Columnist Ogbuagu Anikwe reflects on a hard lesson to learn from the travails of the Ekweremadus in a London court.

Columnist Ogbuagu Anikwe reflects on a hard lesson to learn from the travails of the Ekweremadus in a London court.

Last weekend, I joined a conversation where a group of nine was discussing the travails of the Ekweremadus in London. I made the group an even ten, but stayed out of the discussion to mentally record the points I could extract from the impassioned debate. It was a heated discussion where commonsense repeatedly clashed with legal technicalities to breed utter confusion and outrage. Unfortunately, there was only a lawyer in the group, and he did his best to moderate the high-pitched disputations. However, eight voices drowned out his lone expert counsel. The group of eight was eager to discountenance the technicalities of the law as explained by the lawyer to dwell on what they considered commonsense.

The lawyer explained that the UK Modern Slavery legislation appears to target criminals who make profit out of selling, as well as desperate individuals willing to buy, body organs outside legally recognized channels. He however also told us that getting an organ outside the prescribed channels is not necessarily a crime, for as long as a donor is willing, and the agreement does not involve payment. Eight dissenting voices wondered whether the prosecutor did not contradict himself through the statement he made after the trial.  The prosecutor said the young man was not a willing donor, given that he was not aware of why the indicted doctor and couple facilitated his trip to the UK. One dissenter now asked the question: Why did the prosecutor also argue that the Senator paid the young man for a transaction that he was not aware of? Others charged that it is not possible for the young man not to be aware of why he was being assisted to travel to London by a doctor and an influential senator.

Then other questions tumbled in.

What was given in his visa as the purpose of travel to the UK? Or did the British High Commission write that the man was on a tourist trip, even after reading the Senator’s letter that specified otherwise? Why did the jury believe that the young man did not know what he was going to do in London, after he himself presented a letter from the Senator to the British High Commission specifying his purpose of travel? Is it possible that he did not know even after going to pose for pictures with an unknown patient at a hospital? And he did not know even though he was “recruited” in Nigeria by a medical doctor for the task? What got the group was that a jury believed that a street wise young man trusted that a Nigerian Senator he did not know from Adam will pick him out from the streets of Lagos and foot his bill to go and work in London as an act of philanthropy!

My mind was not on this great debate when I left the group. What attracted me powerfully were the lessons from the Ekweremadus’ London misadventure. As of this moment, I can count four such lessons, each more fundamental than disputations about legal technicalities of the UK Modern Slavery law.

The first is future relationship between Sonia Ekweremadu and her parents who are jail-bound. The parents and the doctor that tried to help her were convicted but not Sonia. The daughter whose cries for help landed all three in hot soup is walking away free into the sunset, but she is not free. She is still in a life or death situation, and then something else much more frightening. She will most likely receive treatment through the regular channels, and we pray that she lives. However, as awful as this sounds, letting her go while jailing her parents appears like a bigger punishment. This will become apparent when she is cured; she will spend every moment wondering why she cried to her parents in her distress. She has received the biggest burden by that freedom.

David Nwamini Ukpo, the young man whose cry to the police has seen off the Ekweremadus to certain  jail, has just accelerated the class war raging in Nigeria. This war was escalated to the 2023 general elections by the ObiDient Movement but lost with the declaration of Gov. Bola Tinubu as president-elect. In this war, many young people are blaming politicians in Dr. Ekweremadu’s class for making it impossible for the country to work. There is a tendency to lump people in this class and indiscriminately label them as rogues and scoundrels. In their various relationships with members of this class, young people believe that all is fair in war. David Ukpo will probably fulfill his ambition to japa, but he will spend every moment of Ekweremadu’s jail time wondering if he did the right thing in what appears to be a desperation to make a new life in the UK. He will find that there is not much to enjoy if one travels to the UK with low level skills. And then, what will become of him if his hosts reject his asylum application and have him deported?

Then there is the lesson of this perpetual cry and fussing by we Nigerian parents over our adult children. The Ekweremadus story tell us that this may be counterproductive. Some parents who activate full emotional love in raising their children to succeed in Nigeria do sometimes reap tears and regrets. This is not about the health situation in discussion but about every other thing that we do as parents to push our children to succeed This includes bribing our way to allow them make progress in school, or to obtain prizes that they did not earn. Oyibos have a better appreciation of what a child needs when they come of age; they are let go to find their way through life. Excessive fussing over an adult child may lead to errors in the child’s value orientation, and could result, as in this case, to something more shocking.

Finally, it is difficult to write dispassionately about the Ike Ekweremadu matter, knowing that he is going to jail for rallying to save his daughter from certain death. . Death is inevitable and everyone involved in the matter, including this writer, will come face to face with it someday. That also includes the young man who reported the couple, the police that prosecuted them, the judge and jury members that found them guilty, and all those who played a part in any form or manner, to the outcome.

We all respond to the certainty of death by doing all we can to postpone the day. Where we go, what we eat or drink, what afflicts us, and physical encounters can lead us to the inevitable date with destiny. I will illustrate and end this with a story.

Sometime in 2018, I went with a friend to see a mutual friend of ours in a private hospital. We found our friend in a pool of his own mess. I became emotional but my friend, a medical doctor, appeared unmoved by the sight before us. When we left the hospital room, he said something that still resonates with me to this day. He told me that death begins to knock at our door the very day we are born. It is from this date that we start counting minutes, hours, days, months, and years before we die. In other words, life is like a continuum, calibrated with time that imarks the distance between one birth and death. Everything we do to be alive along the continuum are nothing but attempts to postpone what is inevitable, namely, that the grim reaper eventually catches up on all humans.

According to my friend, people will no longer fear death the moment they realize that this fear is futile – no amount of fear or desperation will make anyone live forever. Those who come to this knowledge live life in a different way than the rest. They know that, like the Biblical Solomon put it, everything is vanity. They also know that what endures is the memory that we leave behind when we embark on this journey of no return. Without positive memories, it will be as if we never existed. The soul fades away without anyone knowing, for generations to come, that it once inhabited this space.

The Ekweremadus’ current travails is a lesson on how excessive fussing over our adult children can lead to parental mistakes. It also shows why, when it is a matter of life and death, parents should take a back seat, doing what they can but following the lead of professionals in offering assistance. It does not matter that any of the parent is a professional. There is a reason why doctors are not allowed to perform surgery on members of their nuclear family. Lawyers also say it is unwise for a barrister to represent himself in court. Thus, hiring a lawyer and a doctor to handle this entire process could have achieved a different outcome. But how could anyone have known this yesterday? Experience is not a teacher but an examiner; it gives the test first and shows us the answer after we have made our mistakes.

What happened to the Ekweremadus is a tragedy of monumental proportions. All good hearts must feel for the couple and the doctor who are set for sentencing shortly.

A hard lesson from the Ekweremadus

If you love this, share the knowledge with others