David and Goliath Ekweremadu: From saving Angel to ‘Frenemies’ | Dailytrust

David and Goliath Ekweremadu: From saving Angel to ‘Frenemies’

At the opening of Chike Emembo’s solo art exhibition, “Blackouts,” at the Orisun Art Gallery in Abuja’s Central Business District last weekend, one painting stood out for me.

It is the painting of a woman sitting and a long-maned man lying on her lap, his hair spilling across her thigh, his eyes closed in a repose of comfort, vulnerability and complete trust. Her eyes were wide open, captured in a moment of contemplation. The serenity of the painting is however deracinated by the scissors in her hand.

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The painting is titled ‘Frenemy’ and the characters depicted are Samson and Delilah. The artist, Chike Emembo, talked about how Delilah is always depicted as evil for cutting off Samson’s flowing locks, the secret source of his superhuman strength, without taking into context the simple matter that her family was threatened if she didn’t. That moment now immortalised in his painting is the moment where she had to weigh between the love of her man and the love of her family, who have often been written out of the story. The point is that context matters.

Why am I talking about this painting in an article about a potential national embarrassment? Well, the exhibition opened the week former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, were arrested in the UK and charged to court for the alleged intent to harvest the organs of one David Nwamini Ukpo who court documents say is 15.

The Met Police, and the court by denying the Ekweremadus bail, are going about this case with a conviction that suggests a high level of certainty in Ekweremadu’s guilt. In his determination to prove his innocence, the senator has sued a host of institutions in Nigeria including the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) and some banks to provide documents that would confirm that Mr Ukpo is 21, not 15 as he claimed.

For those living under a rock the last few weeks, the plan was for Mr Ukpo to donate his kidney to Sonia Ekweremadu, the senator’s daughter, who has been suffering renal failure for the last five years. The plan failed principally because after all the trouble of securing his travel documents, transporting him and hosting him in the UK, David Ukpo proved not to be a match for Sonia.

Out of context, this dramatic story could be and has been interpreted as a desperate attempt by a politician, a Goliath, to rob a poor Nigerian, a David, of his organ, as much as they have robbed Nigerians of their commonwealth for decades for the benefit of their own. But in another context, it has been interpreted as a desperate attempt by a father to save the life of his daughter and that context resonates with every person who has fathered a child and knows what it means to love that child.

From the dust of this controversy and scandal, many questions have arisen: How did David Ukpo come into the service of the senator? Was he really aware of the true intent of taking him to London? Were the Ekweremadu’s being duplicitous with him or is he the one being deceitful with them? Is he lying about his age? Why did this deal or arrangement or whatever it was that bound senator and street urchin go south? In the context of Chike Emembo’s painting, who is the Samson here and who is the Delilah?

Yes, Ekweremadu, by virtue of being a senator for the last 20-something years can be held culpable for the woeful condition of the country and the abysmal state of the health sector that necessitated taking his daughter to London for treatment, where she just might be attended to by Nigerian doctors or nurses who have fled the country to work in a country with a functional health system, one that values their services in a way their country, run by the Ekweremadus and his ilk, has never done.

But beyond indicting Ekweremadu, there are institutions that this scandal has indicted. Nigeria’s identity management system for instance has been shambolic despite gulping billions over the years. That is why we have doubts and lots of questions about the true age of David Ukpo. The irony is that even the categorical evidence—a government-issued passport that shows his date of birth as 12 October 2000 (making him 21), based on a National Population Commission-issued birth certificate, is not categorical enough. Why? Because we know how easy it is to falsify these documents. Investigations will reveal eventually when the NPC issued David’s birth certificate. Was it at the point he was recruited to donate an organ? Or was it at birth? Because is there a valid reason that a child born at the turn of the millennium will not be issued a birth certificate at birth?

The concept of a true age and “footballer’s age,” or an age declaration for the purpose of working in the public service are all too common. It has been a long-standing tradition that today we are questioning the true age of Bola Tinubu or even the new acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, sworn in this week and with some news media reporting that his age, published on the Supreme Court Website, shows that he started school a year after his birth. The math doesn’t add up. But the Supreme court has moved quickly to quash that and the newspaper claims the date of birth has been edited after it attracted attention.

With regards to David, there are insinuations of age falsification both upward and downward. His younger brother, Jonathan Ukpo Nwamini is 22. Going by the documents, Jonathan, who spoke to Vanguard newspaper, would be older than his older brother. You see the confusion, right?

Jonathan claims David is actually 25, the same age, as someone who claimed to know him in Lagos where he traded in phone accessories, estimated.

The Ebonyi State Government, where David hails from, has issued a statement taking a stand with the Ekweremadus, suggesting that they think David is lying. However, David’s father at least is alive and could shed more light on this. So far, our diligent newshound have not reached him for his side of the story.

Until Nigeria starts getting its identity management right and standardises all these documentations being issued indiscriminately on a money-for-hand basis, Nigerians will continue to question peoples’ true age, be they a Tinubu hustling to be president, or David Ukpo, possibly hustling for an escape from a Nigeria Tinubu is desperate to govern.

Another question is under what circumstances was David brought into the radar of the senator? What he claimed in a Facebook video was that he was recruited at a construction site he worked at and told by a middleman that there was a job opportunity for a hardworking person like him in the UK. He claimed not to know anything about any organ transplant and did not know the Ekweremadus. He did not explain how the senator came to write a letter on his behalf to the British Embassy in Abuja.

David had worked in Ikotun, Lagos, selling phone accessories in a pushcart, according to his brother and one other person who claims to have known him. How he came into the senator’s sphere of influence would definitely shed some light on this controversy. It will help us understand under what circumstances he agreed to be shipped to the UK and why did Senator Ekweremadu agree to conduct this operation without perhaps doing the basic checks to ensure that David Ukpo is even compatible to donate his organ to his daughter?

In thinking about this saga, I find myself wondering again about Emembo’s painting. Yes, the Ekweremadu’s expected David to help save their daughter and I expect that he expected them to help improve his station in life. In a way, both were supposed to be each other’s saving angels but now they have turned into ‘Frenemy.’ We don’t know yet who amongst them is the Samson and who is the Delilah. But I suppose we will find out in time.


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