Francis Muroki walked into our offices carrying a huge portrait and clinging to it like his life depended on it. I was amused and curious at the same time. We exchanged pleasantries and settled down for the interview as he unwrapped and proudly spread the portrait on the table. It was a congratulatory message from Pope John Paul II, on Muroki’s wedding day in 1986. I was now more alert, as I sought for more details.
“The Pope’s congratulatory message was read by the presiding minister on our wedding day at the Holy Family Bascillica in Nairobi. Several priests, deacons, seminarians, bishops and archbishops co-celebrated the mass. My wife and I exchanged our golden wedding rings, which arrived from the Vatican, Rome, on the morning of the wedding along with the Pope’s message. We had a fabulous wedding and an enviable start of our marriage.
Severally, I had gone to Rome on official duty while working in the media and for the Catholic Church as an editor and writer of the various magazines owned by the Church. I had also met the Pope in person when he visited Kenya in 1997. The portrait is the only possession that survived the onslaught in my house that visited me later. Consequently, the vows I made that day have no meaning anymore.
It was my day for double blessings when I got a job in 1985 in the editorial department of the then Kenya Times Media Trust in Nairobi. I also met and fell in love with a young girl working in the advertising department. We courted for a year and our love culminated with us walking down the aisle in 1986.
Our marriage was blessed with three children who arrived in quick succession. They were all born at the Nairobi Hospital. At the time, the hospital demanded early booking and deposit payment three months in advance for any woman who wished to deliver there. I wasn’t cowed since I wanted to give my family the best start in life. I also hired a highly qualified paediatrician to take care of my children, as they all had challenges at birth.
Our first child was born in 1987 had bouts of serious tonsillitis for the better part of his childhood. I recall frequenting hospitals and paying huge bills until he finally outgrew his condition. Our second child was born in 1988 after a very difficult pregnancy. We were so afraid that the baby would be born prematurely. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and the baby girl was born healthy.
And in 1990, our last child was born through a Caesarean section. After the Caesarean section, my wife developed a hernia – a very painful condition that cost a lot of money to treat. Her medical bills were so high that I overspent on my medical cover from my employer. I also took some time off work to care for her. As a result of spending too much time out of the office and claiming more than I should have on the medical cover, everything snowballed into a huge problem and I eventually lost my job at a time when I desperately needed it.
Putting family first… Thankfully, while I was employed I had
bought land and built a beautiful permanent home in Nairobi’s Ongata
Rongai area where we settled. Additionally, we were a prayerful family
and went to church together. In deed, my wife and I held special duties
in our local church and were members of the Marriage Encounter– a
catholic group that trains and encourages couples on practical ways to
good marriage. We then graduated to marriage counsellors, often helping
many couples and couples-to-be. In addition, I was a writer on family
issues in the Catholic publications and ran a column titled ‘The Family’
in one of the publications.
My priority was to give my children a good foundation and we enrolled them in good private schools in Meru, Molo and Kisumu. I was big about cars and often sent my wife to Dubai to buy and ship our personal cars and matatus, since we operated a fleet of matatus in Ongata Rongai area. This was also a chance to expose her to the world and broaden her knowledge. All the vehicles were registered in her name because I was a believer that in a marriage, there should be no division of property.
Onset of trouble…
Eventually in 2007, I left the mainstream media and had spells of being jobless. The financial situation got worse and progressively started affecting our marriage. Luckily by the end of 2007, I got a short-term contract with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of training and reporting on the post-election violence.
By the time the contract ended, our children had completed their high school. Our firstborn enrolled at Strathmore University in 2008, the same year I also enrolled for an evening programe for a communications degree at the Daystar University. In 2009, our other two children enrolled at the Kenya Methodist University (KEMU) in Nairobi. Luckily, my wife who at the time had a steady job in the insurance industry, helped pay their school fees.
I struggled to complete my course at Daystar as well as look for a job. It wasn’t easy and my wife was getting jittery about my jobless status and failure to provide for my family. Sometimes it was embarrassing when my children asked me to buy them something but I could not afford it. With time they lost respect for me and my wife didn’t help matters, as she would put me down in their presence. She also changed her attitude towards me.
Alienated by family…
One night in 2010, I fell and hurt my knee near our home as I was coming from evening classes. My family was not bothered when I got into the house in bloodstained clothes. That was the painful beginning of my isolation.
Subsequently, I came home one evening in January 2011 and was held captive by my family. My son secured the front door with a chair and kept guard so that I couldn’t get out. My wife and children humiliated me for hours. They were spoiling for a fight. My eldest son openly challenged me to a physical fight, as he verbally abused me. It was a very painful experience.
After this incident, my wife hired transport and packed all our household items and walked out of our 24-year marriage taking along the children. A very sentimental item, a 29-inch TV media award that I won in 2004 and received in Bangkok, Thailand, wasn’t spared either. I was devastated and moved into a lodging in Ongata Rongai until it became financially untenable. I moved back into my empty home where I still live alone to this day.
I developed severe depression and have severally contemplated on drowning my sorrows in alcohol. On learning about my marriage break-up, my mother went into shock and collapsed. She never regained consciousness and died in hospital three weeks later, towards the end of April 2011. After her burial, I picked a few items from her house and returned to my house to start life afresh.
At 55, I am lonely and only left with memories of my now broken family. I am back to where I started as a young man, with nothing to my name. I have become a total stranger to my family as was evident in mid last year during my children’s graduation. I was not invited and only learnt about the gradation from family friends. The bible has been my best companion, adviser and consoler.
Don’t sit on your laurels… I thought I had done the best for my family but today am wiser. Even when you think you are comfortable and settled in your seemingly lasting marriage, don’t bask in your glory. I have since learnt that, just because your spouse is a Christian doesn’t mean they are saints. Now I know what it means to have and lose a family.
Exams postponed in Ekiti University after students protest
A protest by students of Ekiti State University, (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, has forced management to postpone the first semester examinations which were originally scheduled to begin on Monday, June 17.
In a news release issued on Sunday night and signed by the Registrar of the institution, Akin Arogundade, the new date for the examinations is now Monday, July 1.
The postponement according to the statement is to ensure security of lives and property on campus and its environs.
It failed to dwell on the effect of an earlier protest by students as a possible cause of the shift.
“Consequently, all academic activities on campus has been postponed until Monday, July 1, 2019, while students are expected back on campus on Sunday, June 30, 2019,” the statement said.
It directed all students preparing for exams to ensure payment of all necessary fees, as evidence of payment would be used for clearance and examination permit.
“The University community, parents, and guardians are assured of adequate security on campus as well as the safety of staff and students,” it said.
NAN recalls that the students held a peaceful protest early on Sunday to criticise the sudden fixing of the examinations without adequate lectures.
The protesters were also worried that many students might be denied participation as the data system had yet to capture all who had cleared their tuition. (NAN)
Presidency reacts to EU report on Nigeria’s 2019 elections
The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations in the best interest of the country.
Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, made this position known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.
Mr Shehu noted that the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated that this action was a clear indication of the administration’s good intentions, commitment to a purely democratic process and desire to improve on the next elections.
The EU noted in their report that there were marked improvements from previous elections, although stating that more work needed to be done.
”The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed.
”It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report.
”The Presidency assures that the Commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.
”We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures,” he said.
While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, Mr Shehu said none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.
He said: ”Thankfully, EU did not question the results of the presidential election.
”For instance, on page 3 in its Executive Summary, the EU said: ‘positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability’.’’
He said that the report also acknowledged that INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures.
According to the report, INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory.
Mr Shehu observed that on page 4 of the report, the EU noted that the elections were competitive with a large number of candidates for all seats although the competition was primarily between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
He said the report further noted that ”parties and candidates were overall able to campaign, with freedoms of assembly, expression and movement broadly respected.
”On Page 5, the report noted that the EU EOM media monitoring over 46 days showed federal government-owned media’s commitment to balanced election coverage.
”It said that positively in almost all observations party agents received copies of the results forms, adding that the National Collation Centre for the presidential election was open to party agents and observers, and was continuously televised.
”Again on page 37, the report said the national collation centre for the presidential results was open to party agents, observers and the media with each state’s results projected on a large screen.”
The presidential aide added that the report acknowledged that there was continuous live television coverage and the media published the results as announced by INEC, thereby increasing access to results information.
He further noted that Page 41 under section ‘RESULTS AND STAKEHOLDER REACTION’, EU said: ‘‘YIAGA Africa announced that the results were consistent with its parallel vote tabulation that INDEPENDENTLY projected the results based on a sample of 1,515 polling units.
”The two leading parties won 96.8% of the valid votes between them.’’
According to him, this is further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term.
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Nigeria had on Saturday briefed newsmen on the EU EOM’s report.
The Deputy Chief Observer for the EU, Hannah Roberts, addressed the news conference in Abuja, while Maria Arena, EU Chief Observer had earlier presented a final report with recommendations for electoral reforms.
The EU report prioritised seven recommendations of the 30, one of which was that Nigeria should Strengthen INEC procedures for the collation of results to improve integrity and confidence in electoral outcomes.
Another recommendation was that electoral tribunals cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts at the same time.
During the news conference, Hannah Roberts had said the EU EOM knew nothing about the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) server that was allegedly used to transmit results of the 2019 general elections.
The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had claimed that an INEC server was used to transmit results of the election.
Suicide: NAFDAC announces plan to further regulate Sniper
The Nigerian government may direct a change in the package of ‘Sniper’, an agro-chemical that has increasingly become a choice killer for persons contemplating suicide, an official said.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said it is partnering with other relevant bodies on this as part of plans to discourage the use of Sniper as a tool for suicide.
This is in response to calls for a check on the proliferation and ease of access to Sniper in markets and streets across the nation.
According to Vanguard Newspaper, the Director General of NAFDAC, Christiana Adeyeye, said Sniper containers “could now be made very difficult to open, or may be turned into a spray rather than the liquid contents it is known for.”
The suicide rate has increased in Nigeria with Sniper among the agents popularly used.
Notable among the reported incidents is that of a 400-level student of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Chukwuemeka Akachi.
That was before Ayomide and Ajani Damilola of the University of Lagos were reported to have killed themselves using the insecticide following the accusations that they stole clothes in their hostel.
Another 32-year-old banker and mother of two, identified as Peace, of Ughelli, Delta State, committed suicide over her husband’s alleged infidelity. She also took Sniper.
Sniper: An easy killer?
The ease of access to Sniper despite its wrong use has become a worry for many Nigerians.
Bottles of Sniper can be picked up easily on the streets as they are sold openly in the market.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the method used for 20 per cent of global suicides was through pesticide self-poisoning and they mostly occur in developing countries.
Suicide victims appear to find gulping the liquid content of the agro-chemical inside a white container an easier route out.
But experts argue that it is easier to die by a bullet on the forehead than to face the agony that follows after drinking sniper.
Mrs Adeyeye also discouraged the use of Sniper and other agro-chemicals for the preservation of food as they contain substances harmful to the human body.
“We also decry poor handling of foods in Nigeria by producers and sellers, because the populace and consumers are being exposed unduly to health risks from contaminants.
“The use of unapproved insecticides such as Sniper for the preservation of grains by unauthorised persons, the use of containers contaminated with hazardous chemicals such as fertilizer bags for grains or chemical drums and jerry cans for food storage are classic examples of a common practice among the market men and women due to ignorance,” the NAFDAC chief said.
Why Nigerians use Sniper indoors
Sniper is a DDVP, 2,2-Dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate compound, marketed in Nigeria by Swiss-Nigerian Chemical Company, as a synthetic organophosphorus. Many Nigerians have, however, converted it to an indoor insecticide.
Sniper is predominantly used as an insecticide because of its effectiveness in killing insects better than well-established brands of insecticide.
The demand is also fuelled by its affordability. A 100ml of sniper goes for between N200 and N300 while its competitors cost as much as N750 for 100ml.
“However, Nigerians may be paying a heavier price with their health in the long term, if the trend is left unchecked”, a microbiologist, Fatima Ahmed, explained.
“The instruction on Sniper says apply diluted portions to crops and there’s a ‘withdrawal’ time in which the crop should not be consumed so the active ingredient degrades to minimal level before consumption. Now compare this minute concentration to drinking from the original sniper bottle,” she noted in the report.
According to her, health experts have raised concerns over the indiscriminate use of Sniper pesticide in the control of mosquitoes, cockroaches and other household insects.
“They warned on its dangerous effects, especially to respiratory organs and even carcinogenic risks. A person may be exposed to the associated risk of Sniper through inhalation, absorption via the skin, ingestion, and eye contact.”
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