By Wole Olaoye
When strange things happen repeatedly and the abnormal begins to wear the toga of normalcy, it is time to raise the alarm. Aside from informing, educating and entertaining us, the media also help society set its agenda and fulfil a much needed surveillance function to keep the society inviolate.
In our politics, the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. In daily living, the situation is the same. It is our duty to insist that no matter how tempting it is to normalise anomie, we must constantly tug at the reins of social restraint, lest we revert to the neanderthal age.
We have heard of high government officials stealing billions of dollars. Soon, if the trajectory is allowed free rein, they will graduate to trillions of Naira. No amount is too big to steal anymore. However, no matter how huge their heist is, nothing compares to stealing a human being. To steal a fellow human being is to perpetrate the ultimate degeneracy.
Stories of depraved human beings stealing fellow humans dot the environment pervasively. Most times, the motivating factor is money. If we consider how some people’s destinies have been altered or negatively affected by such occurrences, we will appreciate the need for urgency in arresting the monster.
No human being had a chance to choose his/her parents or nationality. We are all putty in the hands of Fate. The least that a human being would expect, however, is that he would be allowed to make the proper entry and exit without any confusion as to biological parentage. But that is now a luxury, it seems, in our depraved society where a thriving underground market subsists for trading in babies.
The world was shocked recently when a couple, Prof and Mrs Okwudili, of Ogbunike in Anambra State disclosed that they had just discovered that their 20-year-old son was born a twin and that the twin sister had been stolen at birth and sold out by the medical staff for financial gain.
The twin female, known as Juliet Agulanna, was allegedly stolen at birth and sold to one Mrs Chidimma M. Agulanna by the owner of the defunct Madonna Infirmary Hospital, one Dr Oguannua in connivance with his nurses when her mother delivered her on July 18, 2002. But, 20 years later, Juliet, a student of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi, went to a shop located at Thinkers Corner, Enugu, near her residence, to undergo an apprenticeship in hairdressing. It turned out that the owners of the property where the shop was located were her biological parents.
Shortly after she began her apprenticeship, Juliet was inundated with questions by customers as to whether the Madan in the next shop, the landlady, was her mother. The same question was also being asked of Mrs Gloria Okwudili —whether she was Juliet’s mother because the resemblance was uncanny. Concerned customers asked the girl about her date of birth and were shocked that it coincided with the date of birth of Mrs Okwudili’s son — July 18, 2002. What freak of nature was it that made the girl share the same birth date with a boy who looked like her male version?
When Juliet confronted her foster mother with the developments, the woman told her that it was all a mistake and that her real date of birth was June 14, 2002. She then asked for the name of the hospital where she was born and the woman gave one name after the other. Eventually, it became clear to Juliet that her foster mother was lying.
At 20, Juliet was desirous to know exactly who her parents were. She had noticed too many similarities between Mrs Okwudili’s son and herself and the word in town was that they were twins and that the female child had been sold to a childless couple by the doctor who took the delivery having lied to the mother of the twins that she delivered one male child. The more she interacted with the Okwudilis, the more she had a pull to find out the truth about her paternity.
Her foster parents, the Agulannas, tried everything to convince her that she was their biological daughter, but their conflicting stories gave up the game. To put matters to rest, Juliet approached Mrs Okwudili one fateful morning and requested that he wanted a DNA test to confirm who her true parents were. Last July, the Okwudilis and Juliet gave samples for the DNA test. The result of the test came out in September, revealing that the Okwudilis are the true parents of Juliet by a margin of 99.99 percent.
The matter is likely to go to court because, now that the paternity of Juliet has been established, the ghost of the various crimes that led to her growing up within the wrong family, cannot be rested until a proper investigation and judicial intervention play their role in ensuring that justice is not just done but is seen to have been done. There are set procedures for adopting babies in Nigeria. It will be interesting to see when the courts interrogate whether those procedures were followed to the letter, if at all.
But for the unseen hand of Fate, that young girl would have gone to her grave thinking she was who she was not. Why would a human being be denied her rightful heritage? Why would an innocent baby be sold under the table like contraband goods just to satiate the greed and inhumanity of fellow men?
As if the trauma of the Okwudilis wasn’t bad enough, the society was further shocked by revelations that unidentified gunmen recently attacked a maternity hospital in Nkpologwu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, taking away four newborn babies.
According to the reports, one of the locals told journalists that the attackers did not steal anything else as usually happens when armed robbers raid a community. “No one was injured, and no one was killed in the attack. Other than the stealing of the babies, the motive for the invasion of the hospital is not known”, they said.
It is being speculated that there is a thriving underground market where babies are bought and sold to childless couples who prefer the black market to civilised adoption because of the stigma associated with childlessness. The more macabre aspect of the revelations is that some of the babies would be sold to ritualists who would use their body parts for occult sacrifice.
Concern has also been expressed about the high prevalence of kidnappings linked to ritualists in the run-up to elections. The word in town is that desperate political foot soldiers procure human body parts for voodoo purposes in aid of their principals’ political ambitions.
Whatever be the case, the society is at the mercy of these demons. Only the police and their sister security agents are licensed and equipped to interdict them. And the mass media, in carrying out its surveillance function in the society has to continuously draw the society’s attention to these sacrilegious occurrences which have the effect of eroding our humanity.
There is nothing more troubling than the realisation that even helpless babies are targets of kidnappers. It makes one wonder how much lower we have to sink before we are horrified enough to stamp out this peril. Or, can anything be more evil than stealing a baby?
If anything is certain in the trajectory between life and its end, it is the exit. No matter how one makes one’s entrance, what matters most, say the sages, is how one finishes. Has the person impacted humanity in a lasting manner? If your answer is yes, there you have your candidate for immortality. Such doers never really die. And that is why Sam Nda-Isaiah’s legacy endures and his memory remains evergreen.
“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” asked novelist Garth Nix.
Sam chose his path and trod it admirably. In spite of life’s seeming futility, the greatest prize at the end is to have made an indelible footprint as Sam Nda-Isaiah, founding Chairman of the Leadership newspaper group, has done. It is not given to most people to be relevant after their demise. In Sam’s case, it is as if he never departed. His legacy endures.
May the Heavens grant him peace. Perfect peace.
(Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)
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