• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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What Nigerians missed in the Ekweremadus’ conviction

For Ekweremadu, Emefiele, Wike & Co: The tomorrow is now!

The conviction of Nigeria’s former deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, together with his wife and a Nigerian doctor, of “exploiting a vulnerable victim for illegal organ harvesting” has received only scant attention in Nigeria and from only two camps: those happy that a formidable political opponent has been taken out of the equation and those sympathetic to the five-time Senator from Enugu West.

While politicians jostling to inherit Ekweremadu’s seat and those with scores to settle celebrated his predicament, others largely showed sympathy for a man whom they described as ‘good’, but who got into trouble because he was a caring father and desperately wanted to help his daughter stay alive. Senator Shehu Sani captured that sentiment in a tweet a fortnight ago: “For your daughter, you got into this trouble. My prayers for you, your wife, and others in this travail.”

I dare say these reactions all missed the message of the convictions. To be sure, organ donation is not illegal in the United Kingdom. It only becomes illegal when money is involved. Therefore, it is not uncommon for those in urgent need of a kidney transplant to find donors from among family members and friends.

We all missed the most important part of the case – which is the Ekweremadus’ cold-hearted, ruthless, and criminal exploitation of a vulnerable person in poverty

The prosecution proved in court that Ekweremadu was given that medical advice, but he spurned it and instead, choose to use a 21-year-old Nigerian street trader, someone in a clear circumstance of poverty, for the donation and as a “disposable assets-spare parts” for a financial reward of up to £7000 and a promising life in the UK.

Of course, Ekweremadu, who helped draw up Nigeria’s own laws against organ trafficking, knew the import of what he was doing. To protect himself, he avoided any direct contact with the victim. But behind the scenes, he facilitated all the discussions and planning, and falsely presented the victim as a cousin of their daughter Sonia.

The deal however fell through when Doctors who were to perform the kidney transplant ruled that the donor was an unsuitable donor after learning from interviews with the victim, conducted through a compromised Igbo translator, that the victim wasn’t given any counselling or advice about the risks of the surgery and “lacked funds for the lifelong care he would need afterward.”

Having failed to convince the doctors to do the transplant, the Ekweremadu’s headed to Turkey to procure another donor while trying to ruthlessly repatriate the victim back to Nigeria without the promised reward. That was when the victim approached the Metropolitan police, who initiated the investigation that ultimately resulted in the trio’s conviction.

In the days following Ekweremadu’s arrests in the UK, the Nigerian media and social media spaces, and public discourse were focused almost exclusively on blaming the victim, first refuting the bogus claim that he was a minor, and then, accusing him of trying to play a fast one by seeking asylum in the UK when he had been declared an unsuitable donor and was meant to return to Nigeria.

We all missed the most important part of the case – which is the Ekweremadus’ cold-hearted, ruthless, and criminal exploitation of a vulnerable person in poverty. As the judge ruled, Ekweremadu wanted to use another human being as a mere “disposable assets-spare parts” and showed an incredible sense of “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy.” But this was lost on Nigerians because what Ekweremadu did was the norm. And were he to be tried in Nigeria, he won’t even bother to enter a defence and the courts would discharge and acquit him on a ‘no-case’ basis.

Exploiting the weak by the strong and displaying crude entitlement is integral to Nigerian culture. We never really believe in any kind of horizontal relationship devoid of hierarchy and exploitation. All relationships and interactions – whether they be marriages, familial, parent-children, office, and politics – must be vertical with a clear boss and leader separate and distinguishable from subordinates and servants.

Read also: Ekweremadus saga: What local law says

As Jeremy Weate wrote about Nigeria in 2010, “Lordship and bondage is the hidden seam running through all strata of Nigeria”. We have come to accept this as the natural order of things; that some are born or work to own and control while others are born or condemned by nature to be servants and slaves; that those on top have a God-given right to treat those beneath them with barely disguised contempt, as less than fully human and as disposable assets.

Equally, the over-pampered “children of the elite”, according to Weate, “are brought up with a sense that there are lesser humans among them.” Naturally, the children of the poor are brought up with the “sense of a destiny beyond the bondage of a life…” of misery and abjection and of being treated as less than fully human unless they can break the code and get into the class of the privileged.

That is why, for instance, the sight of a boss talking condescendingly or barking at subordinates is seen as normal behaviour in Nigeria. It is why Nigerian men are so concerned about their ability to ‘control’ their wives, requiring compulsory ‘obedience’ and ‘respect’ as a prerequisite for marriage. It is why the ‘house help’ is considered ‘unfit’ to sit at the table with or attend the same school as the children of the house. Everyone must know his or her place.

That is the issue at play in the Ekweremadu conviction. As usual, Nigerians completely missed it, because hierarchy, abuse, and entitlement are normal seams that bind the Nigerian society together.