help you. You would have already known a lot about him- educational, marital or family background.
But how well do you do your background check before doing the match-making.
We do background check, speak to the people and we get to find out what they are looking for, we find out if they were divorced, because majority of the people we have are mostly single parents, divorced people. We try to find the cause of their divorce story and try to make sure that if you don’t have a good experience, you don’t repeat it again. In fact the first couple that got married, he was a single dad and she was a single mum.
He had a daughter, she had a daughter, their kids found each other and became best friends.
Majority of our single parents come in knowing what they want, truth of the matter is that when they come into their first marriages, they come in for love, hence, they are not really looking at issues as they should, not looking for red flag, just going in with their hearts not looking for anything. But in the second marriage, people know that this is what happened, and they put extra effort into it to make their second chance perfect of what they desired. That is why with the single parents, I think it’s easier, that is why it’s faster than people who have not be married before.
But what really is it that sustains marriage in a typical African setting?
Well, African setting is changing now, and there are things that can be checked like family values, having the same interest, doing what you expect from marriage and discussing it. For some people, the man has his own idea, like to do things his way, same with the woman. But, when in marriage, you find out that there are different expectations, so they either compromise or not.
Does it mean that the general notion ‘Love conquers all’ does not help to sustain marriage?
It has been, because love is very sweet, so everyone just wants the idea of love, not realising that relationship is much more important. So, I always tell people, especially when you start dating someone, have it at the back of your mind that in marriages, there are bound to be fights and quarrels. So think along how to resolve conflicts.
A guy once told me that when he get angry he slaps her and shouts, while another lady is like I want someone that keeps quiet because she married someone that was noisy, another lady said she wants someone that will talk as she had dealt with someone that keeps everything inside, different folks for different strokes. You have to talk and know how you are going to resolve your conflicts, if not, that is going to be a problem, because conflict is going to come especially in the early years of marriage.
Do your clients come back to you for problem solving?
No, because we are just concentrating on the dating part, so that early stage, we create the platform for you to meet someone and get to know the person.
We have other relationship coaches that we send them to and say ok, you can talk to this person if they are having trouble in the relationship.
Our platform is for you to meet people. That’s the main aim, some people do not meet the right people, like when they go to a party and they say everyone there was too young. But with our platform, you can meet the right age, right person with the right job. So this platform helps you to see all you need and you will be able to choose with a say.
So how long do people stay on your match-making platform before they get married?
It depends on the individuals. But during their first month, they start meeting their matches. On our platform, we make sure it’s not only a physical thing and anyone that comes with that notion; we say this platform is not for you. We make sure it’s an indebt thing, because looks cannot make a relationship, it’s more about the person.
So how do you test their genuineness on the platform and in the relationship?
That is why we have a payment structure so that for you to bring out money from your pocket, then, it means you are serious to a certain level .Otherwise you can go out and just meet anyone.
We also ask them questions to weed out the unserious ones.
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