The third time someone offered me money was in 1987 when late Chief Onwuka Kalu (Monday, May 24, 1954 – Monday, February 23, 2015), a business magnate sent an amount for Christmas celebrations. I did not know how much it was, because I did not take the envelope from his female staff that brought it. I guessed he sent money to the Editors of some other leading national newspapers in Lagos for the same purpose, but I was not in a position to know if anyone of them accepted or rejected it.
When the lady reported back to Chief Kalu, he was so impressed that he phoned and invited me to his office in Ikoyi, Lagos because he wanted to meet me and be my friend. I told him it would have been appropriate for me to come to his office, if I was the one desirous of seeing him. But that since he was the one who wanted to meet me, he was the one who should come to my office in between the domestic and international airport terminals at Ikeja, not the other way round. There was also the fact that I was older than him by about ten years. Like him I was born on a Monday, but mine being on September 4, 1944.
It was a strategy I came up with to put him off because as the Editor of a newspaper (the Sunday Concord) I did not want to be close to any politician or businessman. But the humble man he was, the very wealthy Chief Kalu agreed to my suggestion, but said he would prefer to visit me at home. I told him I would only give him my address if he promised he would not offer the money I rejected to my wife or children. He agreed and kept to his promise when he came three days later, which was the following Sunday. When he went to glory in 2015, twenty – eight years after our meeting, I paid tribute to him in this column. His staff who brought the money in 1987 phoned to tell me she was the one Kalu sent to me and that her name was Ms. Omoekachie. So, she too is around to bear testimony.
There were other incidents but the final one I want to recall in this series was the money Chief Arthur Nzeribe, a former member of the Senate, sent to me in 1988. It had to do with a front page lead story the Sunday Concord carried on a South – East – born tycoon who wanted to rape an Itsekiri lady he invited to his home in London.
I wrote the piece, but it did not go with my byline (name). The young woman involved and I belonged to the same church and I was on the plane with her and a female friend of hers, when the man who was a friend of her uncle and my former boss when I did vacation job at the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) in 1967, Chief Hope Harriman, told her to see come to his residence the next day because, in his words, he had little money on him that day.
The lady and her friend honoured the man’s invitation at the time he told her to come. He entertained them with food and wine and later invited the woman to another room for the cash. He brought out a wad of British of pound sterling and told her they were all hers, if she would make love with him. She declined and at a stage the man wanted to rape her and she began screaming, unable to overpower her, the man had to give up.
The lady phoned that day and told me what happened and I wrote about it when I returned to Lagos. Since the story said the unnamed tycoon was an Igbo man who owned a house in London many thought it was Chief Nzeribe. He therefore phoned me about some people’s reaction to the piece and I told him I wrote the story and I knew the person concerned as I was on the plane to London when he invited the lady to his home. I told him I would do something about it and put my name in the report.
Because of my integrity, people believed the story that Nzeribe was not the person involved in the scandal as I travelled with the lady to London that day. Two days after the publication came out in the Sunday Concord Nzeribe sent money in an envelope to me, but as always, I did not take it. He therefore phoned that he would like to meet me and invited me to his presidential suite at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island in Lagos.
As was the case with Chief Kalu, I told him I would only come if he would not re – present the envelope to me. He gave his word and kept to it when I visited him. I was with him for about two hours during which he ordered food and wine for me. And when I was about leaving he gave me his phone number and address in London to contact him anytime I was in the British capital city. But I never reached out to him after that day either in Nigeria or Britain. It even happened that we traveled in the same plane to Lagos during one of my visits to London that year.
Next Week: Why I did not accept money from people and why a journalist should not do so.
Dr. Goddy Okeke’s ridiculous reaction to Mrs. Folarin’s series (2)
I thank all those who sent text messages of support to me last week on Dr. Okeke’s rude reaction to my article of a fortnight ago. I want to assure Mr. Amutaeze Amutario Donatus Nwodoh (080 – 5245 – 2933) that I had a good reason for not ignoring his criticism. I have been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1974 and during the 43 years there were occasions when some readers reacted angrily to my articles. They called me a bastard or said they were not surprised at what I wrote because we, the Yoruba, are treacherous people who always teamed up with northerners on national issues.
I did not react against them publicly because when one writes on tribal, religious or political issues, one should expect such hostile and abusive reaction from some people. Another reason for my impassivity was that I did not have the names of the critics, their educational status and positions in the society. So, I always felt some of them, or all of them, might have only primary or secondary school education or young to be my son or daughter.
Before this piece on Dr. Okeke, it was only once that I had reacted sharply or harshly to criticism in the 43 years that I have been writing a weekly column. But before telling the story of the two highly educated and placed persons concerned, I have to deal with why I castigated him the way I did in last week’s column.
It was because I knew from the experience I had in 1987 that the only way I could stop him from continuing with his vitriolic text messages to me was to put him into public ridicule. It was also why I had his name in the headline of the article and made it the lead story in the column and drew attention to the irrelevant and unreasonable points he made, his spelling mistakes and mumbo – jumbo or tautological sentences.
It is instructive that as was the case 30 years ago, my strategy worked. After his abusive message published last week, Dr. Okeke sent four other vituperative ones to me in less than an hour. This was in spite of the fact that I only replied his first text. But as at the time of writing this article on Monday afternoon, five days later, he had not reacted to my article. Undoubtedly, this is because he had been overwhelmed by shame with the poor quality of his written English sentences I highlighted.
To be continued next Wednesday