Apart from the traditional Yoruba music, Apala, unbridled mercy has a limited space in the United Kingdom.
Pleas for mercy were ignored, and many in Nigeria could not understand why a powerful politician in the stature of former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, could be sentenced to prison in the UK.
Ekweremadu was so powerful that he was dining and wining with the head of the British monarch, His Royal Majesty, King Charles, just a few years ago.
Why couldn’t King Charles let him go?
How could a judge in the UK ignominiously gloss over the pleas of eminent Nigerians and our institutions of government?
Among those making a case for clemency were former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian Senate, the House of Representatives, the ECOWAS Parliament and the influential chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
The pleas were many, but they lost wind before making landfall the UK.
In the end, Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice, and his doctor, Obinna Ebeta, were all sentenced to long terms for modern slavery.
There is a contrast. What works in Abuja hardly works in London. The music that is popular here has no rhythm there. A law-abiding society has rules – it is never run through negotiations by powerful men.
It may be easy to buy human parts in Nigeria, it is not readily available in London.
A doctor may harvest human parts with no questions asked in Lagos, but no doctor in London dares try it without following the law.
You may beg, even negotiate, after committing a crime in Lagos; but London condones no such music.
Two societies, different styles.
What works in one, fails woefully in another. No further evidence is needed to prove that the UK and Nigeria are markedly different. One has the rule of law; the other has rule of powerful men.
Ekweremadu knows, but if he didn’t know, now he knows. Where law works, he cannot do anything he wants. He could, but would pay a heavy price.
Nigerian leaders have tested and verified that in Western societies, when an issue is in the public space, they neither flaunt influence nor enforce wishes.
Mercy does not fly in the face of justice. The basic principle of law, that all men are equal before it, has been underlined.
It’s about justice for the little man also, with a little room for mercy.
At the centre of this case is a young street trader from Lagos, a typical “nobody,” coaxed to the UK to harvest his kidney for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, a student in the UK, for a sum of N270,000.
The prosecution represents the first time anyone has been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act for plotting to harvest organs in the UK.
Under UK laws, it is lawful to donate a kidney, but it is illegal to buy it.
As a lawyer, Ekweremadu must have known, but he was so used to breaking the law in Nigeria that he simply gave money and expected results.
Knowing well that he would be breaking the law, he took elaborate steps stay outside of direct negotiations which created false impression that Sonia and her proposed donor were cousins.
The donor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, sold telephone parts from a cart in Lagos markets.
He was likely no relation of Ekweremadu, Sonia would later say. While answering questions on BBC, Miss Ekweremadu refused to say whether or not she knew the “donor” was a cousin. “I cannot answer that. I don’t feel anything towards him. I wish him all the best, and that is just it.”
One has to feel for Sonia, who, through no fault of hers, now has to continue living with a faulty kidney, both parents in jail and a feeling of guilt for the circumstances. Her kidney has continued to deteriorate and her need for a transplant remains. While sad, she admitted that “the law has taken its course and we have to move forward as a family.”
A dear friend of mine, as close as a brother, has gone through the ordeal of kidney failure.
It is a traumatic and an extremely distressing experience, not to talk about being expensive to treat.
My friend didn’t try to buy kidney on the market.
He looked inwards to a family member and the procedure was successfully carried in Lagos.
The friend followed the law, even within Nigeria. Most Nigerians keep to the law.
The problem with Nigeria is with those who have money and influence to bend the law.
Sonia grasps the British law – she is a university student who had lived in the UK for a better part of her life.
She has come to terms to what her parents may still be struggling with, as privileged individuals in the Nigerian society.
She knows what many Nigerians still struggle to understand, people like Olusegun Obasanjo and the Igbo cultural organization, Ohaneze, which wrote that the Federal Government could have influenced the British courts.
The perspective of the average British citizen was well reflected in reports by UK newspapers, which portrayed Ekweremadu as a Nigerian rogue whose luck failed him in the UK.
At the sentencing, the judge, Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson, lectured the former Senate President: “People-trafficking across international borders for the harvesting of human organs is a form of slavery. It treats human beings and their body parts as commodities to be bought and sold. It is a trade that preys on poverty, misery and desperation.”
He added: “The victim of this case, a very brave young man, was exploited due to his vulnerable economic circumstances, by people that were powerful, wealthy, and that exerted control and dominance over him bringing into the UK for purposes of taking his kidney.
“Their motivation was to get a kidney for their daughter, without any thought of the process that that involved, any thought of aftercare, any thought for the victim of the modern slavery offence at all.”
The sentence is not so much about the rule of law in England as much as it directs attention to the absence of justice, fairness and a respectable legal system in Nigeria.
Think about it.
Ekweremadu offered a 21-year-old Lagos street trader a paltry £2,400 for his kidney, while his wife, Beatrice, arrived a London airport with £25,000 cash in her purse when their kids attend exclusive schools in the UK .
Out of the £2,400 that the victim was to receive, deep-rooted Nigerian corruption and greed creeped in, such that even the arranger, Ekweremadu’s doctor, scammed the victim further, offering about £300.
Nigerian Tribune editor and columnist, Lasisi Olagunju, reported how many young, struggling men in Lagos have sold body parts to weather adverse economic storms. The young men offer their bodies for ridiculously-low amounts in their need to survive.
Arriving the UK, Ekweremadu’s victim was not intelligent enough to answer simple questions – he did not even know what a kidney did for the body.
All he was driven by was the promise of a job in the UK, apparently by his transporters. When asked by doctors if he understood why he was in the hospital, he could not explain the function of a kidney in the human body, talk less the potential risks of its donation to his health.
British doctors then concluded something was amiss. They were not allowed by law to harvest the kidney of a donor who was as clueless about the procedure as this person.
Once it became clear the victim was to be returned to Nigeria by the Ekweremadus, he ran away and later reported to the police.
In a statement read to court, he said: “I would never (have) agreed to any of this. My body is not for sale.”
He then made a case not to be returned to Nigeria. “These people are extremely powerful and I worry for my family. I’m worried about my family in Nigeria but I have been told my dad had been visited and was told to drop the case in the UK.”
For once, the little guy defeated the rich man, but only because the playing ground was level.
Ekweremadu has been floored by a man whose life was worth only £2,400.
If the legal ecosystem was within Nigeria, the victim stood no chance.
The rule would have been bent towards the powerful.
What the powerful can easily write off in Nigeria, they cannot try in other lands.
Those who say there is no place for Apala music in London have a point.
Apala music is too easy.