Social commentator, human rights activist and famous lawyer, Festus Keyamo (SAN), in this no-holds-barred interview with LANRE ODUKOYA spoke about the journey to becoming a SAN, why he stuck to the guns against his kinsman, former President Goodluck Jonathan, to birth a new government, and virtues that molded him into greatness.
The awarding of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) seemed to arrive not at a time you expected and we noticed you went to the UK to become a Fellow of International Arbitration while waiting to be pronounced a SAN. Were you so dampened that you had to seek more honour abroad?
Well, I’d say yes and no. At a time I decided go to the UK to get my fellowship, I’d always wanted to do it. So, I wanted to be a Fellow of International Arbitration and it’s very much related to law and it gives you more international scope.
On a lighter note, that means when practice is dull here in Nigeria, I can go elsewhere and make a few bucks to buy garri for my family. I decided long ago that I was going to be a Fellow of International Arbitration in the UK, there’s also a Nigerian version of it but I decided that I wanted mine in the UK. But at a point when my SAN(ship) was a bit delayed, I saw it as an opportunity to make progress in that area.
At some point in life, you just want to make progress; you don’t want to be where you are. And the practice was at a point getting too monotonous and I wanted to just add a few feathers to my cap.
So, that was the decision I took at that time. Maybe the fact that they delayed the SAN(ship) made me quickly go and do it. But I’d have done it eventually whether I become a SAN early or not. Luckily enough, both of them came almost a year apart and at the end of the day it was double blessings for me.
Did you feel any sense of disappointment when you were finally pronounced a SAN given that you’d waited for it so long?
Did you receive it with the same enthusiasm you would have shown it if it had come six or five years earlier? I just took it as God’s appointed time. You won’t believe me, I wasn’t sad, too happy or frustrated. I just told myself this is God’s appointed time and I took it in my stride.
At a point you may want to reflect and say, look, why didn’t it come on time? But then you’d look at other situations where there are people who are also extremely capable and qualified to get it but have still not got it.
So, it’s a matter of counting one’s blessings. Don’t be angry, don’t be sad, don’t be too happy, just accept it that it’s God’s appointed time and just move on with it. Accept it that you would not be the first, you would not be the last and accept it that God just said this is your year and take it.
Did the delay cost you anything valuable?
I don’t think it cost me anything but in any case you would never know what it would have brought you whether it was blessing in disguise or whether it was a drawback because we’re not clairvoyant and we’re not also God. If I’d gotten it earlier, would I have got into trouble? If I’d got it earlier, would I have been bigger than I am? You would never know. Look, if you know how my mind works, you won’t even try to delve into this area of whether I’m happy or I feel frustrated. I am somebody who counts his blessings.
The first blessing I count is that I’m alive. Today, I reflect back and know of my schoolmates who died in primary school, I know those who died in secondary school, I know a classmate of mine who died a week before we wrote our final examination in Ekpoma. I remember him vividly and I also remember my friends who we graduated together; some have made it big in various areas and others have come short in certain areas- it’s like mixed fate for all of us because some of them have passed on too since we graduated.
So, when you reflect on all of this, you’d just say, ‘what right do I have to complain?’ Everyone’s got his own appointed time and just accept it that there wouldn’t have been anything different if it comes before or after.
There’s no parameter to employ to calculate what you should have done because God didn’t just have you in that schedule. He may not have you in His schedule in 2014, 2015, 2016 but your name appears in God’s schedule in 2017.
It’s just that. During the reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan, your name was all over the newspapers for things you felt the government was not doing right, but less if not nothing has been heard from you yet about where the current government is erring. So many would think is it because of the board appointment you got with the
NDIC or because you’re a lawyer with the EFCC?
I have no such of engagement with the government of the day. No kind of engagement at all. Even the names that were announced recently came to me as a surprise. I sat in my house, practicing my law, I didn’t lobby for anything and I don’t have any sense of entitlement at all. So, even as I speak with you, they just announced it we’ve not got letters and nothing has taken off. So, I’m just who I am.
Let me also be a bit presumptuous, I’m very comfortable because that’s the natural response to this kind of question. I’ve reached the height of my profession and I don’t need patronage from the government to survive.
What I have in my profession is pension for life. I said pension for life because it guarantees that I practice and earn money till the day I drop dead. That is what I have in my profession. It’s not an appointment that I must retire from at 65 or 75.
The older you get the better it is for you especially if you’re a very active and practicing lawyer, let alone when you’re a senior advocate. So, really, I will be most stupid to be sycophantic to anybody. Whatever I do is for the best of my country propelled by my sense of history, my sense of balance, what we have and what we may get if we turn the other way and perhaps, maybe because of some insiders knowledge as to what’s going on in this country.
This is because most of the things you see on social media are completely different from the realities on the ground and I’m sure you know that even as a journalist. You know the news behind the news. Unfortunately, the masses of our country; most of the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram activists don’t know the news behind the news.
They see things from the surface and comment. Some of us are c l o s e to you people and we have the privilege to know the news behind the news most times. Having said that, it will be wrong for anyone to think that because I prosecute for the EFCC, I refuse to comment on the wrongs of this government. How long do you think I’ve been prosecuting for the EFCC? Of course you know it’s been long.
It was in the height of my prosecution for the EFCC under former President Jonathan that I opposed him. So, if you want to look for somebody with courage, that was the height of courage. When I knew he could win again? For me it wasn’t for the perks of my practice, as far as I’m concerned I’m just assisting that body because I would earn more money if I don’t prosecute for the EFCC. That’s because I would defend those accused of corruption and I would have more money to pay lawyers.
At times with apologies, I say this without intent to offend the antigraft agency as hard working as they areat times we go on for four years without receiving one kobo from them. We merely do these things out of passion.
The stipend they give to encourage us once in a while is just to cover our transport and it’s been a long time now they did that. I don’t have to reveal how many years ago I received a single bank alert from the commission.
It’s passion that drives us. I was discussing with one of the key prosecutors yesterday and he mentioned the same thing, a senior advocate like me. Bringing our status, experience and everything to help a vital part of government which is the anti-corruption crusade is something we should be commended for.
And so, don’t forget too that Jonathan is my kinsman from the South-south, he was pitched against a northerner who I had absolutely no relationship with, Gen. Buhari, at that time. Everybody around Jonathan is my friend or classmate, so I could easily have walked into that government and picked anything I wanted.
Let me even mention names to you; Gov. Dickson of Bayelsa State is my classmate, he was one of t h e closest to Jonathan. Dickson and I are very close, he’s even my ‘call-mate’. One who is not even close to Jonathan, Dogara, the speaker was also my classmate and ‘call-mate’, of course, you know Asari Dokubo is my brother and my friend. I brought him out of prison and you know how close he was to Jonathan. You know Kingsley Kuku and how close he was to Jonathan.
These are all my childhood friends, peers, brothers from the Southsouth who I have all the affiliation to. Everybody around Jonathan was my people. Even before Oronto Douglas passed on, we came from the same Human Rights circle. I knew nobody around Gen. Buhari, not one person.
But I did what was the best for my country because I saw what was going. I told myself and my conscience that this was wrong. I didn’t want the Dasuki money; I knew that money was going around then for people to campaign for them. In Buhari’s case we were spending our own money.
Do you sell your conscience to someone who is not giving you money or someone who gives you money? For 16 years, you saw how we complained about the PDP and their ways- many of us were loud about it. Then immediately after we were able to pull off that revolution in 2015, then some of us who were leaders of that cause will turn around and in two years and switch sides to the same people we fought? No way! What we can do is constructive criticism which we have done and not to call for change from what we established. It’s too early to call for change. I’m not ashamed and I’m confident to say that we cannot in two and half years call for the change of what we fought for many years to achieve.
From your constituency, the justice system, the appointment of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has been received with much criticism and he has not scored well from his outings to earn people’s confidence.
How does this make you feel? There are people in the present team who have done well and there are those who haven’t done well. That doesn’t generally bring down the entire government. It means that you need to change some members of your team like some parts of your vehicle. Even though the vehicle is moving, there is perhaps a reason for change of some parts in order for the vehicle to perform better.
Now, while this may be the perception of some people, some people might argue that he has done well too. I’ve had cause to criticise him openly too especially on the ‘Mainagate’. He’s my close friend and my brother but when it comes to the governance of this country some of us must speak out. And I spoke out and said, look, in certain areas you got it wrong my brother. You shouldn’t have been anxious enough to recall Maina.
There are other areas he might have done well too, people have where they misstep. We’ve heard of AGFs who were involved in other ‘gates’. Some of them are on the run now, they’ve declared them wanted.
You have fought many battles and come out either unscathed or with not so known scars. Which would you consider the most difficult?
It may not even be the ones that attract public attention and you won’t believe it. The ones that attract public attention are even the simplest. Some of the cases of very private persons that gave us sleepless nights and we fight those battles so much and pull through, we really heave a big sigh of relief here in this office. Because of clients’ confidentiality I may not go through the details of some of these cases.
Not so much has changed in your look in years despite the workload and mental stress, what’s the secret of your good look?
It’s hunger. Try and be hungry and you won’t grow pot-belly. On a serious note, it’s discipline. I rest a lot. I don’t do night parties, I don’t club. Those have never been my lifestyle. I was brought up as a very disciplined young man. I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness preaching from house to house and we had to go to bed early.
I was raised in a very disciplined environment and that discipline is still in me till now. Even in my late 40s, if I’m outside and it gets too late, I’d rush back home to my bed without anyone flogging me to do it. When I left my father’s house and went to the university, it was what propelled me. I sleep well, nothing disturbs my mind. Let the world be shouting Keyamo, I would just switch off my light and off I go in my sleep.
You’ve shared inspiring stories of your rise from bottom to the top. What presently excites you after you’ve conquered the war against poverty?
When I see young men today who want their apparels to make them, they want to shine in what they wear and the kind of cars they drive at the beginning of their lives, I just pity them. It’s a wrong way to start life, build your person, your character, passion for what you like first and every other thing will fall in place. Don’t put the cart before the horse- sadly, this is what we find happening around today. I didn’t drive a car six years after I was called to the bar.
I drove my old Mercedes Benz car which they called ‘Smoking Joe’ about seven years after. I bought it third hand. That was part of the setting with which I started life. My father and my mother had never attended any of my ceremonies in my life until my conferment as SAN when I had to fly them like a king and queen to Abuja to attend.
They didn’t attend my matriculation because they weren’t buoyant enough to come, they were not buoyant enough to attend my convocation and they couldn’t attend my call to bar ceremony because there was no money. I’m proud to say all this now because at the end of the day, the story is sweet. I don’t look back with regret.
My conferment was the first event they attended- guess what, that is even the sweetest one for them to attend. Of what benefit would it have been for them to attend my matriculation and I don’t graduate? Of what benefit will it be for them to attend my matriculation and spend so much money and I can’t be called to the bar?
Of what benefit would it have been for them to attend my call to bar and make so much noise and cook all kinds of rice and I make nothing out of my career? No benefits. The real icing on the cake was what they came for and God designed it that way. That was why I flew them like king and queen and I was proud to do that.
BBNaija 2018: How I lost my virginity to a rapist –Ifu Ennada
Evicted Big Brother Naija 2018 housemate, Ifu Ennada, has narrated how she was raped by a popular entertainer.
Ennada said she was raped sometime in 2016 and infected with Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) by someone in the entertainment industry.
According to her, this led her into depression as she was threatened not to tell her story and was afraid of being shamed by the public. She further refuted statement made while in the house that she is a virgin.
According to her, she was misinterpreted by viewers. In narrating her ordeal, she wrote on her Instagram page: “My Virginity Story; Rape & Depression- When I was in the Big Brother House emotions were raised when during a Truth or Dare game I said I’d not really had sex. People interpreted that as me claiming to be a Virgin.
The truth is in 2016 I was raped by someone in the entertainment industry, before then I was a Virgin. This person also infected me with an STI… I was also threatened by this person and was very scared of social media’s bashing with the usual questions of “what was she wearing!” “why did she go to his house? So in all my sadness and depression I decided to tell the world what had happened to me using film as a medium. I was inspired to write and produce my film – Tears of a Broken Virgin. I got a lot of help from social media – people volunteered to work for me free of charge even my director – Benny Atagame Alli.
Though some parts of my film is fiction, the bulk of it was inspired by my story. The lead character’s name is Ada which is a short form of my name Adanne- popularly pronounced as Ennada. Because of my sad experience I battled depression, developed trust issues and found it hard to connect with people especially men. I wanted to tell my story and also pass a strong message to rape victims and rapists. I hope I was able to do that with my film. I intend to expand this into a feature length film. I hope everyone out there is inspired to stand up against rape.”
I’m obsessed with c ute hand bags –Ida
Mawedo Ida is the creative director of Maweestitches, an Abuja based fashion house that caters for those whose style philosophy is chic and decent. She spoke with Deborah Ocheni about her sense of fashion and more.
How did you come up with your brand name and what is the message behind it?
The coinage Mawee is from my name Mawedo and the stitches is an act of sewing that stands the test of time.
The fashion market seems saturated, how do you intend to keep afloat?
Fashion market is not and can never be saturated because the sky is too wide for two birds to collide. There are still thousands of people whose style needs are yet to be met. I feel the market is empty.
Would you say fashion designing is lucrative enough?
I would say it is because aside fulfilling my childhood desire of becoming a fashion designer, the business is also helping me to pay bills.
Does your background influence who you are now?
Yes it does. I have a very humble background and parents that believe you can attain any height in life through hard work. My parents supported my idea of becoming a fashion designer and I think their encouragement and financial support helped me to get to where I am now.
Are you satisfied with your choice of business?
I am satisfied because it is something that has to do with passion. I am satisfied with regard to the passion aspect but still trusting God for take home satisfaction as I’m still lagging behind.
What inspires your various creations?
My environment and the internet as new designs keep springing up.
What is the major challenge young fashion designers face in Nigeria?
Poor power supply and funding are the major challenges young entrepreneurs face in Nigeria.
Would you say government has done enough for creative people in the country?
Not at all; they can do better. They don’t understand that the economy of Nigeria will do far better if creative people are well taken care off.
What is your personal style?
I don’t joke with modesty in my style. I believe you can be classy and modest.
How do you source for your fabrics?
Fabrics are sourced both locally and i n t e r n a – t i o n a l l y but trust me, there are a lot of good fabrics in Nigeria.
Do you have any specific research process when you start new collections?
Yes I do; fashion evolves and for a designer to remain relevant in the market, you need to do a lot of research.
Was there anyone in your family who made you feel like becoming a fashion designer?
Who inspires you the most in fashion industry?
Micheal Kors. He is very versatile.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself on a higher level.
Are you a fan of ankara prints?
Yes I am. Who wouldn’t like the beautiful bold ankara prints?
What is your take on African traditional wears?
It shows our culture and I like it.
Do you consider any fashion item indispensable?
No, I don’t.
While shopping, which fashion item catches your fancy?
I love accessories.
Which fashion accessory do you live for?
I love hand bags.
Do you conform to trends?
Which fashion trends do you love most? Yes, but I create trends because I have clients to impress.
How comfortable do you feel in jeans and T-shirt?
I feel smart and elegant in jeans and T-shirt. What makes a woman well dressed? A woman is well dressed when her cleavages are well covered.
Whose celebrity style do you like most?
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Fashion wise, do you have a role model?
No I don’t.
Is there anything you are unlikely to be caught wearing?
I don’t wear revealing outfits.
What is your ready to go outfits?
When it comes to fashion, would you say your physique works to your advantage?
Yes it does because I am bold and whatever I put on flatters.
Which outfits take up most space in your wardrobe?
How do you love your shoes?
Simple and comfy
What determines what you wear?
The event I’m going for.
What do you think of modern designers?
They are very creative.
Do you have a signature perfume?
No, I don’t
Do you have any fashion obsession?
I’m obsessed with cute hand bags.
Greater days ahead (II)
One week later, as God would have it, his church raised the required fund on his behalf. In consequence to this, his Pastor accompanied him to his school for the awaited registration. It was indeed a miracle just like his mother kept telling him.
Prior to the exam period, Uzo left no stone unturned towards ensuring that he made distinction in all his subjects. He was thoroughly determined to make his mum who he regarded as an ‘angel’ proud. He was a notable science student in his school that in every interschool exhibition/competition involving the school, he must be the school’s representative or one of the representatives as might be the case.
When the results were released in August 1994, he came out with flying colours just as he anticipated. More interestingly, he was not just the best candidate among his set/peers but was the overall best in the whole of Lagos State. As regards the amazing performance, he was granted a scholarship by the state’s government to study his dream course, Medicine and Surgery in any university across the federation.
His mum, Ugonma couldn’t hold her joy. On hearing the latest development, she felt like running from Lagos to Abia State – her home state. She alongside her entire family dedicated the rare victory to God. And, she challenged her other four children to follow suit. They were made to realize that their elder brother had laid a tremendous foundation for them, hence had no reason to fail.
The following year being 1995, Uzo sat for the University Matriculation Examination (UME) – now known as the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). He enrolled for the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to study Medicine.
Consequently, he made an excellent grade when the result came out later in the year, and he successfully secured admission in the university on merit toward the end of the year in question.
Before he departed for the campus, he had an indoor one-on-one meeting that lasted for several minutes, if not hours, with his wonderful and darling mother.
“Uzo my son,” Ugonma called. “I have always told you that God makes a way where there seems to be no way.”
Uzo grinned, visualizing the memory lane.
They were seated on separate plastic chairs situated in their humble room. Ugonma who was plump, about 4.8-foot tall and chocolate, was putting on a pink casual dress and barefooted. On his part, Uzo was clad in multiple-coloured knickers, green polo spotted with white colour and equally barefooted; he was slim, fair and about 5.5-foot tall – he was a reminiscent of his late father. They were seated directly opposite each other, but very closely.
“Now you can see for yourself.” she proceeded. “Of course you have seen how miraculous our Lord is.”
“Mum, you are absolutely right.” he responded. “He is indeed a miracle working God.”
“I am happy for you, my son.”
“Thank you mum.”
“Now that you are in the university.” she proceeded, calmly grabbed his two hands with hers respectively. “You must not forget where you are coming from.”
She continued relentlessly till both of them became saturated. It was a holistic counselling section.
The following three days, Uzo left for the campus. While in the university, as an ardent and gifted singer as well as one who could play an organ perfectly, he never abandoned his artistic talent rather he became more devoted to the calling.
A first year medical student and a well brought up chap, Uzo was taking three major things very seriously; they were – his prayers, studies and talent. He resisted everything that was liable to make him a failure.
Amazingly, his singing talent took him round the state and beyond owing to uncountable public functions as well as competitions he was engaged in, that at a point, he was chosen to represent Nigeria in one international singing competition that involved students of various tertiary institutions in the world.
In the aforesaid competition, Uzo emerged as the overall best. In addition to the astonishing prizes attached to the award which included hundred thousand US dollars, a duplex in Lagos State and a Range Over Jeep, the organizer of the event – the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – issued him a scholarship to study his discipline in any university of his choice across the globe up to any level. But Uzo chose to remain in UNILAG so he would not be far from his beloved family.
On receiving the incredible news, his mother Ugonma passed out due to overwhelming euphoria but regained her wellness after forty-eight hours in a hospital bed.
Little did the poor widow know that, there was a greater day that lied ahead when her son was granted a scholarship by the Lagos State government.
From that moment onwards, their family’s life changed overnight. Everything including food, clothes and adequate shelter became available. To assert the least, they never lacked again.
The rest is history, please.
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