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Ojude Oba: Farooq’s Far Look Beyond The Grave

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Tunde Odesola

The flamboyant Ojude Oba festival of flourish and colours is nothing but the cat’s pyjamas. The lavishness of the Ijebu and their thriftiness are bemusing contradictions. As a matter of fact, the Ijebu and their intimidating panache are just the cat’s meow.

Pomp, power, pleasure and pain, inscribe industry, grit and glamour in the Ijebu DNA. The Ijebu are different, so said their wise king, Awujale Sikiru Adetona, the Ogbagba Agbotewole II, when he traced Ijebu roots to Sudan, saying there was life before Ile-Ife. The Ijebu are just the bee’s knees, simple!

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The làlà koko fèfè of the Ijebu headlined various Nigerian newspapers as the Ojude Oba festival climaxed in Ijebu-Ode last month. The Gen Z slang – steeze – an offspring of style and ease, became a national slogan. Some call it steaze or steez, either way, they aren’t wrong. The style and ease with which the Ijebu have steered the Ojude Oba festival to national consciousness is indeed steezy.

Yearly, many illustrious Ijebu sons, daughters and families come together in a display of love, unity, integration and sociability in Ijebu-Ode. One of such legendary sons of Ijebu is the honcho of Africa’s telecommunication giant, GLOBACOM, Chief Mike Adenuga, whose support for the Ojude Oba festival over the years is stupendous. Also, the popular Balogun Kuku family won the age-grade régbé régbé parade for the eighth time in a row.

From Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey to King Sunny Ade, to the late Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, General Kollington Ayinla, and King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, there’s no big Yoruba musician, apart from Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B and Ragge artistes, that has not sung the panegyric of the Ijebu, with the latest being Buga sensation, Jesse King.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: President Tinubu Exposes Nigeria’s Big Thieves

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Horse riding at the festival is the historical preserve of the families of Ijebu war heroes known as the Balogun. For the Oreagba family, the 2024 edition of the Ojude Oba festival was another opportunity to display the tradition of horse riding to the admiration of the Awujale, indigenes and guests at the king’s forecourt. But little did their 58-year-old son, Farooq, who had been unnoticed riding his horse at the festival in the last 13 years, know that fate was scripting a celebratory chapter in his life. Note, for 13 unbroken years, Farook, the Ijebu cat with nine lives, was riding his horse and smoking his cigar without consequence. Ijebu and cats.

Farooq chatted and partied with family and friends at the Ojude Oba grand finale. He needed not a single word but just the click of the camera to announce himself to the world. Farooq’s newfound celebrity status is the reward for his fidelity to family values demonstrated by his untiring punctuality and execution of the horse riding chore of the Oreagba lineage at the Ojude Oba. If Farooq hadn’t attended this year’s festival, the epitaph on his tombstone might only have read, “Here lies the remains of Farooq omo Oreagba: a great man who lived life to the fullest in the jaws of death.”

Farooq the mortal played his part in the incredible story, which his life journey symbolises, before the gods took over, rewriting and redirecting the script to fulfill his destiny. While preparing for this life-long journey, the young Oreagba armed himself with a Diploma in Business and Finance and a degree in Combined Engineering Studies. He’s also a UK authorised financial representative and a registered trader on the New York Stock Exchange.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: How Oluwo Of Iwo Was Jailed In The US

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Sad enough, the Tottenham Hotspur supporter suffers from an incurable strain of cancer called multiple myeloma. Speaking with me on the phone, Farook said, “Cancer made me realise nothing can be taken for granted. God will never give you a problem you can’t solve. My father died when I was two. My mother raised my sisters and I, and she did a fantastic job. My sisters went to Queens’ College and I went to Kings’ College, Lagos.”

Reflecting on the shifty nature of life’s sand, Farook said he experienced desertion when his life hit a rough patch. He revealed that discipline, focus and determination were life-saving tools needed for navigation on life’s weary road.

He said, “I was a director at the Nigerian Stock Exchange. When I left the Stock Exchange, the desertion began. When I was diagnosed with cancer, the desertion increased because many felt I would die. However, as some people were going out of my life, new ones were coming into my life in my hour of need; I got love from people I least expected just as I got ignored by some people I thought should give love.

“I’ll be 58 in a few days. My phone number has not changed in the last 18-20 years. I now get calls from people who have not said hi to me in the last 10 years. They’re now coming back in droves. To this kind of people, I greet them back by saying hi but I can’t rely on them; the door is closed.”

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I asked Farook if his sickness had affected his sex drive. “I don’t have prostate cancer. My sex drive is perfect,” he said. I also asked him about the reaction of the Awujale after this year’s Ojude Oba blew the internet. “We haven’t spoken yet,” he responded. Did you ever contemplate suicide or suffer depression? I fired. “No, why would I contemplate such? Would you? Neither have I had depression,” came his cool answer.

Cautioning men not to fight their ex-wives, Farook said his ex-wife, a medical doctor based in the UK, was the one who made him go for a routine MIR test which revealed his cancer status. “It was her birthday and I flew to England. At some point in England, my ex-wife advised me to go for a test. Hitherto, I had done a prostate test in South Africa, and I was given a clean bill of health. I did the MIR test in the UK and flew back to Nigeria.

“After a few days, my ex-wife was on the phone crying. She asked if I was alone, I said yes, and she delivered the news. I said it wasn’t possible. I got a second and a third medical opinion. Then, reality set in. It’s good to have regular medical check-ups. Luckily, my cancer was discovered at stage one.”

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Discussing MKO, Bisi Akande, Osimhen And Portable

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Do you have a will, I asked Farook. “I did my will a week after I was diagnosed,” he replied.

Asked if he saw the hand of God in the turn of events in his life, Farook said yes. “I never looked for this (new) role. I’ve been riding the horse and smoking my cigar at the Ojude Oba festival for 13 years. I’ve been with my tattoos. The photographer, Fola Stag, has long been participating in the festival. Some people said my horse was the biggest but I’ve been riding the same horse since. The difference is that this time, Fola Stag got a perfect shot from a great angle and the rest, like they say, is history. I see the hand of God in it all.”

The scion of Oreagba had special meals at a stage in his cancer battle, “but those days are over, I go to buka and eat anything now.”

Surely, cancer has changed the view of Farook about life. “I now look at life differently. I appreciate life more now. Each day is a gift. So, I ensure I live my life to the fullest, live life as normally as possible. I drink whisky. Caution is the word: chemo is a problem and so is hangover. So, if you drink and have a hangover, the two are very painful. I smoke my cigar four days a week, no cigarettes, no pipe. I’ve been playing squash since I was 11. I run at least three times a week. I wake up by 5 a.m. Before I go to work, I run 10 kilometres.

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“I run half marathon, that is, 21 kilometres on weekends. I use the money I raise for my charity work, we have built a school and done some interventions,” the two-time divorcee said.

I called the Ojude Oba festival the cat’s pyjamas and described the Ijebu as the cat’s meow. If you called me names for this, it’s likely you don’t know the adjectives mean exceptionally excellent and very appealing. I forgive.

What’s your greatest wish, I inquired from Farooq. “My youngest child is 12 years old. My children are the centre point of my life. I want to be around for them. If I could live for another 20 years, I would say being diagnosed with cancer is the best thing that happened to me.”

Farook represents the resilient Nigerian spirit in the face of adversity. His is the telling tale of one lucky survivor who never thrust his fate to the dilapidated healthcare centres and infrastructure littering the Nigerian landscape. Instead of labelling Nigerians, especially the youths, as lazy, what governments at all levels should do is stop the crazy looting and make the commonwealth work for all.

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Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola
X: @Tunde_Odesola

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Japa: 4 Ways Nigerians Can Migrate, Get Jobs In Canada

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As Nigeria continues to experience economic challenges, an increasing number of its citizens are exploring opportunities to migrate to Canada.

Canada, known for its welcoming immigration policies and robust job market, has become a top destination for Nigerians seeking a better life. Canada’s comprehensive immigration programs and strategies for job seekers make it an attractive option for those looking to start anew.

Canada’s plan to invite half a million newcomers by 2025, coupled with its need for skilled workers, opens various pathways for Nigerians.

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From the Express Entry system to family sponsorships, these avenues provide hopeful migrants with multiple options to settle and work in Canada.

Here are five key ways Nigerians can migrate and secure employment in Canada:

READ ALSO: Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World 2024

Express Entry

The Express Entry system is Canada’s fastest and most popular immigration program, enabling candidates to receive permanent residence status in as little as six months. By 2025, Canada plans to invite half a million newcomers, with a significant portion coming through one of the three streams of Express Entry. This system evaluates candidates based on factors like age, education, work experience, and language proficiency.

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Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

Throughout the pandemic, Canada’s provinces continued to nominate overseas workers for permanent residence. By 2025, Canada aims to welcome 117,500 new immigrants through PNPs. Each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories offers unique nominee programs with specific eligibility criteria. Some PNPs require a connection to the province, while others invite candidates based solely on their ability to meet the province’s labor market needs.

READ ALSO: Top 10 Countries With Strongest Militaries In Africa [Latest]

Business Immigration

For those with experience in managing or owning a business, federal and provincial business immigration programs offer a pathway to reside and work in Canada. These programs are designed for individuals planning to be self-employed or start a business in Canada. Business immigration typically requires a significant investment, with specific amounts varying by program and region.

Sponsorship

Family sponsorship is often the easiest route for those with a qualifying family member who is a Canadian permanent resident or citizen. Canada plans to welcome 105,000 new permanent residents through family sponsorship programs this year. The cost of sponsoring a relative is around CAD 1,135, with additional fees for residents of Quebec. Processing times vary, with spousal sponsorship typically taking about 12 months.

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How to get jobs in Canada

Securing a job in Canada can be facilitated through several strategies:

Networking with Experts

Engage with professionals in your field through events and networking opportunities to learn about job openings.

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Continuous Learning

Stay updated with the latest trends and roles in your field by reading articles, watching videos, and gaining new knowledge.

Building Professional Relationships

Attend job fairs, industry meetups, and online groups to connect with potential employers.

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Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World 2024

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The world’s most dangerous countries to visit in 2024 have been unveiled in a recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

The report ranks 163 independent states and territories based on their level of peacefulness, covering 99.7% of the world’s population.

It also noted that there are currently 56 active conflicts, marking the highest number since the end of the Second World War, with fewer conflicts being resolved either militarily or through peace agreements.

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Using the Global Peace Index (GPI), here are the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world in 2024.

Yemen

With a 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.397, Yemen remains one of the world’s most hazardous nations, with its catastrophic civil conflict since 2015 causing immense suffering and turmoil.

Yemen is grappling with widespread famine, disease, and infrastructure collapse amid a prolonged state of war. What began as an internal conflict has escalated due to the involvement of neighboring countries, each backing different factions, prolonging and intensifying the destructive nature of the conflict.

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Sudan

Sudan is widely regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, influenced by a variety of factors that severely affect its safety and stability.

Sudan’s instability stems primarily from the ongoing conflict in Darfur, alongside unrest in South Kordofan and Blue Nile districts. In 2024, these conflicts resulted in over 3,000 deaths and displaced nearly 2 million people, according to UN estimates. The humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by frequent attacks on civilians by government forces, opposition groups, and militias.

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Also, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 14 million people need humanitarian aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan, with a 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.224, continues to rank among the world’s most dangerous nations due to ongoing civil conflict, ethnic violence, and political instability since gaining independence in 2011.

Afghanistan

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Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with a Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.448. The country has been experiencing ongoing violence for more than 40 years, making it a center of international concern.

READ ALSO: 7 Countries Who Recently Changed Their Names And Why

Decades of conflict have shaped Afghanistan into one of the most dangerous countries. The Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021 has intensified instability, with heightened risks of terrorism, kidnappings, and widespread violence.

Ukraine

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Ukraine has experienced the most significant decline in safety and stability, not only within its region but globally as well. This notable deterioration can be primarily attributed to the Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

By 2024, the conflict in Ukraine has claimed over 150,000 lives, including soldiers and civilians. More than 8 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries, with an additional 7 million internally displaced, causing widespread destruction of cities and critical infrastructure like homes, schools, and hospitals.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The conflict in Congo has spanned more than four and a half years, has taken more lives than any other since World War II, and is the deadliest documented conflict in African history, according to the International Rescue Committee.

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Russia

In 2024, Russia, with a Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.249, ranks among the world’s most hazardous nations, exacerbated by heightened geopolitical tensions stemming from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: 10 Safest Countries In The World In 2024

Russia is grappling with internal challenges including organized crime and corruption, which undermine law and order, alongside escalating environmental concerns such as industrial accidents and pollution, posing significant health risks to the population.

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Syria

Syria’s civil war, beginning in 2011, has resulted in a profoundly tragic and complex situation. The conflict has ravaged infrastructure, including buildings, roads, hospitals, and schools, severely impacting the daily lives of those remaining in Syria.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire, with over 13 million Syrians, including 6.6 million internally displaced, requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

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More than half of the population faces food insecurity, and the healthcare system is in disarray, with many hospitals either destroyed or operating at minimal capacity.

Israel

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has escalated regional risks for Western travelers and exacerbated unrest-related dangers.

Mali

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Mali has been in the grip of armed conflict since January 2012, when Tuareg rebels seized control of northern territory and subsequently declared the independent nation of Azawad by April of that year.

The situation escalated further with a military coup in March of 2012, intensifying the turmoil in the region.
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Nigeria’s Public Officials Received ₦721bn Bribe In 2023 – UN, NBS

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A newly released report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), has said Nigerian public officials received nothing less than ₦721bn as bribes in 2023.

The result was based on a survey conducted with the UNODC.

According to the report “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends”, published by the NBS on Thursday, the ₦721bn paid in bribes amounted to about 0.35 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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According to the survey, the average cash bribe was ₦8,284, an increase from an average of ₦5,754 in 2019.

“According to the 2023 survey, the average cash bribe paid was 8,284 Nigerian Naira. While the nominal average cash bribe size increased since 2019 (from NGN 5,754), this does not account for inflation. The inflation-adjusted average cash bribe in 2023 was 29 per cent smaller than in 2019 in terms of what could be bought with the money.

“Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly NGN 721 billion (US$1.26 billion) was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2023, corresponding to 0.35 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria,” the report read in part.

The report indicates that 56 per cent of Nigerians interacted with a public official in 2023, down from 63 per cent in 2019.

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Despite this reduction, bribery remains widespread, with an average of 5.1 bribes paid per bribe payer, totalling approximately 87 million bribes nationwide. This is a decrease from the 117 million bribes estimated in 2019.

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On payment mode, the report noted that over 95 per cent of bribes were paid in monetary form (cash or money transfer) in 2023.

It said public officials were more likely to demand bribes while private sector actors included doctors in private hospitals, which increased from 6 per cent in 2019 to 14 per cent in 2023.

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Despite this rise, bribery in the public sector remains about twice as high, with public sector contact rates also being twice as high as those in the private sector.

In 2023, 27 per cent of Nigerians who interacted with a public official paid a bribe, a slight decrease from 29 per cent in 2019. Including instances where bribes were requested but refused, over one-third of interactions between citizens and public officials involved bribery.

Similarly, the report shows a growing trend of Nigerians refusing to pay bribes. In 2023, 70 per cent of those asked to pay a bribe refused at least once, with the highest refusal rates in the North-West zone at 76 per cent. All regions recorded refusal rates above 60 per cent. This indicates that Nigerians are increasingly standing against corruption.

According to the report, bribery is becoming less accepted in Nigeria. The percentage of citizens who view bribery requests as acceptable to expedite administrative procedures decreased from 29 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2023.

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Fewer citizens reported suffering negative consequences after refusing bribe requests in 2023 compared to 2019. This suggests a growing empowerment among Nigerians to confront corrupt officials without fear of repercussions.

In 2023, 21 per cent of bribe refusers indicated they refused because they had other options. Normative concerns (42 per cent) and cost of living pressures (23 per cent) also played significant roles in their refusal to pay bribes.

Furthermore, not less than 60 per cent of public sector workers were hired due to nepotism, bribery or both between 2020 and 2023.

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The report noted that six out of 10 successful candidates admitted to using either nepotism, bribery, or both to improve their chances of being recruited.

Specifically, 27 per cent of these candidates admitted to using only bribery, 13 per cent to only nepotism, and 19 per cent to both bribery and nepotism. On the other hand, 40 per cent of the candidates claimed to have secured their positions without resorting to any such means, based on data collected between November 2020 and October 2023.

The report read, “The selection process used to recruit public officials plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of integrity that should drive the civil service as well as ensure that recruits have the highest standards of professionalism and merit.”

However, the 2023 survey findings indicate that the public sector recruitment process requires closer monitoring, as almost half (46 per cent) of people who secured a job in the public sector in the last three years before the survey admitted that they paid a bribe to facilitate their recruitment – about 1.5 times the share found in the 2019 survey (31 per cent).

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“The 2023 survey also found evidence that a considerable number of people recruited into the public sector secured their posts with the help of a friend or relative, many in addition to paying a bribe: of all successful applicants in the last three years before the 2023 survey, 32 per cent were helped by friends or relatives. Overall, in the three years before the 2023 survey, around 60 per cent of public sector applicants in Nigeria were hired as a result of nepotism, bribery or both – about 1.2 times the share found in the 2019 survey.”

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The report also noted that the use of bribery is notably lower when the recruitment process includes formal assessments.

Specifically, 51 per cent of candidates were not formally assessed, and of these, a significant 53 per cent admitted to using bribery or nepotism to secure their positions.

Conversely, among the 49 per cent of candidates who underwent a written test or oral interview, the use of unethical means such as bribery or nepotism dropped to 41 per cent.

The report read: “The 2023 survey data show that approximately half (49 per cent) of those who secured a position in the public sector in the three years before the survey passed a written test and/or oral interview during the recruitment selection process. Importantly, the data suggest that the means of selection had a role in facilitating or preventing the use of illegal practices during recruitment. Among those who underwent an assessment procedure (written test / oral interview), 41 per cent made use of bribery, while the share was as much as 53 per cent among those who were not formally assessed.”

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It was also disclosed that bribery is more common in rural areas, with rural residents paying an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 bribes in urban areas.

It was also disclosed that bribery is more common in rural areas, with rural residents paying an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 bribes in urban areas.

The report stated that corruption was ranked fourth among the most important problems affecting the country in 2023, after the cost of living, insecurity and unemployment.

It added, “This suggests relatively stable and high levels of concerns about corruption over time and compared to other concerns such as education or housing.

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“Nigerians confidence in the government’s anti-corruption effort has been declining over time and across regions. While in 2019, more than half of all citizens thought that the government was effective in fighting corruption, in 2023, the share declined to lessons than a third of all citizens. The downward trend in the citizen’s confidence is observable across the entire country, with all six zones recording reductions of more than 10 percentage points between 2019 and 2023 in terms of the share of citizens who thought the government was effective in fighting corruption.”

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