Wednesday, November 30, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: Celebrating NTDC, Runsewe's strides

mauricearchibongtravels: Celebrating NTDC, Runsewe's strides

Celebrating NTDC, Runsewe's strides

Runsewe throws up 6 yrs of brilliance
…‘Tourism is vital to Nigeria’s development’

After roughly six years in the saddle as Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe has engendered staggering changes, consequently launching the country’s tourism to new heights. And, in appreciation of his efforts, Otunba Runsewe has been decorated with countless honours, yet the man is not resting on his oars.

Speaking in his office preparatory to heading out for this year’s ITB in Berlin, Germany; Runsewe had declared enthusiastically: “We won’t rest on our oars, we will continue to excel”. To be candid, he strives endlessly in words and deeds.

This is the reason why at home and abroad, Runsewe has recorded in-roads hitherto thought unimaginable. From the lowest rung to the topmost echelon of society, Nigerian tourism is now respected; and, more and more, people are buying in. Students, investors, members of the diplomatic community, even the military and practically everyone are now aware of tourism. There are countless instances:

Promises to add colour to Air Show
In its drive towards total tourism promotion, the NTDC recently promised to make its presence felt in the forthcoming Air Expo organised by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) scheduled for May, 2012.

The NTDC chief gave this assurance while receiving a NAF delegation led by Group Captain A R. Salami at Tourism Village, Abuja. Otunba Runsewe promised “to comprehensively support the Air Show by providing for delegates, NTDC-branded T-shirts, caps, bags and other unique souvenirs to add colour to the event”.

It could be recalled that the NTDC threw its weight behind the military in their recently concluded hosting of the 39th World Conference on Military Medicine. The NTDC entertained guests from over 30 countries during an interactive reception at its Tourism Village, Abuja.

According to Group Capt. Salami, the Air Show is a military tradition to perform sundry air stunts with aircraft and is usually characterized with large attendance; hence the need to consult the NTDC in order to showcase the tourism destinations in Nigeria to visitors expected to attend.

Group Capt. Salami added that, the thinking is that visitors would want to use the opportunity to see other tourism attractions besides the Air Exhibition and since the military is not an institution for tourism promotion, they thought it wise to visit the NTDC as an expert to seek ways of collaborating towards this end.

On his part, the NTDC boss observed that he was delighted at the creditable acknowledgement given to the NTDC by the military representatives adding that he shares a pleasant history with top military officers and will always be ready to support viable initiatives aimed at improving the tourism sub-sector in Nigeria.

Trinidad and Tobago seeks NTDC support to carnival
South Africa is exploring new ways of collaborating with Nigeria through the NTDC towards promoting the tourism sector of both countries. In fact, the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Kingsley J.N Mamabolo made this known when he visited Runsewe in Abuja.

Even as South Africa has promised collaboration with NTDC in tourism drive, the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is also seeking support from the NTDC to drive its carnival. In deed, the High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago to Nigeria, HE Nyahuma M. Obika has requested NTDC’s involvement as the Caribbean country prepares for its annual Carnival slated for February next year.

High Commissioner Obika informed Otunba Runsewe that his visit to NTDC was to appeal to the NTDC boss to make provision for top Nigerian musicians to perform at the Carnival and also acquaint the NTDC chief with the “Desperadoes Steelband”, an enterprising Trinidad and Tobago-based Orchestra.

The top-flight diplomat opined that “Desperadoes Steelband” is making a statement globally and that steel band music genre has stood the test of time with the instrument playing at major events in Nigeria. He cited the presence of steel bands and their powerful contributions during the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture held in Nigeria as an example.

The envoy, who has been in Nigeria for barely a year added that the band currently features in Trinidad and Tobago State House events asserting that his high commission would like to make maximum use of the Steelband in Nigeria by organising a Steel bands’ competition for secondary schools. He also sought NTDC’s support in this regard.

Speaking further, the high commissioner said his country believes in exporting its culture as a product because it is a major revenue earner and contributes immensely to the gross domestic product as well as generates employment at the grassroots.

In his response, Otunba Runsewe, who in 2005 accompanied then President Olusegun Obasanjo on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, submitted that the Caribbean nation is a beautiful country, therefore, he would love a revisit.

While eulogizing the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival as one of the oldest, most colourful and best organised in the world, Runsewe reminded that Nigeria and the Caribbean country share historical connections and said such ties should be sustained for the mutual benefit of tourism promotion in both countries

He agreed to the envoy’s request by promising to brand the ‘Desperadoes Steelband’ with Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago emblems, arrange for top Nigerian acts to perform during the carnival alongside the ‘Desperadoes Steelband’. Otunba Runsewe also suggested that a joint press conference should be organised in Lagos featuring top musicians and Nollywood Stars as this would yield maximum publicity and appreciation for the steel orchestra.

Tourism is the answer
To be sincere, the Runsewe-led NTDC has devised several strategies to create jobs in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s agenda to improve the lot of every Nigerian. Nonetheless, Runsewe is eager to see more employment opportunites for the nation’s jobless youths. And, the NTDC chief remains unwavering in his conviction that tourism can do more for the economy.

This must explain his re-echo of “To boost its economy and realise its growth potentials, Nigeria must tap the various tourism opportunities”. Speaking during a breakfast meeting on Investment Opportunities in the Tourism Sector for the FCT, organised by the Abuja Investment Company, recently; the NTDC helmsman enumerated several tourism investment opportunities capable of diversifying revenue generation and employment creation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), adding that for Nigeria to advance in sustainable economic growth, it needs to key into the various opportunities that tourism provides.
The Director General who was speaking at a breakfast meeting on “Investment
Opportunities in the Tourism Sector for the FCT”, listed the vast opportunities which the tourism and hospitality sector in Nigeria offers.

Reiterating the vast opportunities offered by Nigeria’s tourism and
hospitality sector, Runsewe observed: “The development of tourism as a critical sector of the economy has gradually assumed centre-stage in the economic agenda of most nations of the world”.

Expatiating, he declared: “In the past few decades, international attention on tourism as a critical sector of the economy has greatly increased. This is in view of tourism’s capacity to quickly stimulate income growth, generate foreign exchange and contribute to domestic earnings of government through fees and taxes”.

As to the state of affairs in his home country, Runsewe informed: “More than ever before, tourism is gaining recognition in Nigeria. It is being adopted by government as a vehicle for poverty alleviation, employment generation and wealth creation. It is also seen as a veritable tool for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, tourism holds the key to our economic diversification and for stimulating rapid economic growth and development.”
Runsewe further submitted that he had personally adopted “practical-based” tourism, even as he emphatically recommended it for others. Hear him: “This is what Nigeria needs as an approach to tackling the socio-economic challenges facing the country, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector”.

The NTDC boss went on to remind that the United Arab Emirate and other countries that were at par with Nigeria some 29 years ago had exploited their tourism sector to advance their overall social and economic wellbeing; noting
that today, such efforts have paid off handsomely.

The NTDC chief also used the opportunity to list tourism investment opportunities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) highlighting such key areas as Conference Tourism, which he said is a viable option for the FCT since the capital territory boasts numerous conference destinations like the International Conference Centre, ECOWAS Secretariat, Merit House as well as major hotels; such as Transcorp Hilton, Sheraton, Nicon Luxury, among others with state-of-the-art facilities.

Other investment opportunities in the FCT that Runsewe also identified include Ecotourism, which he said; if properly harnessed will translate into massive profits because of Abuja’s vast land mass and enchanting scenery, abundant sunshine, waterfalls, and topography characterised by beautiful plains and awesome rock formations, among others.

The NTDC boss also recommended exploring the local arts and craft industry, more collaboration of the Tour Operating and Travel Agencies, education tourism, culinary tourism, investment incentives and NTDC’s role in creating a regulatory framework for all tourism and hospitality establishments in Nigeria as provided for by the NTDC Act.

Pointing out that tour packaging “is germane to economic development”, Runsewe suggested that “investors could establish Tour Packaging companies for conducting guided tours for tourists to the FCT and adjoining destinations like Gurara Falls, Zuma Rock in Niger State and Farin Ruwa in Nassarawa State”.

Responding to questions on security as a threat to tourism development, Otunba
Runsewe pointed out that this is not peculiar to Nigeria. He, however, said: “The immigration authorities need to do more by way of checking criminals who travel into Nigeria from other countries to perpetrate crime. He blamed ‘image-battering’ for Nigeria’s woes. Runsewe went on to reveal that NTDC was doing its part by providing, among other security measures, a tourism travel card that enables the holder do cashless transactions.

Speaking on the clash of festivals/carnivals dates in Nigeria, the Tourism Czar lamented the current untidy situation, where several carnivals are held within the same month in a year. He warned that such clashes ended up dashing the organisers’ hopes because of lower patronage since both local and international stakeholders end up confused as to which one to attend/support.

Commiserates with the Ibrus, The Guardian
Nigeria recently lost a gem in the person of Guardian publisher Alex Ibru, and ever sentient and sympathetic, Otunba Runsewe has said that he was shocked and saddened at the demise of the late eminent personality. Commiserating with the survivors of the late Alex Ibru and The Guardian in a statement issued in Abuja, the NTDC chief aptly described “the death of Mr. Alex Ibru as a great loss to the Nation”.

Alluding to the establishment of The Guardian newspapers, which provides a platform for young men and women to realise their potentials and earn a living Runsewe reminded that, “the late publisher etched his name in gold as a great employer of labour”.

Runsewe, who further described the late publisher as a philanthropist that impacted greatly on many Nigerians, lamented: “Thousands of families across the length and breadth of Nigeria and beyond have lost a benefactor with his death”.

Citing the Ibru Christian Centre established in Agbarha Otor, the Delta State home-town of the Ibrus, the NTDC helmsman added that this is “another evidence of Alex Ibru’s commitment to the advancement of humanity”. While praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. Alex Ibru, Otunba Runsewe concluded by asking God to grant the deceased’s widow, Mrs. Maillen Ibru, their children and the entire family as well as The Guardian Newspapers Group the fortitude to bear such a great loss.

Celebrating NTDC
The uncommon strides recorded by the NTDC chief have not gone unnoticed: Runsewe was conferred with the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) two years ago.

That national honour had been preceded by numerous chieftaincy awards from communities spread across the country’s different ethnic groups. Whether from Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba or ethnic minority lands, Runsewe has them all. Interestingly, more feathers have been added to Runsewe’s cap after his decoration with an OON.

Jarman Ibi is one of the recent honours conferred on the NTDC helmsman. Jarman stands for Pioneer or Trailblazer, while Ibi is a community in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State. Interestingly, Ibi’s fame has been growing in leap and bounds because of its annual fishing festival called Nwonyo.

It is note-worthy that the title, Jarman Ibi or Pioneer of Ibi, was conferred on the NTDC Director General by no less a personality than the King of Ibi (Sarkin Ibi) HRH Alhaji Abubakar S. Danbawuro. Runsewe’s installation’s ceremony was preceded by a letter notifying him of the monarch’s intention. Justifying his decision to thus honour Runsewe, Sarkin Ibi observed that, “after extensive consultation and assessment of outstanding Nigerians by his council, they found Otunba Runsewe the most worthy recipient of the prestigious chieftaincy title”.

The traditional ruler also noted that Runsewe’s commitment to elevating the status of Ibi Chiefdom was key in the decision to thus turban him. The title, the king expatiated, is usually given only “to individuals who have contributed immensely to promoting the values of society, especially that of Ibi Kingdom. Such protagonists are regarded as great heroes/heroines, which makes Runsewe a great one.

As earlier stated, Ibi is home of Nwonyo Fishing Festival and the NTDC under Runsewe has contributed immensely to promoting this fiesta consequently launching it to international pedestal. Expectedly, therefore, Sarkin Ibi expressed his gratitude to the NTDC boss for “consistently promoting the Nwonyo fishing festival”.

Hear the monarch: “You (Otunba Runsewe) have indeed demonstrated this progression particularly in the building of Nwonyo fishing festival into an enviable international status.” The traditional ruler, who observed that his domain could be described as the only community in all of Taraba State to boast such tourism facility; noted that the importance of Nwonyo Fishing Festival could hardly be exaggerated.

While praying for God’s continuous guidance and protection for Otunba Runsewe as he steers the affairs of NTDC to greater heights, the royal father went on to add: “Jarman Ibi” is the highest in his kingdom and it was bestowed on Runsewe in appreciation of his efforts at promoting the festival and improving the lot of Ibi community, generally.

In his acceptance speech, Otunba Runsewe who is also Danburan Kebbi, said he felt honoured by the conferrement of such a revered chieftaincy title on him. He also pointed out that his every visit to Taraba state is greeted with very warm reception from the king and his people.

Runsewe went on to cite the special relationship he enjoys with the Sarkin Ibi, who he described “as a tourism-friendly ruler”. The NTDC boss further observed that this monarch’s decision to confer a prestigious title as Jarman on a southerner is another proof that Nigerians remain united, irrespective of ethnic, religious, cultural, social or political differences.

As could be seen, six years down the road Runsewe has done much, yet he is forever raring to go.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: An unforgettable trip: The story of Christopher and Olivier

mauricearchibongtravels: An unforgettable trip: The story of Christopher and Olivier

An unforgettable trip: The story of Christopher and Olivier

The story of Christopher and Olivier

Benin Republic, Nigeria’s immediate neighbour to the west, shook off its socialist garb and took on a capitalist economy 20 years ago. Coincidentally, former Dahomey also embraced democracy about the same time; following the easing out of then pro-Marxist military ruler Mathieu Kerekou.

Ever since, dozens of hotels have sprouted across Cotonou, Benin’s economic capital. Novotel, Hotel Alex, Hotel Vertigo, and Hotel Rivoli are among the elite league lodges that now dot the Cotonou landscape. Vertigo and Rivoli stand in close proximity along Avenue Steinmetz, which borders the neighbourhoods of Attikanmey and Guinkomey; while Hotel Alex stands near the popular Jonquet Motor Park (Gare Routiere Jonquet).

As is the situation in every city, the cost of staying at some of Cotonou’s big-league hotels could be prohibitive. At Hotel Rivoli, for example, the rate for a night’s stay begins at CFA 30,000 (roughly N10,000). At some of the other hotels, the rates are even much higher.

However, Cotonou also boasts a thousand-and-one lodges for the tourist running on a shoe-string budget. If you are looking for a place where the equivalent of barely N2,000 (CFA 5,500) can get you a room with bed, desk and chair, fan as well as toilet/bathroom en suite, then turn to Pension Le Souvenir. Pension Le Souvenir stands at house Number 38, Rue des Cheminots.

In English, Rue des Cheminots could pass for Iron Avenue; and, this epithet derives from the history of the neighbourhood. Decades ago, a rail-track ran through these parts and a dump for metallic scrap stood somewhere near the local train station. As time went by, Jonquet, a sort of junkyard, an allusion to the metallic scrap dump, would be foisted as name on the surrounding areas.

Owing to the overwhelming popularity of Jonquet, which boasts numerous roadside foreign currency exchangers, cafes, bars/restaurants, hotels, and brothels around the motor park; few inhabitants bother to memorise the names of the surrounding streets. This is the reason, for example, why most Cotonou residents do not know the name Rue des Cheminots, even though an uncountable number of them walk through the same street daily.

After some two decades visiting Cotonou frequently, either to spend the weekend or to pass the night on my way to other West African countries, I have come to realise that the easiest way to describe Pension Le Souvenir to anyone, including riders of Zemidjan, Beninoise equivalent of the Nigerian Okada; is to use Bar la Gaite. La Gaite is one of Cotonou’s most popular drinking spots because their drinks, which come from two powerful refrigerators inside a supermarket on the building’s ground floor; are always chilled.

Often, many of the drinkers are shoppers that came to the mart to buy stuffs, and choose to take a few sips after shopping. Also, the bar’s streets corner location offers its guests a good view of passersby and the traffic, and the presence of two cyber cafes, Cyber ka and Cyber Jonquet, nearby; must contribute to making this neighbourhood more attractive. Another factor is the presence of vendors who sell barbeque chicken, beef, mutton as well as snail garnished with tomato and pepper sauce.

Welcome to the Avenue Steinmetz end of Rue des Cheminots. Coming from Dan Tokpa (Marche Dan Tokpa), where commercial vehicles coming from Seme Border empty their passengers at the local motor park; the tourist should mount a commercial bike and tell the rider to take him/her to La Gaite, which stands opposite Roi de Chawarma (King of Shawarma).

At the four-way intersection, where Rue des Cheminots cuts through Avenue Steinmetz, the wayfarer will find Le Souvenir to the left, immediately after turning right. In fact, Le Souvenir or House Number 38 is the first building to the left as one enters Rue des Cheminots from Avenue Steinmetz.

Mr. Olivier Monteiro is proprietor of Pension Souvenir. This year, 2011 marks 30 years since Mr. Monteiro made his first journey to Calabar, capital of Cross River State in South-eastern Nigeria. Today, three decades later, the memory of that 1981 trip remains fresh in his mind.

Interestingly, the Cameroonian port settlement of Victoria (then known as Beua) was Olivier Monteiro’s destination. He was heading to Cameroon to see a relation. And, his host in Cameroon was going to give him money for return fare. So, based on tales by supposed frequent commuters between Cotonou and Cameroon, Olivier had set out from Benin Republic with what he believed was enough fare to take him to his destination.

He had been told to travel from Cotonou to Lagos by road. In Lagos, he would board a Calabar-bound bus. From Calabar, he was supposed to sail to Oron and then board an ocean-liner to Victoria. But, by the time Monteiro got to Calabar, he was practically stranded. Ten (10) kobo, all the money he had on him, could not pay for his boat ride from Calabar to Oron, let alone the hours-long sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Cameroon.

Stranded in a strange land, Monteiro was presumably shaken. But, counting on his faith in God, he quickly shook off the gloom. Young and physically fit, Olivier was willing to work, even as a menial labourer, to raise money to continue his journey. However, since hunger was already gnawing at his tummy, it was now a matter of first things, first.

With his last dime, Olivier bought 10 kobo worth of banana. After ingesting his miserly breakfast, Olivier headed to the nearest church, Sacred Heart Cathedral on Egerton Street, Calabar; to pray. He actually walked into a Mass and followed that worship session to the end. After the church service, Olivier walked up to a young man and narrated his plight: He was stranded, but was willing to work, even to prune the surrounding lawns, for some money to enable him continue his journey.

The young man Olivier sought help from was one Christopher. Today, Olivier has a fair comprehension of the English language and even gets by when it comes to speaking the tongue. But, in 1981, he probably couldn’t express himself in Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II’s language. So, Olivier had sought help speaking French.

In Calabar, out of place as French language might have seemed to Olivier, it struck a cord with his newfound acquaintance, Christopher, who; having visited Francophone Cameroon settlements at some point in his life was happy to find an opportunity to exercise his knowledge of Charles de Gaulle’s tongue.

At the time, Christopher was a student at the University of Calabar; and, probably hailing from a humble background, had to work to pay his way through college. Being a part-time teacher in a local vocational institute, Nico Vocational and Commercial School, Christopher’s income was barely enough to take care of his undergraduate bills, yet he also had to feed himself from the meager wages.

Not surprisingly, therefore, Christopher didn’t have any money to spare. Nonetheless, he was willing to help and offered to take his newfound friend to the cleric in charge of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

After narrating Olivier’s predicament and the stranded commuter’s readiness to cut grass or work at a construction site, if necessary, to raise fare to continue his journey, the priest had said the church had a gardener to tend its lawns and he knew no construction project to refer Olivier to. But, the Catholic clergy had not sent Olivier away empty-handed: “He gave me five naira (N5)”, Olivier recalled.

Continuing, Olivier added; “Five naira was some good money those days, but it was not enough to pay my way to Cameroon. At this point, Christopher, my friend, offered to take me to his home. When we got to his residence, a room-and-parlour affair, Christopher said I could stay with him until he could think up a solution to my problem”.

As a student-cum-worker, Christopher was busy throughout every working weekday, Monday to Friday. So, he devoted Saturday to preparing soups and other items for meals to last him the next Monday to Friday.

Olivier again: “The following day, a Monday morning, Christopher showed me where all the week’s food were stored and told me to help myself to whatever I wanted to eat, whenever I was hungry. He then left me all alone in his home and went to work. Christopher’s action, to me, was a rare expression of faith. I was surprised that a Nigerian could be so trusting as to leave his home to a complete stranger.

“So, that Monday, I was alone at Christopher’s home. Since I had nothing to do, I made myself busy by cleaning up the house. Then, when Christopher returned, we ate supper together. While supping, Christopher told me he was willing to help me continue my journey, but I would have to be patient till the end of the month, after his next salary was paid.

“Through our dialogue, even though Christopher never said so himself, I discovered; that he didn’t have enough money to take him to the end of the month. At this point, I realised that my host had a problem, too. So, I offered him the N5 the bishop gave me to tide him over. Christopher would not take the money, but I insisted: we were like brothers, now; I told him. So, he eventually took the money.

“While living with him, Christopher took me to the school, where he worked as teacher. Nico Commercial School was those days housed in a small antique two-floor building. And, on many occasions I followed him to the university. He had taken me to the university library, and while he was attending lectures, I would engage myself reading French books in the university library until he came and told me we were ready to go home”.

Since month-end was still weeks away, Olivier ended up staying for more than 21 days with Christopher. That over three-week period gave the stranded traveller enough opportunity to assess his host.

Hear Olivier: “I got to know his girlfriend because she visited from time to time. I remember she was a very pretty lady. Every time she visited, I had to give them privacy; so, I would leave the flat and go for a walk. This walk helped me to really appreciate how beautiful and peaceful Calabar was”.

Finally, in second week of April 1981, came the hard moment of their separation. Christopher was paid his current salary, and in line with his earlier promise; offered to take Olivier to Oron, where the latter would board a Cameroon-bound ferry.

As to his departure, Olivier had this to say: “Christopher sailed with me to Oron from Calabar. And, I remember very well that after paying my fare, which was N20; he gave me another N10 for pocket money. In 1981, N1 was a lot of money; so, you can imagine how much N30 could buy. Christopher then wrote his postal address on a piece of paper for me and said he was looking forward to reading from me to confirm that I arrived safely.

“Those days, I used to wear a gold chain around my neck permanently. It was a present from my grandmother and I took this chain off and gave it to Christopher as souvenir and almost overwhelmed by emotion, I proceeded to board the ship to Cameroon.

“Due to the ocean waves, the journey to Cameroon was a stomach-churning one. After many hours of turbulent sail, we finally berthed at Douala. As I disembarked from the vessel, I thought of my friend Christopher and reached into my pocket for the paper, where Christopher wrote his address for me. It was at this point I realised the paper was missing. One month later, I clocked 21 years old”.

Days had turned into weeks and weeks rolled into months with Christopher wondering why Olivier never wrote to him. He might have feared Olivier never made it. He might have wondered, if after landing in Cameroon, Olivier had forgotten about him completely. Well, a lost piece of paper caused the breakdown in communication. But, whatever Olivier wanted to say 30 years ago; but could not because he lost his friend’s contact; he found the opportunity to lay bare during his encounter with mauricearchibongtravels.

Olivier’s eyes turned misty as he rounded off his narrative. One might not be wrong to imagine that on that day in early April, 30 years ago, Christopher’s eyes were also watery as his newfound brother walked up the gangway into an ocean-going vessel that would take him to Cameroon.

Concluding, Olivier submitted: “I was very young then, but today, 30 years after, I cannot forget Christopher. So, I pray that wherever he is, may God bless him and his family. This is my prayer for Christopher”.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: King of Sukur, Nigeria's first UNESCO Heritage Site is dead

mauricearchibongtravels: King of Sukur, Nigeria's first UNESCO Heritage Site is dead

King of Sukur, Nigeria's first UNESCO Heritage Site is dead

Hidi Gizik Kinakakaw: King of Sukur, is dead
...Burial on 26 Nov.
The Hidi (paramount ruler) of Sukur Kingdom is dead. Chief Gizik Kinakakaw of Sukur Kingdom died on October 29. He was over 90 years old.

His burial will take place on November 26, after royal funerary observances, according to Mr. Wilson Myenguron, proprietor of Sukur Guest Chalets, who broke the news to us via text messages.

Sukur Kingdom lies in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State and is Nigeria’s first World Heritage Site (WHS). A World Heritage Site is also interchangeably called UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Heritage Site.

Nigeria boasts only two UNESCO Heritage Sites: The Osun-Osogbo Grove in Osun State; enlisted in 2005, is the country’s only other WHS. Enlisted in 1999, Sukur Kingdom is not only the country’s first WHS, but also Africa’s first such site in the Cultural Landscape category.

The late Hidi was crowned in 1981, following the demise of then immediate-past monarch, Hidi Zire Dan Kwandu; who also reigned for roughly 30 years, according to Mr. Markus Makama, who confirmed the king’s passage.

The Sakun, aborigines of this community settled on Sukur Kingdom at least 500 years ago; curiously, however, their monarch’s stool is not even among the lowly Third Class, not to talk of Second Class, let alone First Class in spite of the fact that Sukur boasts one of the most popular landscapes in the country, following its emergence as Nigeria’s first WHS.

The kingdom stands roughly 3,040 feet above sea level and the only way to access the community is to climb, since there is no motorway linking the rocky terrain to the outside world.

“The whole community is mobilized for the burial. We are set for a befitting farewell to our king”, declared Mr. Markus Makama, teacher and son of District Head of Sukur, who added: “He (Hidi Gizik Kinakakaw) was an African Pillar; may the gods of Sukur and God in Heaven bless his soul”.

Cheeringly, Adamawa State Government and its Agency for Museums and Monuments (AdSAMM) as well as the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) et cetera are all involved in the unfolding funeral arrangements. However, no word has come in yet from Professors Judy Sterner and Nicholas David, two Canadian academics, whose works were instrumental in launching Sukur Kingdom to the enviable pedestal it occupies today.

There is no doubt that the status of Sukur Kingdom’s throne as regards Adamawa Government’s recognition is ostensibly at odds with the reverence this over 500-year-old community nowadays enjoys in the international cultural arena. To dispel speculation that Adamawa Government’s snub of Sukur Kingdom’s stool for decades is another manifestation of unfair social and political machinations, the Governor Murtala Nyako-led administration should find befitting space for this throne, which deserves nothing but the best in the light of the honour this ancient civilization has brought for Nigeria.

As the late Hidi Gizik Kinakakaw joins his ancestors after over 30 years of peaceful reign, nothing could be too much to do in honour of his legacy. Adieu, great African soul: May Almighty God bless your soul with eternal peace.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

mauricearchibongtravels: How to buy 'Museums in Nigeria & Other Lands'

mauricearchibongtravels: How to buy 'Museums in Nigeria & Other Lands'

How to buy 'Museums in Nigeria & Other Lands'

Museums in Nigeria…and Other Lands

Museums in Nigeria…and Other Lands is the first attempt by any Nigerian to provide a panoramic picture of museums in his country as well as what obtains elsewhere.

After traversing Nigeria severally for first-hand knowledge of the situation of local museums and monuments, the author; Maurice Archibong, also visited similar sites in select West African and European countries.

Covering roughly 230 pages, Museums in Nigeria…and Other Lands is replete with useful information, not only for students of museology but also tourists and everyone.

To order

In Nigeria: Copies are available at unit cost of N8,050; however, any order from 100 copies will yield a discount, bringing the unit cost to N7,000. Please pay to ARCHIBONG, Maurice: Curr. Acc. No. 2000599397 First Bank, Marina Branch. Allow three days for delivery, after we receive alert confirming payment.

Outside Nigeria: Rest of Africa US$55, Europe US$60, The Americas US$65, Asia US$70 & Australia/New Zealand US$75. Orders in excess of 100 copies attract 10% discount. Please pay to ARCHIBONG, Maurice: Curr. Acc. No. 4572900729574 First Bank, Bolingo, Abuja Branch. Allow two weeks to one month for delivery, after we receive alert confirming payment.

Omodele Ayo Audifferen 1964-2011 R.I.P

‘She was an angel who devoted her life to family’
…‘Whatever she craved that eluded her in this life, may she achieve it in the next incarnation’
This report is aimed at setting the records straight as regards Nigerian woman who died years ago, dies again in Benin Republic; which was published on October 3, 2011.

The young Audifferen family in 1965, whilest resident at 1 Odo Ogun Close;  six years before the father left home. L-R: Margaret Ekanem Audifferen, Juyin Audifferen, Dayo Audifferen, Eng. Solomon Bankole Audifferen and Omodele (on her daddy's knee).

It has emerged that the story, Nigerian woman who died years ago dies again in Benin Republic, actually involved two women; a mother and her only daughter. As was hinted through our reference to the title of a thriller by James Hadley Chase, Figure it out for yourself; in my report, published in Daily Sun of October 3, 2011; one could not really be sure who was who because of the convoluted nature of the then unfolding saga.

Albeit, we had filed the report with the hope of locating a relative since the deceased’s remains were still in a mortuary five months after her death. Cheeringly, my report achieved this purpose and even more. As regards Mrs. Margaret Ekanem Audifferen (nee Utip) and Omodele Ayo Audifferen, the names of both women mentioned in the report; we hit the nail on the head.

The former is the mother who died and was buried in Nigeria in 2004, while the latter is the person that passed on in Benin Republic on May 2, 2011. Our unreserved apologies to her immediate family and blood relatives for any inaccuracies and distress caused by earlier reports; this was wholly unintended.

Despite some inaccuracies in the report, we have been commended; for, the story helped to locate a relative of the late Omodele Ayo Audifferen; and, consequently facilitated the burial of her body, which otherwise would still have been lying in the morgue by now. So, finally, on October 29, 2011; almost six months since Omodele Ayo Audifferen passed on, her burial took place in a Porto Novo cemetery.

It is worth noting that the deceased was never married and died childless due to health complications. She never really got over the death of her mother in 2004 and probably, coupled with her medical condition, succumbed to depression and sought solace in drinking because of her medical record and matrimonial status. These are among the facts we must now put right following additional information made available to us.

In deed, US-based Dr. Ekundayo Audifferen, immediate elder brother of the deceased, was in Benin Republic recently to identify the body and facilitate the interment of his late sister’s remains. Although he pointed out some inaccuracies in our report, Dr. Audifferen, nonetheless, admitted that the story yielded positive outcome in helping to locate him and finally laying the matter to rest.

Report yielded positive result
In fact, it was only by a stroke of sheer luck that the eye-catching headline of Maurice Archibong caught the attention of a relative who, out of curiosity, clicked on his story and in her words ‘almost had a heart attack’. I was then contacted immediately and proceeded to deal with the situation. Mr Archibong's story, distressing and negative as it may seem, especially to my blood relatives, who also stumbled upon the story; (we) are at least agreed on the fact that the eye-catching nature of the headline itself had a positive outcome in locating me in the final analysis”, wrote Dr. Audifferen in a statement on the incident.

Reacting to perceived prevarication on the part of Nigerian Embassy Cotonou, which culminated in Omodele’s body lying for so long in the morgue; as alluded to in our report, the bereaved’s take, as gleaned from his statement, is: “The inability of the Nigerian Embassy officials to locate her true sibling during this period of time may be explained by the uniqueness of the case in hand and the lack of the necessary manpower, skills and personnel trained to conduct painstaking extensive searches of this nature”.

Dayo’s guess at this point is that “this case in point is not strictly day-to-day conventional diplomatic business, which most of our embassies are accustomed to”. Adding that, “Whether valuable lessons have been learnt in this instance is beyond the scope of this statement; he subsequently went on “to thank the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou for their cooperation, the moment I came forward and presented myself with proof as next-of-kin”.

Dayo also expressed gratitude to Alhaji Yusuf Salami, President, Porto Novo Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), who rose to the occasion and contributed invaluably toward resolving the issues on ground. “I can only describe (Alhaji Salami) as a God-sent in assisting to bring this situation to its logical conclusion”, Dayo said.

From contacts with Dayo Audi
After filing my report, I had continued investigation of the story even before my exclusive was published on October 3. And, as I made progress toward a follow-up, I had received an e-mail on October 8 from the deceased’s brother.

It has taken me a while to locate your e-mail address, but I am glad I may have finally succeeded.” stated Dr. Audifferen in the e-mail.

Dayo’s letter added: “I can categorically confirm that the photograph which accompanied your aricle of Thursday October 6, 2011 is my sister Omodele Audifferen (taken in 1980). I am Ekundayo her elder brother. The name, ‘Ekanem’ referred to in the photograph, is that of our mother; late Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Ekanem Audifferen (nee Utip), who died on November 1, 2004”.

Dayo also confirmed that his sister had no children, thus: “My sister also had no children of her own”, and was visibly moved by the large crowd that accompanied the deceased on her final journey on earth. In the three or four years that Omodele lived in Djeregbe near Porto Novo, she had garnered a sizeable number of well-wishers and was fondly called Mummy by everyone in the neighbourhood.

And, every month; from the rent collection, Mummy bought presents for her tenants’ children and other kids in surrounding homes.  She was a responsible, warm, trusting and loving individual who tried all her life to make things right for her family. It would seem that she bore her cross stoically, in spite of her depression and health challenges, without wanting to load her burden on anyone else.

However, after our October 3 report; which led to Dr Audifferen’s homecoming, a coffin was bought, the late lady’s body was collected, and burial arrangements were about to be completed. And, as the funerary cortege was heading toward the cemetery, Viola! Suddenly, the few persons that initially set out with the coffin had swollen into a large crowd! The human throng got thicker as the body progressed toward the sepulchre, for many people abandoned whatever they were doing to bid this Mummy their last respects.

So sincere was the locals’ affection and how spontaneous their reaction that Dayo was moved to tears. As he said, “These were people I had never seen or met in my life til now.” “In the final analysis, the burial means that her soul has now been released. She has gone to be with the Lord; and, I am happy that we finally laid this matter to rest”, was Dayo’s muse as we discussed this matter severally on telephone.

Hear him: “I had to hurriedly come down, when I realised what had happened. I owed it to my sister. If I didn’t come down and sort things out, it would haunt my conscience for the rest of my life. I was able to pursue my post-graduate education because Omodele was there to take care of the home-front for me. She was the angel of our family. She made sacrifices in her life, so that we could make progress in ours. She put her life on hold to look after our mother”.

Mrs. Margaret Audifferen had died in 2004. After the burial of her mother, Omodele felt that her duty was done; and, it was about this time she started talking of moving on to start a new life somewhere, perhaps in Cotonou; where she said she had developed personal and business contacts.  She had a thriving business that spanned a number of countries in West Africa, we gathered.

Some time in 2006, Omodele had informed Dayo, her big brother, that; finally, she was relocating to Cotonou. Part of her reason for leaving can also be explained by wanting to put her past behind her, especially the stress of her parents’ separation and the consequences of a very bitter divorce which left serious emotional scars.  Being the youngest sibling, and the only female, it must have affected her deeper than imagined, although she bottled in a lot of emotions. 

She had promised to keep in touch since she had his contacts; phone numbers, postal address and all. However, months had morphed into a year and no word came from her. After two years of silence, Dayo was seriously hurting: how could his baby sister ignore him so?

If he had Omodele’s current contacts, Dayo would have tried to reconnect with her; but, he had none. She had his, yet she would not call. Initially, he was angry at his sister for the breakdown in communication. But, as the years waxed from two to three, then to four; his anger gave way to anxiety. Dayo was now truly disturbed, no phone call or card on his birthday? No phone call or greeting card for Christmas?

This was strange, very much unlike his baby sister: never, since their childhood days, had they gone without communicating for so long. His anger having now evaporated in the face of apprehension; Dayo started making frantic efforts to locate his beloved sister. Sadly, all the calls and letters to her old contacts drew blank. Then, on October 3, 2011; a friend sent him a text message drawing his attention to a story written by Maurice Archibong, which confirmed his worst fears: Omodele had gone home.

The Audifferens up close
As aforesaid in our previous report, the story of Mrs. Margaret Ekanem Audifferen and her daughter, Omodele, is both touching and gripping. Decades ago, love had brought the then Miss Margaret Ekanem Utip and Mr. Solomon Bankole Audifferen together. After a period of courtship, the couple had gone on to tie the proverbial nuptial knot.

While their union held, Margaret and Solomon were blessed with three children: the first two were boys, followed by a girl. The baby of the family was Omodele, and her immediate older sibling was Ekundayo (Dayo). The family certainly belonged to the upper class or upper middle-class, given that their House Number 1, Odo Ogun Close residence stood in the south-western parts of the elite Lagos neighbourhood of Ikoyi.

However, in December 1971, while the children were barely in their teens, their father left the matrimonial home to start a new life, ironically with a lady, a close family friend who the children called ‘Aunty’.

Presumably, before their parent’s unofficial separation, the atmosphere was always tense at home. Apparently, there were frequent fussing and shouting; and, perhaps, the occasional fighting. Unable to endure the rancour any more, the eldest of the Audifferen kids left his parents in search of another home where he could find peace.

Interestingly, as the distance between their parents grew longer, the bond between Dayo and Omodele waxed stronger. This brother and sister were always there for each other, and their mother never let them down. Their now single-parent family remained in Ikoyi and the children made steady progress in education. In 1982, Dayo left for the United Kingdom for post-graduate studies. He would remain in the UK, where he later bagged a PhD.  He now resides in the USA.

Back home, Omodele was pursuing her Advanced Levels in Physics, Chemistry and Biology at the Federal School of Arts and Science (FSAS) in Victoria Island, Lagos by 1980. With her only two siblings away, Omodele naturally had to stand by her mom. Amid caring for her mom, Omodele also made good in the academic arena graduating as a medical doctor.

To make matters worse, at some point, she was diagnosed with an ailment that required hysterectomy.  It was complications resulting from this ailment that led to her passing. 

Sadly, after relocating to Benin; the new life she hoped to begin never really took off. If anything, that phase turned out to be the twilight of her sojourn on earth. But, she lived a good life, nonetheless. Interestingly, Omodele was born on May 2; and, her passage on May 2 deserves some interpreting here. In the ancient West African Akan culture, it is believed that anyone that died on the anniversary of that person’s birth has automatically made heaven. So, we have reason to believe she lived a worthy life.

Any child deserted by a parent would naturally despise such a one. Understandably, Dayo stopped seeing any hero in his father; who abandoned him and his sibling, when they needed him most. He admittedly held a grudge against his father, not so much for the divorce of his mother, but for her ill-treatment and what he described as “attempting (though unsuccessfully) by thought, word and deed to replace his natural mother with an unnatural one”.

However, during the requiem mass preceding Omodele’s interment; the officiating priest, a complete stranger Dayo had never met; took his hand and, this is how the bereaved summarised the cleric’s advice to him: “He told me that, now was the time to let go of the grudge I had nurtured for almost 40 years so that I can be free. He asked me personally to do this in memory of my sister and in order to equip myself with the moral fibre to be able to ask God for forgiveness as we are all sinners”.

And, how did that suggestion go down with Dayo? It went down well: “I have done so”, he declared. Evidently, Omodele has given others a new life through her death: her passage has washed away family grudges.

O Lord, Almighty God; please, grant the soul of our departed dear sister eternal peace. Amen. Omodele, Omo rele Ayo, sun re o

NB: Following is:
Statement by Dr Ekundayo Audifferen - brother of the deceased
Re: Nigerian woman who died years ago, dies again in Benin Republic on 3rd and 7th October 2011

Since this story is now in the public domain, I feel it is absolutely necessary to correct the inaccuracies and distortions that appeared in the Daily Sun newspaper articles of both the 3rd and 7th October 2011.

Having left Nigeria for 30 years, and with the passing away of my mother in 2004, coupled with my sister deciding on a new life in Cotonou (Benin Republic), I have lost touch with events in my home country.

Admittedly, I have not been a follower of Nigerian news stories on television or the Internet. However, I always kept touch with my junior sister until after 2006, when she suddenly stopped writing to or phoning me. In fact, it was only by a stroke of sheer luck that the eye-catching headline of Maurice Archibong caught the attention of a relative who, out of curiosity, clicked on his story and in her words "almost had a heart attack". I was then contacted immediately and proceeded to deal with the situation.

In the interest of correct reporting, and moreover, to avoid the indictment of posterity, herewith the facts:

1. The deceased, Dr Omodele Audifferen (herein after referred to as Omodele), is the only daughter of Margaret Ekanem Audifferen (mother) and Solomon Bankole Audifferen (father). She survived by myself, her elder brother and another brother senior to myself. Her mother, Margaret Ekanem Audifferen, passed away in 2004 in Lagos and has since been laid to rest in her home town in Cross River State.*

2. We all lived together, father, mother, daughter, myself and elder brother as a family at 1 Odo Ogun Close, Lagos for many years. Even after my father departed the family home in December 1971, to start a new life with another woman - ironically a close family friend and confidante of my mother and someone who we fondly referred to as 'Auntie'- we continued to live at the same address.

3. Following my mother's passing in 2004, Omodele said she was going to start a new life in Cotonou (Benin Republic) where she said she had developed personal and business contacts. She told me she would contact me the moment she was settled in Cotonou and that since she had all my contacts, it was needless my writing to her as she was in transit between Lagos and Cotonou. During this period, she telephoned regularly and never forgot to send me a card on my birthday and Christmas. However, by the end of 2006, that was the last I heard from her, despite various attempts to write to her at her last known location in Lagos. I never heard from her again until Archibong's story hit the headlines.

4. The inability of the Nigerian Embassy officials to locate her true sibling during this period of time may be explained by the uniqueness of the case in hand and the lack of the necessary manpower, skills and personnel trained to conduct painstaking extensive searches of this nature. One can conjecture that this case in point is not strictly day-to-day conventional diplomatic business which most of our embassies are accustomed to. Whether valuable lessons have been learnt in this instance is beyond the scope of this statement.

5. Mr Archibong's story, distressing and negative as it may seem, especially to my blood relatives, who also stumbled upon the story, are at least agreed on the fact that the eye-catching spectacular nature of the headline itself had a positive outcome in locating me in the final analysis.

I wish to thank the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou for their cooperation the moment I came forward and presented myself with proof as next-of-kin. They introduced me to the head of the Nigerian Organisation in Diaspora (Porto-Novo Chapter), Alhaji Yusuf Salami, who I can only describe as a Godsend in assisting to bring this situation to its logical conclusion. May I take this opportunity also to thank my blood relatives from both sides of the family for their messages of condolence and support. May the Lord bless you all.

My sister Omodele in many ways was the guardian of our little family, who put her life on hold to support her Mother and mentor during those very difficult years. My prayer to Almighty God is that your efforts here on earth and the sacrifices you made for family, and the things you missed out on on earth, may not be forgotten by the Creator.

Ironically, it was as a result of this incident, that I found out from a relative, that my father had been very desperate to make things up with me in the final years of his life and apologise for what he described as "the mistakes in his life". Also, I heard he wanted to discuss with me something he said that had weighed heavily on his soul and conscience. Although I have not been privileged to hear what he had to say, in a bizarre twist of fate, the priest who officiated at Omodele's burial ceremony, and whom I had never met in my life, took my hand and told me that now was the time to let go of the grudge I had nurtured for almost 40 years so that I can be free.

He asked me personally to do this in memory of my sister and in order to equip myself with the moral fibre to be able to ask God himself for forgiveness as we are all sinners. I have done so. And may the soul of my sister (deceased May 2nd 2011) and that of my father (deceased March 2010) and indeed the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in perfect peace.
Dr Ekundayo Audifferen

NB: Below, is the original copy of the story published in Daily Sun of October 3, 2011.

Nigerian woman who died yrs ago, dies again in Benin Republic
Body of late landlady lying unclaimed in Porto Novo morgue since May
… Children say they want nothing to do with her despite wealthy estates she left behind at home and abroad

Her story reads like a thriller: the type only a great novelist could spin, however; the somewhat grace-to-grass context and the many twists and turns of her life’s tale could make some of the classic tragedies spun by ancient Greece’s dramatist extraordinaire Sophocles appear less calamitous.

To be candid, ruminating on this woman’s chequered sojourn on earth invoked Figure it out for yourself, the title of one of scores of crime thrillers by James Hardly Chase; for, at the end of series of fragmetary sequences; you are still left wondering, if you got this one right.
Such was the variegated nature of this subject’s life that at some point, she served in the officer cadre of one of the nation’s armed forces only to die unloved and abadoned, and her corpse unwanted. This was a woman that actually lived overseas at some point; she apparently enjoyed the famed good, good life as a spinter; and, at the domestic level was married and had children.
Sadly, however, everything eventually went so kaputt that she died a lonely and forsaken woman. So unwanted was she, that her children and practically every other family member did not only shun her in the twilight of her life but denied her outright, when informed she had passed on and that her body was waiting to be claimed in a morgue in a neighbouring foreign country.
The deceased gave up the ghost a few minutes after midnight on May 2, 2011; and, her remains were immediately deposited at Morgue Le Pardon, the only funerarium in Djeregbe. Djeregbe stands roughly 10 minutes’ drive to Porto Novo, capital of Benin Republic; and, coming from Seme-Krake, near Nigeria’s extreme south-western frontier; Djeregbe is barely five minutes’ drive after turning right at Porto Novo roundabout.
The fees for leaving a corpse at this morgue is CFA2,000 (N700) per day, but after the first 10 days; the cost rises to CFA3,000 (N1,050) daily. Counting from May 2, the mortuary bills hit CFA20,000 by May 12. With CFA3,000 daily subsequently, by June 30 the bills had climbed another CFA147,000; bringing the total to CFA167,000 or N58,450 at the current exchange rate of N350 to CFA1,000. Furthermore, by July 20, the bill had risen by another CFA60,000 (N20,000 approximately), thus bringing the total to N78,450. Add CFA33,000 (about N12,000) for another 11 days to July 31; and, we were talking of over N90,000. By August 10, the figure had exceeded N100,000.
However, it must be pointed out that the woman’s offspring have not abandoned the body due to financial implication. The deceased was a very wealthy person, and the sale of a fraction of her belongings will easily raise the money to pay off any bill accruing from her death and funeral.
It would therefore seem that the offspring’s rejection of any relationship with the dead woman arises from fear of exposure of kinship to one who was sick or worse still, for other reasons which; as some are wont to conjectutre, could even be considered sinister. If the contents of a video, we shall soon refer to, are anything to go by; the woman was initiated into a secret society sometime in 2005 by some juju worshippers in Akesan Town, Lagos.
It is hard to say, whether or not she was conscious of what she was walking into at the time; for, even on film she seemed hypnotised and barely lively whereas she was supposed to be jubilant since she was being celebrated as a landlady/house-owner. In deed, the initiation was embedded in a house-warming ceremony. However, any one watching the recording of that event would immediately notice the absence of guests during the Lagos celebration; which contrasts sharply with what transpired, when she had a similar occasion in Djeregbe near Porto Novo in Benin Republic.
Truly, there are many twists and turns to this convoluted tale. Could a woman that died years ago in Nigeria die again in Benin Republic, where her body is currently lying in a local morgue? Could someone or some people have done her in, in order to inherit her wealth? It is believed that apart from the house she owned near Porto Novo, the woman also had some landed properties in Lagos; receipts and building plans of such estates were found among her belongings. Interestingly, too; a receipt was found confirming she had secured a sepulchre for her burial in London.
If documents reportedly found among her possessions are to be believed; there was hefty life insurance dividend to be picked by her heir in the event of her death. Is it possible that such dividend had since been claimed, while the woman was languishing in pain, misery and loneliness; whereas a funeral had been held for her?
If so, who collected such benefits; and, who signed her death certificate, and where was it issued? Where and when was she buried? Also, who organised a bogus feneral party to mark her departure from planet earth; when the woman was still alive? Many questions…few answers but in time all secrets will be revealed.
Her health had deteriorated drastically over the week preceding her transition, but she wouldn’t stand any talk of going to see a doctor. However, late in the night of 1 May, her condition was so bad and the woman so weak she couldn’t even protest, when one Isideen and another of her tenants put her atop a Zemidjan, a motorbike, to take her for urgent medical attention.
It would seem that workers at the first hospital the young men took the woman to refused to admit her and directed Isideen and co to take her elsewhere. All the while, the woman, sandwiched between the two men on the bike, to prevent her from falling; had been panting profusely.
As the men rode toward another clinic, the woman suddenly exuded a loud sigh: she had just breathed her last. Alarmed, Isideen and his co-tenant started shouting “Mummy, Mummy”, but no response came; for the woman had given up the ghost. Now, instead of depositing her at a hospital, the young men were compeled to take the body to the only morgue in town.
For roughly five years, the lady lived in her storey building with five tenants in Quartier Yekponawa, not too far from Djeregbe’s Quartier Zongo neighbourhood. She called her house, which stands roughly 200 metres off the highway linking Cotonou to Porto Novo, La Ville Romuero. The highest-paying of the woman’s tenants was charged CFA15,000 (about N5,000) monthly. Three other tenants paid CFA10,000 (N3,500) each, monthly; while the rental for the fifth occupant was CFA7,000 (N2,300) for the same period.
Strangely, this landlady occupied the uncompleted upper floor of her two-floor house. This top floor was mostly unroofed and many rooms lack windows and doors, yet she chose to live in this quarter, while giving out the finished rooms on the ground floor to tenants. Curiously, she kept none of her valuables upstairs, where she lived. Her belongings were divided between the rooms of two of her tenants, one of them called Isideen. She occasionally ate in the rooms of these two tenants. Her moveable property included five sealed boxes, a few bags and other boxes that were not locked. It was inside one of these unlocked boxes that a video recording of the woman’s funeral, purportedly after her death decades ago, was found.
Sources told Daily Sun the woman probably suffered phychological, if not psychiatric, challenges years before her transition. Once, she had a domestic called Samson; but, it would seem the woman sent him packing sometime before she died. Sadly, no one could locate Samson now; and, none was sure that even he had any clue as to the woman’s relations or friends. For all the years that she lived in the compound, the woman neither went visiting anyone nor did anyone ever came to visit her.
No one remembered ever seeing her cook. “Mummy rarely ate any food”, said one respondent. One of her tenants, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed she drank frequently: Guinness was her preferred brand, but when out of pocket; the woman settled for native gin. In fact, she showed signs of bloating a few weeks to her death, we were told.
Some respondents’ conjecture is that the late woman had at least two sons, whom; going by photographs taken decades ago must be above 40 years today. Among such people’s guess is that Mr. Percy Ademokun is the name of a man believed to be one of her children. From this man’s first name, Percy, it would seem she had him for a Christian; however, there is another man, Ahmed, believed to be her son as well. It seems likely Percy and Ahmed were sired by different men.
One respondent told us, “Mummy spoke excellent French, English and Yoruba”; however, another throw-up of some that spoke with Daily Sun in and around Djeregbe was that the woman hailed from Calabar. They hinged their guess on the lady’s abhorrence of filth.
Further probe into the woman’s origins led to the discovery that her maiden name sounded like one from “the Calabar area”. Alhaji Yusuf Salami, President of Nigerian community in Porto Novo, who had accompanied local police personnel to the late woman’s house and the morgue, where her body was deposited; confirmed her maiden name hinted at Calabar origins. Unfortunately, Alhaji Salami said he could not recall the name.
He said that after being contacted, he had done the best he could as leader of the local Nigerian community and had properly briefed the Nigerian embassy of his findings. Subsequently, he had washed his hands off the matter; which now lay with the Nigerian embassy and Beninese authorities. “If you want any information on this matter, please; go to the Nigerian embassy”: this was Alhaji Salami’s advise to us when we contacted him on phone.
After deeper probes, we were at some point told that the deceased was Miss Margaret Ekanem Utip. We were also told that her husband’s grandfather was a half-caste, and the man’s white grandfather, Mr. Audifferen (first name not known) died in 1933. However, the most baffling of all is the 2005 ceremony in Lagos, celebrated as Warming of late Margaret Ekanem’s House.
In 1979, one Miss Omodele Ayo Audifferen, who lived at Number 1, Odo Ogun Close in South West Ikoyi; was a student of Federal School of Arts and Science (FSAS), Victoria Island, Lagos. A student’s ID card, signed December 12, 1979, carries the portrait of a pretty young lady that probably morphed into a charming woman later ravaged by fate.
While studying for her A Levels at FSAS, she was in the group MSD, which means she was of the Morning Session classes and that her subject combination was Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Given the subjects she studied, while pursuing her higher school certificate; the then Miss Audiferren could well be the one, whose body is lying in Porto Novo.
Successful products of FSAS SD groups usually went on to study medicine, pharmacy, biochemistry, life sciences and related courses. And, going by leads; which include epaulettes that show the wearer went through the rank of Mid-Shipman before being promoted a Sub-Lieutenant, found among the deceased’s belongings, the late woman belonged to one of these professions. Moreover, she probably served in the Medical Corps of the Nigerian Navy, going by some leads.
Interestingly, during a house-warming ceremony, dubbed House-warming ceremony of late Chief (Mrs.) Ekanem Audifferen; the woman was variously called Doctor and at least once addressed as Mrs. Abidu. In the same video, the said Mrs. Abidu was described as “the last child of late Chief (Mrs.) Audifferen”. This late Chief (Mrs.) Audifferen could well be one-time Miss Ekanem Utip, who hailed from Oku in Ikot Offiong, Calabar. Born in Beua, now known as Victoria, in Western Cameroon; the young Ekanem Utip had her primary education at Government Secondary School, Beua from 1933 to 1941.
The house in question probably stands at Number 10 Kassim Achiomu Street in Akesan Town, off LASU Road; going by the address found on the cartridge of a video recorded by SOAJ Video and Film Production, which in December 2005 gave its studio’s address as 220 Ijegun Road, Ile-Ibadan Bus stop in Ikotun, Lagos.
Curiously, a year after that purported posthumos housewarming took place, she turned up in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin Republic. It remains unclear, where she resided in those days; for Samson, who might know; having served the woman for years, could not be located. In any case, in 2006, she bought a house, which was still under construction in Djeregbe and made home there.
The late Mrs. Abidu was probably sibling with one-time Master Ekundayo Essien Audifferen, who was baptised on August 5, 1961 at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos. Ekundayo Essien Audifferen subsequently had his Confirmation and First Communion at the same church on June 4, 1978, a year before Omodele Ayo enrolled for Sixth Form studies at FSAS, Lagos. The duo were probably related to one Mr. S.B. Audifferen, resident of House 18, Nevern Rd, SW London; going by address found on a letter sent by one Dr. Audifferen from Number 10 Boyle Street, Lagos.
On Nigerian Embassy Cotonou
The unfolding saga of Nee Audiferen’s life and eventual death in Benin Republic as well as the fact that her body is still lying in a local morgue has once again thrown up doubts about the efficiency and diligence on the part of officials of Nigeria’s foreign missions.
It could be recalled that Nigerian Embassy Cotonou had come under severe criticisms in the past for its staffers’ lackadaisal attidtude to work. In deed, during the days of Mr. Oladeji as Ambassador, Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou was virtually loathed by all; Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa alike.
However, all that changed after Mr. Lawrence Akindele assumed duty there. Sadly, the man passed on last February 3. And, once again, many Nigerians seem worried that the unwholesome attitude that characterised the conduct of many officials at this mission in the past may have returned.
The incident has also brought to the fore the dangers of leaving an important diplomatic post somewhat rudderless. Currently, Mr. Ajayi Ayoola is Charges d’Affaires
August 2 marked 90 days since the former Miss Audiferen died. Questions would be asked as to what the Nigerian Embassy Cotonou has done over the three-month period with regard to unveiling her identity and subsequently getting the dead woman’s relations to come and collect her body for burial. 
At least one official at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou had mooted the idea of selling the deceased’s woman’s house. The explanation for this seems to be to raise money to pay morgue fees and other bills, Daily Sun gathered from reliable sources.
However, perceived foot-dragging on the part of the local Nigerian mission in treating the matter has fuelled speculation that those contemplating the sale of the woman’s property had erected hedges to present access to information on the death woman.
That way, according to conspiracy theorists, those hoping to reap where they did not sow could then sell the woman’s belongings at give-away prices to themselves under the excuse that no relative of the deceased could be traced.