Last week on this page, I wrote a heartfelt tribute to my friend, Mr Babs Omotowa, the outgoing MD of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, which was established in
1989 to harness Nigeria’s vast natural gas resources and produce Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG and Natural Gas Liquids, NGLs, for export.
I listed some of Omotowa’s considerable achievements at the helm of this highly successful joint venture between the Federal Government (represented by NNPC, which owns 49%) and three international oil companies (Shell, Total and ENI).
Much to my surprise, another friend (who is also an oil industry professional) visited me shortly after this glowing tribute was published and told me that some folks who had read it were saying that Omotowa himself – or NLNG’s PR Department – must have paid me handsomely to make such flattering comments!
And I was immensely irritated by this allegation for a couple of reasons!
Reason Number One is that Omotowa deserves all of the praise I lavished on him because his achievements are real, a matter of public record and verifiable.
Reason Number Two is that it is unfair and the height of cynicism to assume that all Nigerian journalists are so aggressively transactional or materialistic that they cannot genuinely admire a VIP’s ethics, industriousness and effectiveness – or a corporate entity’s performance and contributions to its host community…and cannot express their admiration in writing without collecting money to do so.
Anyway, I hope that any other Vanguard readers who suspect that I was bribed will kindly give me the benefit of the doubt and believe me when I say that I didn’t request – or receive – any financial inducement to speak well of Omotowa or NLNG.
And, by the way, I have written quite a few nice articles, over the years, about other important people whom I have never even met – or tried to meet!
According to a Global Slavery Index that was published in May, there are 875,500 people living in slavery in Nigeria. The index, based on a survey that was conducted in 167 countries across the world by the Walk Free Foundation, also claimed that Nigeria has more enslaved people than any country in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The survey disclosed that slavery in Nigeria takes the form of forced labour in the domestic sector, and forced marriages.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (873,100 people) and Ethiopia (411,600 people) came second and third in Sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, North Korea and India came top, followed by China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.
We live as we learn. Until I came across this shocking information, I had no idea that the terrible evil that is slavery is so prevalent in the modern world.
Nigeria has so many problems on so many different fronts. Only Lord knows how and when we can overcome this one and ensure that every citizen is free.
A sad and happy anniversary
This coming Sunday – September 11 – will be the first anniversary of my release by the kidnapping gang that abducted me from my bedroom in Port Harcourt last year and held me in a lonely, scary hut in the middle of the creeks for two weeks.
Sunday will be a sad anniversary because it was a hugely traumatic experience from which my family and I will probably never fully recover, psychologically.
The physical injuries that were inflicted on me have healed. But the bad memories cannot be eradicated, no matter how hard I try to forget. I have flashbacks every single day, plus occasional nightmares; and I’ve yet to pluck up the courage to return to my home (I fled to London almost as soon as I was freed by my captors).
Sunday, however, will also be a happy anniversary because I was luckier than some.
Horror stories abound about abductees who have been raped or murdered. And the boys who grabbed me showed me harrowing video footage that they’d stored on their smartphones – of female captives they had sexually brutalised (for fun).
They also boasted about people they had killed and told me about a man whose skin they had burned off in anger (because they felt that he and his wife were hiding the extent of their wealth in a bid to minimise his ransom payment).
Given how tragically things could have turned out for me, I can only fervently thank God that I emerged fairly unscathed and am alive to tell the tale.
A handful of pathetic and profoundly unpleasant characters have made a habit of making extremely vicious remarks about me online – via Twitter, Facebook, the message board beneath my column on the Vanguard website, etc, etc, etc.
They can best be described as the complete opposite of a fan club!!!
Such digital pests – usually abject cowards who conceal their true identities – are known as “trolls”; and they take pleasure in hurling the worst kind of abuse at individuals who have public profiles – movie stars, politicians, journalists, whoever.
One of them recently gleefully said that the kidnapping served me right and that s/he wished I’d died. This opinion was probably politically motivated (a lot of the trolls who target me have a beef with me for supporting Buhari’s presidential bid).
Anyway, I rarely have the time to trawl through internet fora to find out what people are saying about me, good or bad, but I do occasionally chance upon hate-filled online posts from trolls. Fortunately, these fulminations are vastly outnumbered by positive comments or constructive criticisms from normal folks.
The thing that strikes me most about trolls’ vitriolic posts is that they are, nine times out of ten, barely literate and riddled with grammatical errors, as well as deranged! And I actually pity these sick sadists because they must have pretty empty existences to be squandering their energies on such unproductive nonsense.