EKWEREMADU’S UK CHALLENGE

 The chanllege depicts the enduring father-daughter bond and contradictions that define our nationhood, reckons Louis Achi

So far life flickers, there is hope. In people, as William Sloane Coffin accurately observes, “Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.” This is a key anchor of the human story and of our enduring humanity.

Although imperilled by kidney crisis, in the bosom of Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia, life flickers. There is hope. According to Lao Tzu, “As long as we have hope, we have direction, the energy to move, and the map to move by.”

These compelling insights by Lao Tzu and William Sloane probe the core of our existential dilemma as well as its possibilities and offer an opportunity for uncommon introspection. These truths ought to nuance the reading of Ekweremadu’s challenge. They should also dimension our interpretation of the current, yet unverified allegations of “child trafficking”, “organ harvesting”, “modern slavery,” et cetera against him and his wife Beatrice.

The unproven charges relating to organ and human trafficking preferred against Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice at the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, UK, last week, have understandably dominated the media space and inundated conversations across the country and beyond.

A synopsis of the core narrative is that on account of the long-drawn kidney crisis of Ike Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia, the former Deputy President of the Senate organised and funded a medical related trip to the UK involving 21-year old David Nwamini Ukpo, the proposed organ (kidney) donor.

But after conducting various medical tests, the Royal Free Hospital in London decided that David Nwamini Ukpo was not a suitable donor because his kidney is not compatible with that of Sonia Ekweremadu’s. Apparently on account of this unforeseen development, Nwamini was then required to return to Nigeria.

It’s perhaps worth noting that across the UK, more than 1,000 people each year donate a kidney or part of their liver while they are still alive to a relative, friend or someone they do not know. The most commonly donated organ is the kidney. A healthy person can lead a normal life with only one functioning kidney and therefore they are able to donate the other to help someone in need of a kidney transplant.

Apparently having seen the glimmer of a promising new life in the UK, Nwamini opted to report himself to the London Metropolitan Police, claiming he is underage (15 years old) and a victim of human/organ trafficking. For that stern, law-governed English jurisdiction, he couldn’t have contrived a better plot or sold a better story.

Subsequently Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice were plucked by the Metropolitan Police from inside a Turkish Airline almost taking off to Istanbul, at Heathrow Airport and charged to court – the Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, UK. Charges were preferred and the couple was denied bail until next hearing on July 7. 

The London Metropolitan Police said they were charged over the allegation of bringing an underaged to the UK for “organ harvesting” following an investigation by the police specialist crime team. It also revealed that the investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.

However, Damla Ayas, the crown prosecutor, told the court that “part of the allegations” against the couple took place in Nigeria adding that the case was “unique” and would require a decision by Sue-Ellen Braverman, the Attorney General of the England and Wales on where the trial will be held.

But there is a backstory. Ekweremadu had on December 2021 written a letter to the British High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, backing the visa application of a potential kidney donor to his daughter. He clarified the donor and his daughter “will be at the Royal Free Hospital London”, adding that he would “be providing the necessary funding”. But after an organ mismatch was established at the London hospital and the donor claimed to be underage, the Met Police moved in.

However so much has happened quickly following the Ekweremadu’s dilemma in the UK. But happily much of the contrived fog is being cleared up. In a statement at the weekend, the Nigeria Immigration Service, (NIS) affirmed that due process was followed in the issuance of Ukpor David Nwanini Nwamini’s passport.

The agency stated that Nwamini applied for the enhanced standard passport using the NIS portal after which he approached the Gwagwalada passport office in Abuja, on the 2nd November, 2021 for his interview. It also confirmed the applicant equally presented all the necessary documents required.

These included his National Population Commission, (NPC), issued birth certificate, showing October 12, 2000, as his date of birth; his National Identity Number (NIN) corroborating the date of birth on his birth certificate, issued by NIMC and a letter of introduction issued by Ebonyi State Government Liaison Office, situated at Maitama District Abuja, as well as a Guarantor’s form duly signed by one Mr Uchechukwu Chukwuma Ogbonno to support Nwamini’s application.

Besides the NIS position, reactions from the Ebonyi State government and even the “donor’s” younger brother from Ebonyi State confirm Nwamini is not a minor by any stretch. Happily, the National Assembly has waded into the contrived crisis, indicated it would reach across to the UK parliament on the matter and also expressed support for Ekweremadu.

Nwamini nevertheless deserves some pity. His base temptation to bring down a family in crisis speaks to the nightmare which a country endowed with stupendous resources and all the promises of greatness has descended to with its youth migrating in droves.

Ekweremadu’s UK incident dramatizes the fact that the bond between most fathers and their first daughter is very deep.  Most fathers love their first daughter more than life. Clearly, this connection is metaphysical. According to the English poet Joseph Addison, “Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters, there is something which there are no words to express.”

This is at the core of Ekweremadu’s paternal burden and may fathers never be tempted with what they love most!

·        Achi, former Associate Editor, THISDAY, writes from Abuja

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