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GOTEL: The Dangers Of A Single Story

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“Always avoid the dangers of a single story,” Chimamanda Adichie once said. Acting up or making serious decisions off convictions from single stories is a flaw that illustrates our emotional, rather than, logical approach to solving problems in Nigeria.

Whoever cries first in public is automatically regarded as the victim and the entire village converges on the village square to bay for the blood of the other person who has yet to respond to the allegations against them.

Even when the accused issues a robust response, the villagers already chose who and what to believe, irrespective of facts presented by the responding party.

Some years ago four young undergraduates visited their school mate by dawn, somewhere in Rivers state. Suddenly, shouts of “Thieves, Thieves,” filled the early morning air and shattered the peace of that small town.

Within minutes a fierce crowd had gathered around the four ‘intruders’ and, despite the protestations of the boys, proceeded to stone them to death and burn their bodies.

That sad event is what we refer to as the ALUU 4 today. Four innocent boys murdered by a crowd that did not understand the dangers of a single story or just didn’t care about the truth.

It turned out that the real thief, the school mate who owed the boys some money and had been evading them was the one who screamed the false accusation that got them killed.

In America, one of the most popular Hollywood actors is Amber Heard. She was married to Johnny Depp, the star of Pirates of the Carribbean.

Miss Heard came out openly to allege that she had been a victim of domestic abuse in her marriage to the well loved actor. Johnny Depp immediately lost all his contracts and businesses with major production companies even though his ex wife had not presented a shred of evidence to back her claims.

Millions of people around the world attacked Mr Depp and his children violently (the children defended their father) while the man continued to maintain his innocence. But society, led by masters of virtue signalling, had made up it’s mind and passed judgment already.

Since yesterday the internet has been awash with audio, pictorial and previous court evidences, all proving the fact that the alleged victim, Miss Amber Heard was, indeed, the abuser!

Leaked audio tapes prove that not only was Depp quite the peaceful husband, but Miss Heard was given to fits of extreme violence, hitting her husband and even once slicing his finger with a knife, burnt a cigarette on his face, and hit him with pots during her self confessed bouts of anger.

Amber Heard told her husband in the audio tapes that she cannot promise to stop being violent.

Yet this was the same woman that the world celebrated as a strong victim of abuse. She became the face of a highly subjective #MeToo movement and profited off of her false accusations by gaining a lead role in the monster hit movie, Aquaman.

I understand the urge to take sides with the underdog. But let’s not forget that every dog is a dog and any dog can bite without provocation; even the underdog.

That innocent looking Chihuahua still has sharp teeth concealed behind the fancy face and can commit crimes.

When workers claim to be owed salaries, it is natural for everyone to identify with their pain. They automatically become the victims because, truth be told, it is wrong for an employer not to pay their workers. There are even laws against this.

So what happened with GOTEL, the media company owned by His Excellency Atiku Abubakar GCON, former Vice-President of Nigeria and Wazirin Adamawa? Did he decide to disregard labour laws and deliberately catapult GOTEL staff into penury by refusing to pay their salaries for work done? Did Atiku hire Diaspora professionals and force them to work for free while not respecting the terms of their contracts?

It is easy to believe such tales on face value. It’s easy because delaying salaries is an abnormal norm in the larger Nigerian context; government at all levels owe salaries, private businesses, even more so.

But those who have taken sides with the ‘underdog’ in this case run the risk of generalising and passing wrong judgment.

Credible sources involved in the saga have raised a number of valid points and I will address just a few of them with a view to, not passing judgment but, understanding why the seeming impasse lingers.

Firstly, what is the basic character of the former Vice-President? Is it in his nature to allow those around him wallow in poverty while he relishes the deserved wealth God and fate has bestowed upon him?

From my direct, personal experience with the Waziri, and with due respect to doubting Thomases, such a thought would be the most dishonest and unfair description of Atiku Abubakar.

His many interventions in the lives of thousands of citizens across different tribes and religions are well documented. But today is not the day to list them.

Talking about GOTEL, how well did the self-adulating Diaspora professionals handle the core assignment they were contracted to do? Did they lift the company from the doldrums of decadence to the pinnacle of media excellence? Did they bring to bear the much needed placement of the company among elite players in the sector given the fact that tens of millions of dollars were spent setting up GOTEL to become a world class media firm?

I read the interview in The Punch of Ebong Udoma, erstwhile Editor in Chief of the company who alleged that he was being owed about 60,000 dollars.

I particularly took note of the question he was asked about why he has not sought legal redress against the company.

Ebong Udoma blabbed some incoherent excuse about not living in Nigeria.

Maybe that’s true. He also claimed that the finance controller for the company, Abdullahi Babalele, failed to keep a number of appointments they had made to meet in his (Babalele’s) office.

Assuming, but not conceding, that it was true, it still would not be strange; Babalele is an extremely busy man and could be justifiably late to appointments. I have been to his office before and he was not there at the agreed times. What did I do?

I called his mobile number more than once to remind him that I was waiting. There was a delay but he came eventually. Why did I wait? It was the simple fact that I knew what I wanted and, since that was the reason I was there, I would not have left without it.

If someone owed me sixty thousand dollars and asked me to come to their office, I would go with my blanket and night wear. There’s no way I would leave their before getting my money. If the money was not ready, the Babalele I know would not ask me to come.

And since Ebong was leaving Nigeria, he could have reverted to His Excellency to seek his intervention with Babalele.

The only reason anybody would be invited to pick up his legitimate funds by Babalele and end up not waiting for it is if he was culpable in running down the company’s finances and did not want to be audited before payment.

A lot of Nigerian professionals are averse to accountability.

Unfortunately, over the years, one has noticed that a lot of hired hands have taken the Waziri’s open heart for granted and fleeced the man of monies not worked for.

The Chiamehen management at GOTEL embezzled funds meant for staff salaries and administrative running of the firm. The man even did that almost typical Nigerian ghost worker stuff by appointing his daughter who lives in faraway America and placing her on GOTEL’s payroll– in dollars– for doing nothing. Absolutely nothing!

What these faux victims will not tell you is that they (staff) have never submitted a kobo in profits to the owner of the company. For fifteen years Atiku has run GOTEL out of pocket. The management never as much as bought diesel for the generator. Atiku took care of those needs.

Now let’s be fair. Atiku is a private businessman. He is not the government and does not have access to unlimited cash. He is also affected by every factor that knocks businesses to the ground, especially dishonest employees.

Facing a proper audit and investigation into his activities, Chiamehen fled Nigeria claiming that he was going for sick leave. According to Paul Ibe, Media Adviser to His Excellency, that sick leave was in 2016.

Is Chiamehen not well enough to return and give account of his financial and operational stewardship? It’s been four years now.

It is within the rights of a business owner to demand an audit. Infact, every serious organisation must audit it’s operations from time to time, especially when corruption has been detected.

One of the things I admire most about Atiku is that he never runs from challenges like a coward. He faces them headlong and submits himself to scrutiny. That’s why he is Nigeria’s most investigated politician and has yet to be convicted of any crime.

Why is Chiamehen in hiding? I am not saying that he has stolen money. But he should return or, at least, write a comprehensive report about all transactions that happened under his management.

This will go a long way towards ending the saga. There is no way the public can pick sides in a matter that has not lent itself to objective scrutiny. It would be merely responding to wild conjecture rather than incontrovertible fact.

As for Ebong Udoma, I am still struggling to see what world class content he brought to the firm to warrant the huge resources spent under their management. Beyond that, I have yet to find actionable facts in his allegations. If he claims that he was asked to come get money from Babalele then why did he not wait for his money? Why did he leave Nigeria in a hurry, and why did he not seek legal redress?

For now, on the side of the underdog, there are more questions than answers. The owner of GOTEL has not minced words at all. His defence has been consistent and, if you know Atiku well enough, then you would be sure about one thing;

Atiku ensures to be right before he fights.

Nigerians should avoid the danger of the single story. Another group to run from is the band of godless virtue signallers who are paid by elite urchins to leverage on the emotional nature of Nigerians to smear just about anybody they perceive to be a threat.

Michael Achimugu writes from Abuja

Ike Ani is a Freelance writer whose quest constantly is to relate happenings around the world to human daily living. He's also a song writer and singer, Acoustic Guitarist, and Teacher.

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Yobe state Declares ‘War’ On Open Defecation, Environmental Degradation

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Yobe State Government has declared war against open defecation, communicable diseases and environmental degradation through advocacy and community sensitization.

Declaring the war on Monday in Potiskum town, Governor Mai Mala Buni, represented by his Deputy Idi Barde Gubana, said the dangers and consequences of open defecation in the state ranging from infestation of diseases such as typhoid, cholera, malaria among others.

He said it has also negative effect on the environment by polluting the air with bad odor and making the land inhabitable.

“The significance of personal and community hygiene to safeguard human health is irrefutable; hence according to UNICEF 892,000,000 people are practicing open defecation world over.

“India is ranked first with high rate of open defecation in the world and Nigerian is second. While in Africa, Nigeria is ranked first.

“This among other reasons promoted President Muhammadu Buhari to signed Executive Order 009 on 21st November, 2019 and set a target for eradicating open defecation in Nigeria on or before 2025”, he noted.

In a bid to complement federal government’s effort, Governor Buni said the state government deemed it fit to take the advocacy campaign against the menace to the 17 local government areas to sensitize people on the dangers and negative consequences of open defecation.

According to him, the move is to protect the environment, culture, norms and values as people, adding to be an open defecation free society also reduces the incidence of disease and other anti social behaviour in the state.

“When open defecation is not properly managed, the diseases causing organism in human excreta find their way back to our food and water through run off, while in some instances houseflies can perch on these open excreta and settle on edibles, thereby infecting those that ingest the food or drinks”, Buni stressed.

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Coronavirus In Nigeria: NCDC Issues Warning On Gatherings As FG Approves National Sports Festival

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Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has warned that mass gatherings can cause the spread of infectious diseases including coronavirus.

The Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said this in a chat with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.

Ihekweazu noted that agency is constantly monitoring the epidemiological situation in the country.

He stated that NCDC recommends the cancellation of mass gatherings, in compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

“We are not advising the cancellation of gatherings, but our advice may change as the epidemiological situation evolves. This is assessed on a daily basis and regular updates can be found on www.covid19.ncdc.gov.ng”, he said.

The official listed gatherings that should be highly monitored.

The he explained included provision of “more entry and exit points, more food points, ensure hand-washing facilities with soap and water are readily available.”

Ihekweazu added that state ministries of health should be informed of such event and location assessed by officials.

The NCDC warning came hours the Nigerian government said it won’t stop the National Sports Festival in Edo State over coronavirus fears.

The event will be held in Benin from March 22 to April 1, 2020.

“Those who are looking in any way suspicious will be disallowed entry straightaway, so that they don’t pose any kind of risk to others until their symptoms are clear”, Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, told the media .

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APC CRISIS: Drama As high Court Orders Gaidom To Assume Oshiomhole’s Office

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A Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, has granted an interim order declaring Victor Giadom, acting National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to act as the party’s National Chairman.

The Judge, Justice Samira Bature gave the order on Monday after listening to an ex-parte motion filed by Mustapha Salihu, the party’s national vice chairman, north-east.

In the motion, Salihu had prayed the court to allow Giadom operate as APC’s acting National Chairman pending the decision of the party’s National Executive Council, NEC.

Salihu also prayed the court for an order restraining the APC and its officers or anyone from preventing Giadom from functioning as the acting chairman.

He noted that Gaidom should be allowed as acting Chairman pending the hearing of the motion on notice.

Justice Bature granted all the prayers sought by Salihu before adjourning the matter to March 20.

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