Who Will Speak For Citizen David Nwamini Ukpo?, By Kazeem Akintunde

Kazeem Akintunde

Who Will Speak For Citizen David Nwamini Ukpo?, By Kazeem Akintunde


While putting to ‘bed’ last week’s column titled: ‘Buhari’s Eight-Year Rule: A Postscript (2)’, a friend called to suggest that I should write on the travails of the former Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison, alongside his wife, Beatrice, and their Doctor, Obinna Obeta, for four, and 10 years, respectively. His argument was that the sentencing of Ekweremadu and his wife was unprecedented in the history of Nigeria and that it would be a topical issue for some days. I thanked him and continue work on last week’s edition of The Discourse.

Indeed, for a former Nigerian Senate President to now be condemned to a nine-year jail term in the United Kingdom, his mug shot taken and splashed on newspapers all over the world, condemned to resident in one dingy cell and dining in the midst of common felons in a foreign land, to say the least, is demeaning. But Ekeremadu, a lawyer, actually walked into trouble with his eyes wide open. I knew for a fact that he would end up in jail as the UK police had a very tight case against him.  You do not sponsor a full-grown man into the UK with a view of extracting one of his kidneys to replace that of your daughter and expect to escape justice because you are a ‘big man’ in Nigeria. In spite of the ‘show mercy’ letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian Senate, the House of Representatives, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who heads NIDCOM and many prominent Nigerians, the UK Judge was undeterred from upholding the law of the land, and sent Ekweremadu to where he rightly belongs, in my unbiased opinion.

While many may not spare a thought for the young man, my main concern this week is the treatment meted out to Citizen David Nwamini Ukpo, the young man that was actually trafficked to the UK for one of his vital organs. Since the saga began, the focus of many Nigerians have been on the Ekweremadus. The series of interventions by well-meaning Nigerians have been about what the government can do to rescue Ekweremadu and his wife, or give them a soft-landing. However, I’m not sure that Nigerian government official have visited David Nwamini Ukpo in the UK to find out how he has been faring. Has any agency of government, including NIDCOM, or even the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs bothered to ask about the welfare of this young man? Where is he staying? What is he doing? How is he feeding? Our activists and the media don’t seem to care much about him. Another victim of circumstance has been abandoned to his fate. If the UK decides to deport him to Nigeria, that’s his business. The UK government must be wondering what kind of people we are. What kind of country will forget one of its own, particularly of a most vulnerable group, the way we have abandoned David.

Here is a boy that was on the streets of Lagos, trying to eke out a living for himself under the sun and in the rain, running after vehicles in traffic to sell whatever he could lay his hands on just to survive. An indigene of Ebonyi State, David came to Lagos after his secondary education to join his elder brother who is into sales of phone accessories. With poor parents back at home, he nursed the ambition that fortune would smile on him and diligently went about seeking his daily bread. He has heard of better places like the UK, USA, and several other European countries where many young Nigerians are leaving the country in droves to seek greener pastures and must have dreamed and hoped and prayed that his ‘CHI’ would make it happen for him too. Imagine what he’s have thought was his fortune when his prayers were ‘answered’ upon the Ekweremadus, through their agents, seeking him out and offering to take him to the UK for an organ transplant. At that period, what must have registered in his brain was the opportunity to travel out of the country to ‘oyinbo land’. Organ transplantation or even the organ that is to be transplanted may have held little or no meaning to him. In his head and at that material time, what must have been going through his mind was ‘yes, get me to the UK first, and other issues shall take care of itself’.

The day he stepped his foot on the UK soil must definitely have counted as one of the happiest days of his life, as he starts dreaming of how to change the trajectory of his life and that of his immediate family. Indeed, as he told the judge at the Old Barley London Court, he had begun dreaming of going to a higher institution, working, and possibly playing football. His dream was almost aborted after he was taken to the Royal Free Hospital in the UK where he was asked whether he willingly agreed for one of his kidneys to be removed. It was at this stage that he innocently asked what a kidney transplant was. The doctor that was to perform the surgery felt understandably puzzled and uncomfortable, believing that the process and what the young man was brought to the UK had not been properly explained to him and tagged the process a ‘mismatch’. And to save his license in a country where the rule of law works to the letter, he had to inform the police. The police launched a discreet investigation and laid low, hoping to pick up any of the parties involved at the airport.

After the ‘mismatch’ tagged by the doctor, and with David no longer useful to the Ekweremadus, plans are set in motion to return him to Nigeria. When he was told of the home-ward journey, David, who has tasted the sweet side of London, ran away from where he was lodged and actually walked into a police station to report himself after wandering on the streets of UK for three days without food and money.

Dr. Obeta, who oragnised the sourcing of David and his kidney collected N3.5 million for the boy, but gave him only N270,000. The moment he walked into a police station to narrate his ordeal, David was placed in protective custody while the manhunt for the Ekweremadus was launched. But the UK police did not have to wait long as the duo were arrested while on their way to Turkey, purportedly to get another organ donor. The search for a kidney by the Ekweremadus has to do with their daughter, Sonia, who has kidney problem, and needed a transplant. The love for their daughter, I believe, pushed the parents to become desperate. I blame them.

If Ekweremadu and his friends in the corridors of power have done what was expected of them for our nation’s health sector, he would have been spared this embarrassing episode and not be behind bars in a foreign land today. Since 1999, Ekweremadu has been one of the elected leaders that the people had hoped would turn the fortunes of Nigeria and Nigerians around. They could have established world-class medical facilities across the six geo-political zones of the country. They could have hired the best brains all over the world to man those facilities. They could have bought healthcare equipment worth several millions of dollars for those facilities so that they and other Nigerians could enjoy such facilities when the need arose. But they rather accumulate the wealth of the nation for themselves and their immediate families, choosing to travel to any part of the world for the simplest health challenges as money was no longer a problem. Now, the ‘anyhownes’ that our so-called leaders are known for has caught up with him and his wife, and his friends are now looking in the direction of the newly crowned King Charles III to grant them pardon. I wish him luck.

As I rightly stated above, my main concern is what becomes of David. Already, he has told the Judge that he would like to seek asylum in the UK as he rightly observed, he may not be saved from the onslaught of supporters of the Ekweremadus if he is brought back to Nigeria. I believe he has a very bright chance of being granted asylum in the UK to pursue his dreams and I wish him luck. At 21, he is still young and opportunities abound. It is also worthy of commendation that despite his travails, he told the judge that he is not interested in any momentary compensation from the Ekweremadus and being a rugged young man while on the streets of Lagos, it would not be difficult for him to adjust to life in the UK.

From the Ekweremadu vs. David saga, though it sounds like the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, I hoped our leaders pick one or two lessons. It is time for them to start doing the right thing while in power. Of what use is millions of dollars in your bank accounts that can’t be of benefit to others? Nigeria has the potential of being among the top 10 countries in the World if our leaders have the will to use their power for the interest of the people they lead. They need to reduce their lust for our commonwealth for their personal aggrandizement. If they provide basic infrastructure for the good of the masses, provide jobs on a large scale, provide qualitative education for our children and they can eat three square meals a day, the poor will be able to sleep at night while the leaders would also sleep and snore.

Until those things are done, there will never be peace for our so-called leaders.

See you next week.