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Inibehe Effiong: When The Bench Is Intimidated By The Popularity Of The Bar…

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January 5, 1990, legendary Comrade Richard Akinnola, one of Nigeria’s most prolific judicial encyclopedia, did a report in the Vanguard Newspaper with the headline: “Gani Goes To Jail For Contempt.”

Justice Ligali Ayorinde, then Acting Chief Judge of Lagos State, had sentenced Gani Fawehinmi to jail for 12 months for contempt, because like Barrister Inibehe Effiong asked of the acting Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Gani also asked that Justice Ligali Ayorinde, should recuse himself from the defamation case against him by Col. Haliru Akilu and Lt-Col. A.K. Togun and transfer the case to another judge. That obnoxious decision and intimidation by Justice Ligali Ayorinde, was upturned by the Court of Appeal. Today in Nigeria, I am sure that almost everyone reading this knows who Gani Fawehinmi is and will only be wondering who Ligali Ayorinde was unless for people familiar with a street named after him in Victoria Island, Lagos.

The attempt by some pundits to finger the so called intimidating behaviour of Barrister Inibehe Effiong before Her Lordship in the Uyo High Court is the usual smokescreen employed by reactionary elements to conceal under-the-table deals that they cut with politicians, after meeting their match in the court rooms. It’s not a new thing. Which is why I recalled the Gani Fawehinmi episode.

Repeatedly, the acting Chief Judge of the Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Francesca Fabian Obot, has reportedly cautioned and warned Inibehe in Court over some of his applications and insistence against her decisons. She has also threatened in the past to commit Inibehe to prison. Inibehe, not convinced that his client will get fair judgment from Justice Ekaette, asked her to recuse herself and re-assign the matter to another judge. That’s where issues began to escalate. If the judge was not intimidated by the popularity of Inibehe on Channels TV, she won’t tell counsel that her court is not channels TV or AKBC. The bar’s popularity sure intimidated the bench.

During my own treason trial, the judge handling my trial descended into the arena and Adeyinka Fusika SAN, had a very serious shouting match with the judge in open court. The moment it was clear that the prosecution and the court were always in prior contact before court sittings and when the judge started saying unprintable things to me in the dock in open court; how he can do whatever he wants to do with my life. How I went and brought area boy lawyer from Lagos to come and shout at the court, how he grew up in Lagos too and challenged me to a physical brawl to tell me he also grew up in Lagos, how Gani Fawehinmi walked out on the court like my lawyers did and Ken Saro Wiwa was still sentenced to death and executed and nothing happened etc. It was clear to my lawyers that the judge was biased and needed to hands off my matter but he was reluctant and insisted on a secret trial. The lawyers also had to dig it out with him in his court. Maybe because Inibehe is not yet a SAN like Fusika, he was easily docked and jailed.

I think that it is actually some members of the bench who connive with criminal and vindictive politicians to short change litigants who come to court that bring shame and disrespect to the legal profession the most. It is a settled matter that court decisions can only be challenged in higher courts but when those decisions have not been reached, lawyers must have the liberty to do what ever they can to protect their clients, particularly, where it is clear and obvious that there is biase. Judges are not angels from heaven. They are human beings with all our frailties and we only sin differently and they should also realize that, like them, lawyers are also part of the temple of Justice. If we who stand in the dock cannot speak in the face of intimidation, it will be double tragedy if our lawyers also will be intimated into silence by mere and baseless accusations of wrongful demeanor before a court.

There is no law that forbids electronic recording of court proceedings in Nigeria to the best of my knowledge. I think we should begin to record these proceedings or regularly release CCTV camera recordings of these courts proceedings and make them available for the public on critical matters like these with high political interests and let’s see how we can minimize the encroachment from both ends if any.


Yours sincerely,

 


Citizen Agba Jalingo.

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President Buhari, How Far?

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By Ehi Braimah

This will be the first time I’m engaging President Muhammadu Buhari directly since he assumed office in 2015 on key national issues. Mr President, I know you love Nigeria as much as I do but how do you want to be remembered after leaving office? I know for sure you will retire to Daura but what legacy do you wish to leave behind?

Recently, you said Nigeria must remain as one country in spite of our challenges. I agree with you sir because we do not have any other country to call our own. For the avoidance of doubt, let me state that Nigeria is a great country but we have refused to rise to our full potential like the true giant of Africa that we are.

Who should take the blame? I think the comprehensive failure of leadership at all levels is responsible. Nigerians, too, are part of the problem.

Our own Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, says he is very passionate about making Nigeria great. That is where I also stand. My next book is titled, “How Naija can conquer the world”, with the foreword written by Al Ries, an award-winning author and one of the world’s best-known marketing strategists. He lives in Atlanta, USA.

Each time I watch Dangote on television, he says Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources, yet we continue to import petroleum products. I’m sure this was what motivated him to build the biggest refinery in the world that has the capacity to refine 650,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

All over the world, Nigerians are doing great things in different fields. See how Tobi Amusan, Ese Brume and others shone like a million stars recently, putting Nigeria on the world map in their extraordinary performances at sporting events in Oregon, USA and Birmingham, UK. We must continue to engage them and promote their endeavours.

Apart from having the largest economy in Africa, we are also the most populous country in Africa with over 210 million people. Currently, available population data indicates that Nigeria is number six in the world after China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Pakistan. Let’s not forget that Nigeria is also the most populous black nation in the world, and by 2050, it is being projected that Nigeria will become the third most populous nation in the world, after China and India, with over 400 million people.

Mr President, before we interrogate the issues that are weighing me down, I’m happy to note that you insisted on genuine electoral reforms that will protect our democracy. It is a milestone achievement that has started building trust between Nigerians and the electoral process.

You will be remembered for the electoral act 2022. Congratulations, sir. To your credit, you played the role of a neutral umpire during the off-season elections; it did not matter whether your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was the winner or not.

In the gubernatorial elections in Edo, Ekiti and Osun states, you insisted that the elections must be free and fair. In fact, you also promptly issued congratulatory messages to the winners. I commend you because that is the true spirit of sportsmanship; you acted like an elder, father and statesman.

There was also the petroleum industry bill which you signed into law. I salute you for seeing the process to the end, knowing fully well that the bill had gathered enough cobwebs to last a lifetime in the closets of the national assembly. Again, congratulations sir.

With the petroleum industry act (PIA), NNPC is now a private and commercial enterprise that is no longer tied to the apron strings of the federal government. Because of its independence, NNPC Limited will operate like Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian public petroleum and gas company based in Dhahran founded in 1933, and Petrobas, the Brazilian multinational corporation in the petroleum industry, founded in 1953.

Saudi Aramco reported that it earned $89 billion profit in the first half of 2022, a 90% increase from $47.2 billion, the profit earned last year during the same period. This is clearly a windfall arising from the rising price of oil in the global market.

From the examples of Saudi Aramco and Petrobas, the new NNPC will enhance inter-disciplinary control, foster unity and build capacity for sustainable development in the oil and gas industry. During the launch of NNPC Limited in Abuja, Mele Kyari, the company’s CEO, spoke with confidence and assured Nigerians that old things have passed away.

Indeed, NNPC declared a profit after tax of N287 billion two years ago. That would be the first profit after 44 years of existence for an organisation known for making losses. Kudos to you, Mr President, for this positive outcome. In the past, NNPC had a bad reputation for poor corporate governance amplified by undue political interferences.

Mr President, you showed that you are an advocate of the rule of law recently. After approving that Seplat can purchase ExxonMobil shares, you reversed yourself as minister of petroleum resources in the spirit of the petroleum industry act which now vests such powers in the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) headed by Gbenga Komolafe.

The federal government and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited are in joint venture agreements in several oil mining licenses through the NNPC and the petroleum industry is regulated by PIA. It means there are laws governing the sale of shares and assets by industry players because we are talking about a fully regulated industry. Although the matter is in court, the position right now is that ExxonMobil has been denied the authority to sell until certain issues are sorted out.

By the way, it appears most commentators are confusing shares sale with assets sale; these are two different things entirely. Keen observers would have noticed that ExxonMobil has not commented on the matter which says a lot about the whole drama that played out recently.

Mr President, the following talking points should also interest you because, in my reckoning, they signpost significant failures under your leadership. There is no reason why the ASUU strike which began on February 14 should drag on for more than one week without consequences. The entire process has been poorly managed and I don’t know why the ministers responsible for education and labour have not been fired.

With the general elections in view, APC will have a big problem with university teachers, parents and students. They are unhappy and it is a bad omen for the ruling party. Read the lips of ASUU president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, carefully to understand that the ASUU strike is a “struggle” that has received the full support of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).

What the federal government has done is pass a vote of no confidence on public educational institutions in Nigeria simply because you cannot find the children of “big men” schooling in Nigeria. Even your two weeks deadline for the crisis to be resolved, Mr President, did not materialise! So where do we go from here, Mr President?

There must be a strong commitment from both parties for the strike to be called off. The solution is to be creative about the funding process of universities and other public schools; it is obvious that government alone cannot provide all the funds needed.

Six months is a long time for students to be at home doing nothing, after losing one academic session to the ASUU strike two years ago. I noticed that more private universities are being approved and licensed even when public tertiary institutions are closed down. What is the wisdom in that?

I will not bore you with details of the deplorable security situation in the country because you receive briefings regularly. However, the war economy boomed with egregious corruption under your watch and kidnapping has become a thriving industry, grossing billions of naira. In spite of your assurances and several security meetings, people are worried about their safety; there’s so much uncertainty.

The other day, Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna state governor, informed you in a memo that terrorists have set up a parallel government in the state. Can you imagine their audacity? Are we then saying terrorists are winning the battle and gaining the upper hand? El-Rufai’s counterparts in Niger and Benue states, Abubakar Sani Bello and Samuel Ortom respectively, had previously raised alarms of similar magnitude.

To be honest with you sir, achievements recorded with rail infrastructure were reversed in full by the kidnap incident on the Kaduna–Abuja train service. Although most of the victims have been released, the memories of the traumatic experience by the survivors and their families will not go away for a long time.

From all indications, we do not seem to have any clue as to when the reign of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and unknown gunmen will end.

Sometimes, journalists are accused of “overreporting” our security challenges. Mr President, this is not true because you can be sure there are stories journalists who are also briefed regularly on security matters in Abuja don’t report.

It would appear you are always unwilling to wield the big stick even when it is obvious there has been a complete failure of intelligence or poor performance by your ministers and heads of agencies. Take the case of the Kuje prison attack or when terrorists attacked your convoy and brigade of guards where some military officers were killed.

I know you have less than 10 months to the end of your tenure but the time has come for you to bark and bite at the same time, and, more importantly, learn to adopt the carrot and stick approach. It is an important leadership tool.

When bad petrol was imported into this country early this year, heads did not roll. We were told cock and bull stories by your men while motorists suffered costly damages to their cars. They were also subjected to endless and frustrating fuel queues.

The other matter that has refused to go away and bothers me is the unconscionable theft in the oil industry. Why won’t Nigeria be flat broke when oil thieves are making $1.9 billion every month stealing our oil?

This is a serious tragedy and economic sabotage which began a long time ago – even before you assumed office. But why is it difficult to end the current theft of 400,000 barrels of our oil daily? Who are the thieves? Are they ghosts?

Still on the oil sector, my dear president, why are we spending so much on petrol subsidy? Between January 2017 and June 2022, N4.194 trillion was paid as fuel subsidy to oil marketers. Our economic situation is dire and we now borrow to service our debts. Nigeria’s total revenue in Q1 2022 stood at N1.63 trillion while debt servicing stood at N1.94 trillion, showing a negative variance of over N300 billion. This is a serious matter, sir.

Our total debt stock in the first quarter of 2022 was N41.6 trillion and it may climb to N45 trillion by the end of this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) which borrowed money from us in the past has decried Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio of 76%, saying it is stifling development.

For your information, fuel subsidy is no longer sustainable although the president of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, will not agree. He says we must get our four refineries working before ending fuel subsidy in order not to inflict “too much pain” on Nigerians.

At a time oil prices are going up, Nigeria is not earning the benefit. We are struggling to service our debts with the naira in a free fall.

I concede that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global supply chains and the Russia-Ukraine war has triggered inflationary trends around the world. But the war ought to be an advantage for us to have expanded our oil and gas supply footprints all over the West African market if only our refineries were working. We cannot even meet our OPEC quota of 1.8 million barrels per day. It is a shame! By now, the size of our economy should have been at least $1 trillion.

The moribund refineries are decaying assets that we spend billions of naira on yearly and they are unable to refine one drop of crude oil. The operational expenses at each refinery are top-heavy. Each refinery has a managing director assisted by a senior management team. Once you attain a managerial grade, the pay-off is huge upon resignation or retirement. NNPC is probably the best paying organisation in Nigeria, yet the four refineries are not working.

Your Excellency, it may shock you to know that the staff strength of the four refineries constitutes about 18% of the total number of NNPC employees. Money is spent on staff salaries, operations and maintenance of the refineries that were sold under former President Olusegun Obasanjo but the late President Umaru Yar’Adua reversed the sale.

Apart from acquiring brand new Prado SUVs as they wish, each managing director has two “lead and chase” vehicles – pick-up security vans with six mobile police officers and two drivers escorting the MDs; one van in front and the other behind the Prado SUV. It is the same scenario at all the MDAs where a culture of waste has been entrenched.

It is not too late to review and implement the Stephen Oronsaye committee report that contains 268 recommendations to reduce the cost of governance. We have too much duplication of roles in MDAs, and now that our economy is bleeding, this is the time to summon the political will to implement the report. We can save a lot of money and it will edify your legacy.

Restructuring the country was one of your party’s campaign promises but it was not fulfilled even after Nasir el-Rufai’s committee submitted a comprehensive proposal for implementation. It would have dealt with issues such as fiscal federalism, state police, etc.

The electricity supply is still poor and epileptic. The national grid collapsed six times this year, causing nationwide blackouts. Most businesses and manufacturers depend on generators for light but the cost of diesel has gone through the roof. Life is generally tough due to economic hardships. A litre of kerosene sells for about N800. The price per litre of diesel and aviation fuel has also become unbearable.

One more thing Mr President; a lot of young Nigerians are leaving Nigeria in droves because the story out there is that they have lost hope in our beloved country. We have a duty to make them believe in Nigeria. The popular street slang for those emigrating is “Japa”, and I have heard stories of even adults also seeking greener pastures outside the shores of Nigeria.

Medical doctors and nurses leaving Nigeria are mostly headed to the United Kingdom. In June and July alone, according to media reports, over 260 doctors were licensed to practice in the UK. This brain drain is too much and it should be reversed immediately, Your Excellency.

The good news is that diaspora remittances average about $20 billion a year – a significant inflow that supports our economy but the only challenge is that over 70% is spent on consumption, not productive activities that can create employment and wealth.

Mr President, our healthcare infrastructure is deplorable and it has given rise to mushrooming of private hospitals. Duchess International, Evercare, Nizamiye and Reddington are some of the available high-profile hospitals but how many Nigerians can afford them?

Finally, some Nigerians express concern over your medical vacations in the UK and the matter is discussed freely because the expectation is that as president of Nigeria, you should receive treatment locally even if it means flying the best resources in the world to Abuja.

Thank you, Mr President, for your patience. I hope I did not bore you with my random musings.

I sincerely wish you well. May God bless Nigeria.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)

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Painfully Inibehe Effiong May Spend One Month In Prison, No Thanks to Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom, Hon Justice Ekaette Obot

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Having tasted detention for over 20 days before in 2019, I do not wish my enemy to lose his or her freedom even for a second. Do not get me wrong, imprisonment has its several advantages including getting closer to God in prayer and reading the holy book with measured concentration. However, the idea that you have lost your liberty even for a second could be very traumatising.

Inibehe Effiong’s journey to Uyo prison is now well documented. Hon Justice Obot, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom was of the firm view that Inibehe’s attitude on the day the matter came up for trial amounted to contempt of court.

In my previous post, I reported the fact that three of the facts that infuriated the Chief Judge were the “audacity” of Mr Inibehe in advising Her Lordship to permit the Premium Times Journalist who was sent out of the court at the instruction of Her Lordship to be allowed to observe the court proceedings since the court is a public place where access is a right.

The second issue was his observation that two armed policeman were brought into the court at the instance of Her Lordship and sat at his back in the course of the proceeding. For pointing that out publicly and seeking a reversal of the act of bringing armed policemen into court by Her Lordship while proceeding was going on, she felt that this also constitutes an affront to her authority and merited contempt in the face of the court.

The third, though not too apparent on the face is the “harmless” Inibehe’s application for Her Lordship to recuse herself having previously delivered judgement in that case in favour of the Plaintiff(Governor Emmanuel Udom) in default of defence before she set it aside. This third one, assuming but not conceding that it amounts to a contempt could only be regarded as contempt ex-facie curiae which attracts a different procedure in trial.

THE MEAT OF THE MATTER.

Two critical issues stand out from the above narration. 1. Could what has happened as narrated constitute contempt in the face of the court? 2. Assuming but not conceding that it amounted to contempt in the face of the court, did Her Lordship follow the time honoured procedures enunciated over time through precedents in trying and convicting Mr Inibehe Effiong Esq for contempt?

Without wasting your time, I go straight to the question number one. The position of the law as enunciated in several cases decided by the courts of appellate jurisdictions is that mere irritation or annoyance to a judge do not amount to contempt.

A judge should be of immense temperate mind and character, tolerant and not descending into the arena. Judges carry their weight with honour and must never condescend low to banter with counsels in court. They must be respected and honoured but not worshipped for they are not GOD. They remain human beings with flesh and blood!

I may not know all the law and God forbid that a lawyer should know all the law, what transpired at the court on the day of conviction(gathered from the account of both Inibehe’s counsels and that of the government) could not have amounted to a contempt. I am sticking out my neck for this.

On the second question, Her Lordship failed in following procedure in trying and convicting Mr Inibehe Effiong.
Again from decided authorities, the proper procedure was for her to have framed the charge therein and ask him to respond to the allegation of contempt. After giving him fair hearing, conviction could take place after he refuses or fails to purge himself of the contempt. From accounts of all parties to the case including the government lawyers, such procedure never took place. What happened was that after Her Lordship felt that Mr Inibehe’s acts were contemptuous of her authority, she proceeded to issue remand warrant without following the time honoured procedure of fair hearing.

She is functious officio for now, no doubt. Only the court of appeal can reverse her conviction. Presently the court of appeal is on vacation for one month or thereabout. I am certain that any application for bail pending appeal before her may be a waste of time. She may be happy to have Inibehe in prison, that maybe well known. She also may not, who knows, but……..

WAY FORWARD.

Inibehe will accept the practical reality and redirect his mind to discovering God more in Bible reading and prayers. He will come out of prison stronger, better refined , energized, acclimatised for greater work for humanity. May I whisper to him, this imprisonment will bring national and international glory to him.

Late Gani remains our example in matters like this. Our Gani was criticised, called names, booed and slandered but in death was buried in glory which no Nigerian President whether dead or alive has enjoyed. Inibehe Effiong be strong, you have carved out a name already as a hero in your tender age both physically and at the Bar.

Appeal shall be filed quickly. NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata will give appropriate direction on this and I am sure in few weeks time, we shall know where we are in this matter. As for serving out his term, he may serve it out, going from the feelers I am getting from Akwa Ibom State that the lower court will not grant him any bail pending appeal.

Inibehe Effiong BE STRONG AND DETERMINED. This is part of your history, carry it with grace, the good Lord is certainly with you.
WE LOVE YOU!

Your Comrade,
Dr M.O. Ubani.

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Surprise Birthday Bash For Mike Awoyinfa At 70

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By Ehi Braimah

Birthdays are special moments in our lives, and depending on our respective circumstances, we mark them in different ways. But when your children plan and execute a surprise party for you to celebrate a unique milestone, you could easily betray your emotions.

Every surprise party is a disguise and the organisers are required to keep sealed lips. It may come across as a dream initially but surprise parties are “coups” planned by family, friends or colleagues – or a combination of the three groups. I have also been part of a few surprise parties.

Once you are ushered into the venue of the party and see the extent of preparation and the people who knew about the party but were not “careless” enough to drop any hint, a sense of shock suddenly envelopes you. The element of surprise gradually unravels in the mind of the celebrant.

This was what happened to Mike Awoyinfa, one of Nigeria’s finest journalists, who turned 70 years old last Saturday. He witnessed the unveiling of his surprise party with 70 “gbosas”. Awoyinfa does not look any inch near 70 years (Baba 70) with his boyish looks; he could pass as 55 years old and fit as a fiddle. Not many people know that our celebrant is a fitness freak; he does not miss his daily exercise routine.

Awoyinfa – popularly called Mike by his colleagues – is a gifted prose master, prolific writer, brilliant author and consummate biographer. His children – with the active connivance and support of their mother, Olubukola – organised a surprise birthday party for him in Lekki, Lagos.

Although born in Ghana, Mike is a very private person from Ijebu-Ijesa in Osun state. He is gentle, soft-spoken and generally likes to mind his business, except for the news business. Mike has three children who are now big boys. They are Babajide, the eldest, followed by a set of twins – Taiwo and Kehinde. They hatched the plan for the surprise party with their mother and Eric Osagie – journalist and publisher of This Nigeria newspaper – who worked with Mike at the Concord Press.

The party was not loud but all the boxes for an enjoyable soiree were ticked by the organisers and event planner. There was enough to eat and drink. When Babajide sent out the invitation cards electronically, he pleaded that the birthday was a surprise and his Dad was not aware of it. Guests were required to be seated by 3.00pm just before the celebrant would arrive.

As he took the elevator up to the fourth floor where the party was held, Mike was still not sure what the hell was going on. His wife – who knew every detail of the surprise party – was right beside him as they were ushered into the expansive hall and welcomed with a birthday song by the excited audience.

Mike was instantly overwhelmed. He could not believe his eyes. He was thrilled by the demonstration of love and goodwill and awed by the ambience and props used in the welcoming backdrop in the foyer. They included an enlarged family portrait of Mike, his wife, children and grandchildren and a collection of his writings which were neatly arranged to tease guests as they arrived.

There was also a photograph of only Mike and his three boys, spotting white shirts over blue jeans. As an editor, a typical tabloid headline for Weekend Concord in his heydays would have been: ‘Mike and his bodyguards’.

Our celebrant is a journalist’s journalist who can easily be described as one of the most influential journalists of all time in the same class as Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Christiane Amanpour, Edward Murrow, Tim Russert, Hunter Thompson, and Walter Cronkite.

At the party, media practitioners which included his colleagues at the defunct National Concord and The Sun flocked together and exchanged the usual cheerful friendliness. Segun Osoba, John Momoh, Dele Momodu, Tunji Bello, Dare Babarinsa, Shola Oshunkeye, Tony Onyima, Louis Odion and Wale Sokunbi graced the occasion chaired by elder statesman and former president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, Goodie Ibru.

Everyone who spoke described Mike as a good man and accomplished journalist. I can testify that our celebrant is indeed a great mind and wordsmith who is always in front of his computer doing what he knows best; writing.

From being a reporter and national correspondent to becoming features editor of National Concord, Mike shone like a million stars in the journalism firmament. When a reporter gives him a good copy, he would scream and dance in the newsroom.

But when Mike, according to Tunji Bello, a former colleague at National Concord and Lagos state commissioner for environment, yawns and says “aah”, know he will not publish your story. Mike and his colleagues were able to package “human interest” stories and turned them into an attraction for readers of National Concord.

This was why Weekend Concord edited by Mike was launched and it became the highest-selling title in the Concord stable at the time. Every Saturday, Weekend Concord sold over 500,000 copies, also making it the best-selling newspaper in Nigeria.

Osagie used the opportunity of the surprise party to respond to Femi Adesina, presidential spokesperson and former colleague at the Concord Press and The Sun Publishing Company. He disclaimed Adesina’s charge which was a joke. “Mike and I are not ‘iniquity’ men,” he declared, firing back at Adesina. Again, it was only a joke to make us laugh. However, Osagie confessed that after work on his way home, he used to hop into Mike’s car and they would end up at a bar at Egbeda in Lagos.

The urge to sip a few drinks was always there after a long day at work. The hustle and bustle that Lagos is known for was also a reason to unwind and relax. “Those moments inspired big story ideas for the weekend newspaper,” Osagie told everyone at the party.

It did not matter that the newsroom moved elsewhere and that the discussions were assisted with beer and pepper soup. What was important was that Mike’s screaming headlines sold Weekend Concord the following Saturday. That was how Weekend Concord became the King of tabloids, an idea that Mike also birthed at The Sun.

Once you give Mike a book as a gift, you have made his day because he would thank you and pray for you. A few years back, I browsed through the collection at a bookstore at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Then I grabbed two copies of ‘Burn the Business Plan’ written by Carl Schramm, a professor at Syracuse University, New York and a leading author in expeditionary economics.

I sent Mike a copy of the book as soon as I landed in Lagos. He was excited and grateful when he called to thank me. As a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Benin, I enjoyed the writings of some journalists including Mike and I wanted to write like them. His prose is always elegant and flowery, and you could literally smell the scent of roses in his articles.

Our paths later crossed when I sent a proposal for an entertainment newspaper to the late Sunny Emmanuel Ojeagbase, my first employer in Lagos and publisher of Complete Sports, whom we fondly called SO. As it turned out, SO invited Mike and Dimgba Igwe (of blessed memory).

Mike and Dimgba were known to everyone as twin brothers before his death eight years ago. With three partners and investors on board, we launched Entertainment Express on July 1, 2011, and it was published every Friday. Six months later on Sunday, December 4, we added Sunday Express, published every Sunday.

After nearly four years, we rested the papers because digital media had changed the way news was consumed. We decided to cut our losses and move on after investing over N80 million in the project.

Babajide was the chief planner of the party and he is Mike’s first child. “Our Dad is a quiet, easy-going gentleman and he’s the best daddy in the world,” Babajide said, smiling. He was excited that the secret was kept until the final moment even though he feared his mother could expose their plan mistakenly. Thankfully, it did not happen.

“Our Daddy is kind and he wanted the best for us. He sacrificed everything he had to send us to school. We also wanted to put a smile on his face on his 70th birthday. However, he did not beat us when we were younger but when he was angry or not happy, there was a way he would talk to us and we would get his message,” he added.

My father is always in front of his laptop, reading, writing or transcribing materials. He encouraged us to also write when he asked us to keep a daily diary of events. After reviewing what we wrote, he would give a gift to the best writer. Most of the time, Taiwo was always the winner.

“That was how he sharpened our writing skills,” Babajide, a political science and international relations graduate of Covenant University, said. “My Dad has a rich library and he is always buying books”.

According to him, Taiwo, his younger brother, once finished a Harry Porter novel of over 600 pages in three days.

When Mike’s children asked him what he wanted for his 70th birthday including an offer of a car gift, he said he just wanted the family to be together so that he could share the moment with his four grandchildren who are girls – one each from Babajide and Taiwo, and two from Kehinde.

As Babajide explained, the surprise party was to appreciate and celebrate their father whom they adore.

By the way, Mike loves music and boxing and he can also write great copies on these subjects. He is also a Chelsea FC supporter (the blue corner) whereas I’m an Arsenal FC fan (the red corner). In a pre-season friendly after Mike’s birthday bash, Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 4 0.

This was not the kind of birthday gift Mike was hoping for from his favourite English premiership team but no points are awarded; that should be enough consolation.

At 70 years old, Mike is not tired and I’m not aware he has retired from writing. May the ink in his pen continue to flow.

Without mincing words, Mike is a distinguished Nigerian who deserves to be garlanded with national honours for his extraordinary achievements. As a journalist, our birthday celebrant constantly writes and advocates for a better Nigeria.

Anyway, just know that you are a leader and mentor to your numerous fans and admirers.

Happy birthday sir! Congratulations and best wishes always.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)

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