EFCC Arraigns Ex-NSITF Boss, Ngozi Olejeme, Over Alleged N3bn Fraud

The federal government on Thursday arraigned a former Chairman of the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Ngozi Olejeme, on a nine-count charge of abuse of office and fraud to the tune of N3 billion.

She was arraigned before Justice Maryam Aliyu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Jabi, Abuja.

She however pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had earlier declared Olejeme as a wanted person in relation to the said offences.

In the nine-count charge, the anti-graft agency specifically accused Olejeme of abusing her office and position as then boss of NSITF. She was also accused of receiving bribe and awarding contracts without due process, among others.

However, following her not-guilty plea, the counsel to the EFCC, Steve Odiase, requested a date for the commencement of trial as well as the remand of the defendant pending trial.

Responding, Olejeme’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro (SAN), informed the court about his client’s bail application, which he urged should be granted either on self recognisance or on liberal terms.

Erokoro said the defendant returned to the country in 2017 on her own volition on hearing that she was declared wanted for questioning by the EFCC.

He said she reported to the EFCC, questioned and was granted bail, adding that she has been reporting to the EFCC since then.

Erokoro assured the judge that since the defendant has remained faithful to the bail granted her by the EFCC, she will be available for trial.

He added that the bail application was based on medical grounds, which include that she has been diabetic and hypertensiive for 30 years; she, in recent time, had four surgeries in the United States and South Africa.

Erokoro told the court that the defendant suffered heart failure four months ago and also contracted COVID-19, but is currently recovering from it.

He said the defendant is scheduled for one follow-up surgery next month in South Africa, and that his client would apply for permission to travel for that purpose.

However, Odiase while not opposing the bail application, argued that she be ordered to produce a surety pending the conclusion of the trial.

In a short ruling, Justice Aliyu adjourned till Friday for ruling on the bail application and ordered that the defendant be kept in the custody of the EFCC.

In one of the counts, Olejeme was alleged to have “dishonestly received the sum of N22,200,000.00” from a contractor with NSITF into her personal account No. 32327505058110 at GT Bank.

Olejeme was also accused of receiving $48,485,127.00, which was dollars equivalent of some funds received from contractors as “kickback”.

What If Gowon Had Kept His Promise?

By Dare Babarinsa

General Yakubu Gowon, who marked his 87th birthday this Tuesday, October 19, is the first Nigerian ruler to grow old. His two predecessors, Prime-Minister Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, was a 54-year old statesman at the top of his career when he was killed. Balewa’s successor, Major-General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi was a young general at 42 when coup plotters too cut him down. It was Ironsi’s death that paved the way for Gowon. With Nigeria having 12 Chiefs of State since Gowon’s ouster in 1975, there is still a lingering feeling of what could have been with Gowon’s unfinished transition programme.

Gowon’s rise to power was a classic case of fate on duty. After the killings of many senior officers during the January 15, 1966 coup, Gowon was the lone most senior officer from Northern Nigeria who survived. He was a dashing lieutenant colonel of 32; a bachelor who had survived being killed by sheer luck. There were only two senior officers left who were superior to Gowon. One was Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, whom Ironsi appointed his deputy as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. The second one was Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo, who was in uncomfortable exile in the United Kingdom and was without any command appointment. Ironsi then made Gowon his Chief of Army Staff, the post earlier held by Adebayo.
There were three other persons in the power constellation. Commodore Akinwale Wey, matured, experienced and stoic, was the commander of the fledgling Nigerian Navy. The Inspector-General of Police inherited from the ousted Balewa Regime was Louis Edet, who was also a part of the power structure. Ironsi then appointed young lieutenant colonels as the military governors to manage the regions. The four were David Ejoor, Mid-West; Emeka Ojukwu, East; Adekunle Fajuyi, West and Hassan Usman Katsina, North. Ironsi knew they were young and inexperienced, therefore he appointed the former governors who served the last civilian premiers, as their special advisers.
Ironsi then decided that Nigeria has to be ruled as one unit instead of a federation. Nigeria was ruled as one unitary estate from the time of the amalgamation in 1914 until the colonial regime introduced the Federal Constitution in 1954. Many top politicians, including Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, had preferred Nigeria to remain a unitary state, but the majority, especially those from the North and the West, wanted federalism. With the coup of January 1966, many Nigerians were now clamouring for a return to a stronger centre to curb “tribalism, regionalism and sectionalism.”

Ironsi listened to them to his damnation. When Ironsi abolished the regions and replaced them with group of provinces, the reaction was muffled. Not many people were clapping. The politicians, especially those from the North, interpreted it to mean an instrument to further the domination of Ironsi’s people from Eastern Nigeria who were already very visible in the public service. There was also the gathering storm in the barracks over what the soldiers called the “lopsided killings” of military officers during the January coup. Even in killings, Nigerians prefer federal character! These were the two issues that led to the ouster of Ironsi and his assassination. When Gowon came to power, he learnt his lessons from Ironsi’s missteps.
Gowon’s tenure was however to prove more riotous and bloodier. Two issues were to dominate Gowon’s nine-years reign. One was the Civil War in which an estimated one million people died. The second was his ultimately futile return to civil rule programme. I believe the Civil War was not inevitable, but was propelled to happen by the struggle for personal power, personal prestige and personal greed. I would like to dwell more on Gowon’s ill-fated return to civil rule programme.
Before the Civil War intervened, Gowon and his team had thought that latest by 1970, the military would return to the barracks. Then the Civil War happened. After the war, Gowon pledged to return the country to democratic rule by October 1, 1976. By that time, he would have been in power for 10 years. However, on October 1, 1974 during his Independence Day broadcast, Gowon announced that “1976 is unrealistic.” His reasons: “the politicians have not learnt their lessons.”

Though Gowon came to power as a soldier, he actually ruled as a democrat who believes in true federalism. The 12 state governors were also members of the Supreme Military Council (SMC). At the Aburi Peace Meeting in Ghana, Ojukwu had insisted that Gowon dropped the title of Supreme Commander for that of the less intimidating title of Commander-in-Chief. Therefore, when there were heightened agitations for the removal of the governors, there was no way for Gowon to move against them because it would require a decision of the SMC where the governors were dominant.
There were open grumblings in the barracks when Gowon said he would no longer hand over power in 1976. He did not announce a new date. He had apparently fallen under the influence of fellow African leaders like General Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, who believe that power is a life-long career. Some young officers, led by the likes of Colonel Joe Garba, Lt. Colonel Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo, decided to stage a coup against Gowon.
The coup that toppled Gowon was a bloodless one, the first in Nigerian history. He was just 41 and a full general. The war commanders, led by Brigadier Murtala Muhammed, came to power. In the new triumvirate were also Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo and Brigadier Yakubu Danjuma. Murtala Muhammed drove the regime in its early days to achieve things that many thought were impossible. He announced the creation of a new national capital in a virgin land called Abuja. He created more states and the 12 states structure became 19, disturbing the balance between the North and the South that had existed since Nigeria became a federation in 1954. Now the North had 10 states to the South 9. In the long run, despite the excitements and dramas of that era of “with immediate effect,” Muhammed regime was to prove more disruptive.
If Gowon had honoured his pledge to hand over in 1976, mostly likely the trajectory of Nigerian history would have followed a different path. He would have handed over a federal structure of only 12 states. If that democratic experience had endured, Nigeria would still be a federation of only 12 states today. It has been proven since 1999 that the civilian regime is simply incapable of creating new states. It can only make noise about creation of states. We have been hearing the noise since 1999.

Dangote, Adenuga, Rabiu, Elumelu, Chagoury, Wigwe Meet Macron At Elysée Event

French President Emmanuel Macron spent formative months as an intern at the French embassy in Abuja. Now, he wants to better connect French companies into the vast economy that is Nigeria. 

His plan blends old-fashioned economic diplomacy with a wider goal of ‘fixing’ the oft-fraught relationship between France and its former colonies; through restitution of looted artworks, the Africa2020 cultural season, and a France-Africa summit in Montpellier on 8 October that will put young people – not aged political leaders – in the spotlight.

No, this was not a GPS error. To mark the end of France’s Africa2020 cultural season, Lagos was the guest of honour on 30 September.

The yellow danfo – a popular taxi bus in Nigeria – that was parked in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace was an installation piece by Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh. It came complete with a soundscape of taxi touts yelling their destinations from speakers hidden around the grounds.

The Nigerian delegation was of economic heavyweights: Aliko Dangote, Abdul Samad Rabiu (chairman of BUA Group), Tony Elumelu (UBA chairman), Herbert Wigwe (MD of Access Bank) and Mike Adenuga (Globacom chairman).

The party was completed by Gilbert Chagoury, a Lagos property tycoon, whose Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury Foundation was the chief fundraiser for the Africa2020 season.

L-R :Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc,Herbert Wigwe; President,Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman,BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu,Chairman Globacom, Mike Adenuga;Wife of French President, Brigitte Macron;Chairman,United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu,Frenchwoman President, Emmanuel Macron and Chairman, Chagoury Group, Gilbert Chagoury, during a meeting between the French President and Nigerian business leaders held at Else’e, France… recently.
The Elysée Palace, complete with installation danfo from artist Emeka Ogboh (Photo/Nicholas Norbrook) 

Ambassador Demola Seriki Presents His Letter of Credence To King Felipe VI in Madrid

Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, Demola Seriki has presented his letter of Credence to the monarch Felipe the sixth in a ceremony at the royal palace in Madrid.

He described the King as ‘warm‘ and tweeted that the discussions they had were ‘useful’.

Ambassador Seriki was nominated in January as one of the non career diplomats to head missions abroad, before now he had served as minister of state for Defence under former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Dangote Cement, MTN Pay Highest Income Tax To FG in 2020

…Cement company largest employer of labour

Dangote Cement Plc has emerged as the highest corporate income taxpayer and biggest employer of labour in the country for the year 2020.

The foremost indigenous cement manufacturer came first among top 100 elite companies listed on the Nigeria Exchange (NGX) posting into the coffer of the federal government a princely sum of N97.24billion in the year, while MTN Communication Nigeria Plc paid N93.6billion and Guaranty Trust Bank came third with an income tax of N36.66billion.

In the same breath, the Cement company with presence in other African countries also emerged as the company with the highest number of employees with a total number of 16,199 staffers on its payroll as at the time of performance review. 

In the performance analyses of 100 top elite corporate bodies on the Nigeria Exchange carried out by the reputable business magazine, “Next Money”, Dangote Cement was ranked as the most capitalized company in the country with N4,173.22billion.

Speaking on the analysis, publisher of Next Money, Mr. Ray Echebiri said the performance index analysis of companies listed on the Exchange was carried out with a view to establishing the best-performing ones among the over 150 of them. 

Echebiri, a renowned financial analyst, explained that the exercise is to provide existing and potential investors with information that they can rely on when they are taking investment decisions. “The first step we take in the analyses is to extract the Total Assets of each of the listed companies from their audited accounts.”

He said: “We sorted the total assets of the companies from the largest to the smallest and cut off at the 100th. We tagged the hundred companies that emerged from this exercise “Nigeria’s Top 100 Companies”. Any company that makes it to the corporate elite club of Nigeria’s Top 100 Companies is automatically a candidate for further ranking by Revenues, Profits, Market Capitalization, Number of Employees and Tax Payment.”

According to him, the rankings show how the listed companies stand on the corporate ladder with regards to the various performance indices. This edition of Nigeria’s Top 100 Companies covers the 2020 accounting year. It is therefore a performance analyses of companies listed on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) based on their audited accounts for the 2020 reporting year.”

“In other words, the information used in the analyses are extracted from the annual reports and accounts of the various companies published in 2020 irrespective of whether a company’s year-end is March, June, September, December, or any other month in 2020.”

Echebiri further pointed out that the analyses were restricted to publicly-held companies in the country and the reason being that the accounts of listed companies are easier to access than those of private companies. “Moreover, accounts of publicly-held companies are more believable because they are usually subjected to regulatory scrutiny and approval.”

He explained that his group had no doubt that there are many private companies that would easily count among the top 100 companies in the country given their huge balance sheet size, the sizeable revenue they post yearly and the mouth-watering profits they declare. However, he added that they were not a part of the performance review and analyses because their audited accounts do not go through the kind of regulatory examination and approval that the listed companies face and, are, therefore not as believable as those of the publicly-held companies.

The construction giant, Julius Berger trailed Dangote Cement as the highest employer of labour , albeit far behind, with staff strength of 12,217 and United Bank for Africa Plc which had a total of 10,824 people on its payroll. 

The analysis indicated that while Dangote cement with market capitalization of N4,173.22 billion beat the rest of the companies listed on the NGX to emerge as the company with the largest capitalization, MTN Communications Nigeria Plc and Bua Cement Plc. as at December 31,2020, followed as the second and third respectively with market capitalization of N3,458.23 billion and N2,619.41.

Dangote Cement paid the highest corporate income tax during the year under and was followed closely by MTN Communications Nigeria Plc which paid corporate income tax of N93.66 billion and Guaranty Trust Bank placed third with corporate income tax payment of N36.66 billion.

Chimamanda Adichie Celebrates 44th Birthday, Steps Out With Hubby Ivara Esege

Multiple-award winning author and globally-acclaimed icon, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, celebrated her 44th birthday on Wednesday, September 15. 

A classy dinner was held in her honour at a highbrow venue in Victoria Island, Lagos. The event was graced by Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos and former governor Peter Obi of Anambra State.

The celebrant’s husband,  Dr. Ivara Alistair Esege was also in attendance to give her moral support. 

Here are the pictures from the event:  

Ecobank Appoints Bola Adesola as Chairman, Other New Directors

The board of directors of Ecobank Nigeria has announced the appointment of three non-executive directors, Bola Adesola, Titilayo Olujobi, and Bimbola Wright.

According to the board, the new directors have distinguished themselves in their various careers bringing with them a wealth of experience in the financial services industry, their professionalism, and integrity, which has earned them international respect.

Adesola who has also been appointed as the chairman of the board, following the end of the tenure of John Aboh, is a highly respected professional with over 33 years of experience in the banking sector. She has commendable leadership qualities and successfully driven expansion initiatives in several banks.

Adesola retired from Standard Chartered Bank as the senior vice-chairman, Africa. Prior to this role, she was the managing director/ chief executive officer for Standard Chartered Nigeria and West Africa for eight years with oversight over the bank’s West African subsidiaries, including Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Cameroun. Adesola was also the Chairperson of the Board of Standard Chartered Bank Mauritius and a Director at Standard Chartered, Ghana.

Adesola had also served as an executive director, Corporate Banking and executive director Lagos Directorate at First Bank of Nigeria Plc; managing director, Kakawa Discount House, Nigeria. An alumnus of Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School, she also holds a Law degree from the University of Buckingham, UK, and is an associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, U.K, and Nigeria amongst others.

Commenting on her appointment as Director and Chairman of the Board, Adesola said; “I am honoured to be appointed as Chairman of the Board of Ecobank Nigeria. I am familiar with the brand and the proud history that is built on a strong foundation across the African continent and indeed globally. I look forward to working with the other members of the Board and Executive team as we continue our journey to be top in the Nigerian market, by setting the standards in financial services for our customers. I would also like to express my thanks to my predecessor, John Aboh, a consummate and respected banker for a very successful tenure, and wish him all the best for the future.”

Patrick Akinwuntan, managing director, Ecobank Nigeria said, “The entire staff and management of Ecobank Nigeria warmly welcome Bola Adesola and the other new directors to the Board. We will give them our full support in ensuring the actualization of the Bank’s strategic plans in Nigeria. I also thank John Aboh who recently retired from the Board after successfully completing his tenure of office. Under his tenure as Chairman of the Board, the Bank made remarkable progress in growing its market share and repositioning Ecobank Nigeria for leadership in the Nigerian financial services sector”.

Titilayo Olujobi also a new director on the Board is a well-rounded and experienced professional with nearly four decades of experience in public accounting, banking, training facilitation, business consulting, and coaching. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and a Certified Professional Coach of the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

Olujobi who is currently a non-executive director of IBFCAlliance Limited started her professional career at Z. O. Ososanya & Co and Coopers and Lybrand (now PriceWaterhouse Coopers) where she led audit assignments and consulted on tax issues. She was at Nigeria International Bank Limited (now Citibank Nigeria Limited) as a management associate and rose through the ranks across multiple positions to become Vice President (Deputy General Manager); She was managing director, IBFCAgusto Training Limited; executive director of IBFCAlliance Limited after the merger of IBFCAgusto and Alliance Consulting. She holds a B.Sc. Degree in Economics from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).

Bimbola Wright is a transformative and human-centered professional with 33 years of banking experience in top financial institutions, over 20 years of which she was senior leadership levels.

She is currently an Executive Director with Wright & Co Limited, a management consulting firm based in Lagos; Chairperson of the Board of Arami Essentials; member of the Institute of Directors, where she sits on the board of IoD Centre for Corporate Governance; and Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Management. Her career commenced with NAL Bank Plc (now part of Sterling Bank), from where she moved to Kakawa Discount House which was later acquired by First Bank Holdings to become FBNQuest Merchant Bank; she was an executive Council member of Women in Management, Business, and Public Services (WIMBIZ). Bimbola holds a B.Sc in Human Biology from Surrey University, an M.A. in International Relations from University of Kent at Canterbury.

B. Willy Turns 70 


Soyinka was the subject, the lecturer was also the subject. The work of art was teaching a work of art. At play was a play titled: Mad Men and Specialists.

After it was taught in the main class, we the students had to bivouac into cells or what was known as tutorials. In every session, lecturers and students turned over the top soil of the text. The work was confronting orthodoxy and political straitjacket in an age of flux. So, Adebayo Williams asked, “What if As is.”

It was a conundrum. AS was like a cant, sometimes a populist rant but certainly a chant of the despot, a rallying cry of the totalitarian. Soyinka, in his inventive brio, had coined it. Even in the play, it was cryptic. Adebayo Williams broke it down, though, and we understood the play in the context of Marx, Stalin, socialism, and all forms of ideas that made humans servile to the impunity of systems.

But what I remember most about that class was another phrasing in the form of an assignment. “The triumph of Mad Men and Specialists,” he wrote, “is the triumph of art over the chaos and malady of human existence. It is, therefore, a hollow triumph.”

Fast forward to my sojourn in the United States. I was with some American friends of mine, some journalists and others in academia, and I recited the assignment. They asked me to say it again. They loved the poetry of it. But months later I saw one of them, and he asked me to recite it and he could not live it down since I first sang it. I entertained him.

“Please, could you write it on a piece of paper?” he begged.

I couldn’t find one. We were in a party. He scrambled about and he conjured one. I wrote it down, partly suspecting he was condescending.

He hosted us close to Christmas, and it was months after the scribbling, and he asked me to come to his kitchen. I thought he wanted me to see his delicacy. But the vision on the wall was my imperfect hand writing with the assignment that now Professor Williams wrote in his thirties.

Professor Williams, who we students called B Willy, just turned 70, and I say congratulations as I look back at these decades in which with both chalk and pen he had impacted a generation.

Not many understood the assignment. Like the play, it was a work of art. I tried my hands at the essay and I had a choice to pick simpler alternatives. He handed us four questions, and this was the most challenging.  After giving me a high score, he wrote: “A well-written piece devoid of the inanity of the artist as the Mr. Fix-it of man’s deformed psyche. Nevertheless, the debate over role of the writer in society certainly continues.”

But Williams had the misfortune of having his tutorials filled above capacity. He was a sort of rock-star lecturer in the department. Yet when he walked into the class, you saw a shy, often retired demeanour. But beneath it was a storm of ideas and a gritty, subversive defiance.

He prepared for his classes with rigour and delivered them like a crooner, sometimes like a coroner of texts and orthodoxies. When you took down notes you wanted the ideas as well as the phrasing. He loved paradox, metaphors in his delivery. He acted as though he was not aware of the effect of his words. Take this about the novel, The Old Man and the Medal, a work of burlesque fury. He wrote of a character, “He is, at once, a radical conservative and conservative radical.” Chew it.

When he was to engage Nigeria’s most popular novel, he wrote on the blackboard: “The archaeology of madness in Things Fall Apart.” We forced ourselves to believe at times as students that we were actually being taught, and not being intoxicated.

At one time, the Literature In English department introduced a weekly seminar, and he only attended once. He did not again because of his subversive incandescence. The presenter was a Marxist, and glowing in his magisterial power. Williams, in his shy but insistent way, pointed out what seemed a contradiction. Marxism was placing Marxism on its head. Kaboom! Heresy. What became heresy was as much about what he said as that he said it. It was an audacity of an ideological coup.

He had earlier in a class taken a swipe at Ngugi’s big novel, Petals of Blood, which he described as wooden and a bully, and it turned some of our fellow students raising their hands in fits of rebellion. But Tive Denedo, Babafemi Ojudu (now senator) and yours truly hailed him on. Ngugi, he posited, turned the novel into an ideological fisticuff rather than a work of art. On Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright was guilty of “fictionalised rhetoric.”

Another quality was his open arms to contention from students who made a mecca of his office. He embraced it. He loved to exchange ideas. I recall Femi Macaulay, a classmate and member of editorial board and columnist, had told me when the idea of art for art’s sake was being discussed in the department. Macaulay said he asked Williams about it, and the teacher wondered like a playful cynic, “You mean the demonology of language?”

Just as his irreverence sparked in the department seminar, he brought that virtue to the national stage. The Guardian newspaper was the intellectual war house of the early 1980’s, and everyone praised it as the liberal paper of the age. Then Williams wrote a piece, “The Guardian and the State of the Nation.” Hell hugged ideas. He ripped apart the pharisaic snarl of the paper and its self-important writers. It was deluding itself as a liberal paper in a military era while appropriating the glories of the open society. He had placed his fingers on the tiger’s ears. Tomes of responses and apoplexy from around the academia and columnists stormed the Op-ed pages of the newspaper. Those famished for debate fed on the ferment of the hour.

The great Stanley Macebuh stood out in the crowd of responders. Always cerebral and hardly miffed, you could see through the ruffled pundit in his counterstrike titled: “The Open Society and its Enemies.” It was an evocation of Karl Popper. Williams who had acted as though unaware, like a tiger in repose, of the rumpus he wrought, could not avoid Macebuh. He put paid to all controversy with another cheeky output. He growled with a piece that evoked another giant of liberal ideas who had just died. He titled it: “Raymond Aron: 1905-1983.”

The great Dele Giwa snatched him as a columnist, where he thundered every other week. During the June 12 imbroglio, he was at the barricades in Tempo magazine while the streets burned.

He has kept firing since, and he does that in this paper to applause. When he sits at our editorial board, we still see his sparks of rigour, art and humour. As a young septuagenarian, he will do well to occasionally go to the classroom, and wake up the lethargic generation of today. I wish him a great 70th.

Joke Silva: A Gazelle Across The Ages


In four days, Mabel Ajoke Silva, the more adorable half of acting colossus, Olú Jacobs, shall awake, by the grace of God, as a 60-year old wife, mother, grandmother and still a lodestar of Nigeria’s filmic firmament. Her hallmarks on the chequered history of the Nigerian motion picture world have been illustrious, robust and expansive. It is almost impossible to believe that this delectable role interpreter has been performing, at a premium level, for four decades!

Silva has elegantly traversed the stage, radio, television, video, celluloid…what else is there? She has done that, been there…for all these years with such a lingering aroma that draws young women, and hitherto bewildered parents to believe that acting, and the different aspects of the creative process, can indeed serve as one of the greatest levers for nation-building and respectable personal ambition. She has been at the arrowhead of few but great female thespians whose contributions, expertise, carriage, and charisma have shattered the long held myth and misgivings that artistes, of any hues, were namesakes of vagabonds and undesirable elements.

We honour today this dainty gazelle across the ages, as she clocks 60 years on September 29, 2021. Here is a reprise of my reflections on her career and characteristics in the book, “Reflections: Anthology of Thoughts on Nigerian Movie Industry” (June, 2021):
“Resplendent actress and artistic director, properly so called. She makes performance, on and off stage, a teasing proposition for parents to warmly contemplate their children’s interest in drama.

“The one who would need no introduction since she joined the glitzy parade in 1990, Ajoke Silva (Jacobs, a name she acquired when she married theatre titan, Olu Jacobs in 1985, but kept in abeyance by mutual professional understanding), would be 60 on September 29, 2021.

“A graduate of Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, London (1982 – 1984), and later the University of Lagos (1988 – 1992), Silva sits atop the Lufodo Group as Vice Chairman, and the Director of Studies for one of the group’s subsidiaries, Lufodo Academy (since 2009). The Group is all about stage and film production, including incursions into distribution, training and consultancy. For a number of years, she was the pioneer managing director of Malete Film Village, facilitated by Kwara State government and its state’s university.

“Let’s try and retrace her dainty footsteps back a little bit. Her 1980s activities were strung between stage, school, “several radio and television drama in early ‘81”, and ‘hubbying’ with her ‘gentle giant’. She kicked off with Soyinka’s Jero’s Metamorphorsis (1981) for the Nigerian National Theatre with Edith Enem as the Artistic Director. The following year, 1982, was busier: to mark Nigeria’s 21st independence anniversary, Silva alongside Jacob, featured in Coming of Age, a commissioned work, written by Jacob, and directed by Enem. She was also involved with Ayo Lijadu in a puppetry project with the same National Theatre, in the same year. Then, Mirror in the Sun occupied her mid-80s, followed by Olu Jacob’s Holy Child which dominated her artistic occupation between 1986 and 1993. Thereafter, she returned to school in 1988. At UNILAG, she was active on stage with Bode Osanyin ministering at the Cultural Centre. For example: Exception and The Rule and Omodo were two plays she reformed in. Silva ended the decade with Fani-Kayode’s Mind Bending (1990/1991).

“Venturing into virgin land of video acting, Silva was magnificent in Lola Fani Kayode’s Mind Bending (1991/1992), Bunmi Oyinsan’s Owuro Lojo (1993), pulsating in Amaka Igwe’s Violated (1995), and did her parts in Chico Ejiro’s Silent Night (1996),
“In 2006, she won Best Lead Actress award at the 2nd AMAA for her sterling performance in Women’s Cot (2005); and took the Best Supporting Actress award at the 4th AMAA, in 2008 for her exquisite grandmother role in the 12-time nominated movie, White Waters (2007).

“And there are more examples of her long and illustrious career: Opin Irin Ajo, Brave Heart (all 2005); the soulful narrator in The Amazing Grace, she played Dupe Ajayi in Mildred Okwo’s action thriller which got eight nominations at AMAA 2008, 30 Days (2006); Ndubuisi Okoh’s To Love and to Hold, Oriaku in Strong Men at Work, Eewo Orisa (all 2007); Sister’s Love (2008), 5 Apostles (2009), Bent Arrows, Tango with Me (both 2010); Phone Swap (2012), Potato Potahto (2017), The Royal Hibiscus Hotel (2017), Chief Daddy, If I Am President, Bandits, Grandma Nadia in Kada River (all 2018); The Set Up, Mrs. Chukwuemeka in 2 Weeks in Lagos (both 2019); Citation, Namaste Wahala , and Mama Jumoke in Light in the Dark (all 2020).”

To the heartbeat of the Jacobs, and the shining star of the Silvas, a grateful nation, including three love-struck generations, stand tall to give you, Mabel Ajoke Silva, a standing ovation for a truly remarkable and inspirational application of your talents and beliefs in pursuit of your career, lifestyle, public service and family values. Happy birthday, and congratulations, Mama Olusoji.

Meanwhile, Poor Nigerians Are Going Extinct
Yes, the Lord Jesus said the poor we shall always have around us… We remember people like Alhaji Umaru Dikko of the late 80s claiming Nigerians were not hungry as they had not been eating from dustbins… and poverty, as today’s partisans are quick to interject, is not the creatíon of the Buhari administration. It has been our lot for many decades. We know you have the statistics…and your government say they are working assiduously to remedy the situation. That may be so…but the narratives of hunger, desperation, and pure lack amongst our people, both in the urban or hinterland, have weaved gory and horrifying visions of end time proportions. Read through the media, scan the social media, go out of your comfort zones and observe the pervasive clutch of despair and deprivations in all zones of the country. The poor are speedily going extinct.