DOES THE NATIONAL BROADCASTING ACADEMY PRIDE ITSELF IN AIDING AND ABETTING CRIME, AND PROMOTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
IN REVIEW — STALKING, HARASSMENT, AND PHYSICAL ASSAULT BY TAIWO ADEWOLE ONABANJO ON WONNE AFRONELLY AND GUESTS: WHY IS THE MANAGEMENT WITHHOLDING WONNE’S TESTIMONIAL TO DATE???
In today’s Nigeria where people hide behind shadows to abuse others, only the bold and confident would summon great courage to speak up and speak out. It has indeed been months of battling with internal pain, inability to do simple house chores, slow work progress and preventing my fragile self from falling into a deep depressive state — I mean the state of the nation itself is depressing enough to allow oneself get overwhelmed by another depressing circumstance. At least 90% of those I have confided in don’t want to believe that the story is as I have stated and this alone gives me great worry as I feel unsafe each passing day. I must commend myself for putting up so strongly and rising to the point where I have to pen this down for everyone who is humane to read and understand. It is quite laughable that whilst some so-called male friends insist, I had a thing going with the assaulter and probably didn’t know the best way to call it off, some learned persons have suggested I could be covering up more serious issues of abuse beyond what I have stated, but I’d rather deal with this lightly until otherwise.
At the time of writing, 1:23 AM February 19 (I usually can’t sleep well at this time since the attack), I feel a little better and confident to face whatever heat and trolling that comes with this.
On the eve of 31st October 2020, I arrived in western Nigeria to join the Batch C class of the Presentation Department, National Broadcast Academy — NBA (the training arm of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria — FRCN) Lagos, Nigeria. I submitted a recommendation letter from my supervisor in Radio Rivers 99.1FM sometime in March 2020 before the lockdown.
Little did I realize I was going to embark on the largest cleanup exercise I ever attempted since 2012 when I started volunteering for Ocean Conservancy USA.
Interestingly, I took ill when I was only about a week into the program. I visited the hospital and was given medication after a diagnosis of malaria and typhoid. On my way to the bank to pay my fees days earlier, I noticed a stagnant heap of trash the entire stretch of the NBA entrance gate up to the second gate and I was perplexed how that a Federal Institution of training could be in such filth; and in my usual manner of driving social change through impactful social projects, I resolved within me to attempt a sustainable method of trash control before within the short while I was to be in the academy. To achieve this, I knew I needed funds but most importantly, I needed to sell the idea to potential team players amongst students in my department whom I had only just met for the first time and the management of the NBA who are the direct beneficiaries. It seemed to many hard hurdles ahead but I didn’t budge.
My first attempt happened on my way to the hospital, the female hostel governor had accompanied me to the hospital and the lab to run tests prescribed by the doctor; thankfully when I shared the idea with her, she immediately embraced it, but I did not summon the courage to address the entire class until 2 days later whilst I was still on medication. I tried to use my illness as an example to convince the class of the need to clean up the heaps of trash at the Academy entrance as part of our community service to the academy. It may have worked as a positive response was slightly above 50%.
Nonetheless, about 3 weeks later with poor coordination from the class governor and poor response in terms of actions from members of the class, I could excuse for pressure from course work, as some may not be used to volunteering for causes; I did address the class again and notified everyone my intention of running the cleanup under the ongoing project #myTRASHchallenge — phase 3 of the Nationwide Anti Littering campaign and wouldn’t want to impose any extra activity on anyone. Most importantly, 3 days before the closing ceremony, despite the class governor’s reluctance to have a chat with me, I eventually had a long talk with the class governor (who had given up hopes of carrying out any community project as a class, obviously because of silly arguments over some petty class issues with few members), convinced him why it was very pertinent and gave a cash token after he agreed to take on a project and actually swung into action as advised. Two of the three projects suggested were successfully executed and presented, one to the Presentation department, and the other to the HOD. I had to do this not to feel guilty.
Well, now that there’s an established introduction, let’s dig into the juicy and hilarious part of my story. . . lol
Coordinating the NBA cleanup, acting as liaison officer between 4 organizations (myEnvironment myWealth, National Broadcast Academy- FRCN, Lagos State Ministry of the Environment, and Ikeja Military Cantonment), without available resources and my dedicated team members in Port Harcourt would be in history one of the BRAVEST things I have done in recent years. It was quite scary that the few team members of my department I had convinced to join the project including the males who had openly declared their love and endearment for me, began to suggest that I let go seeing how much effort I had put in. Some even thought the major reason for my decision to have two weeks IT outside of Lagos state was to stylishly shy away from the project; whereas the actual reason was the fact that I hadn’t really had good and healthy sleep, I was still feeling sick after completing medication as a result of noise pollution — trains moving 20 hours daily just beside the walls of the female hostel. Two weeks' break from such a terrible nightmare was answered prayers for me — (that academy should be relocated as soon as yesterday)!
Despite the noise pollution I had to endure, I was still resolved to clear the heap of trash in front of the Academy gate after all the #myTRASHchallenge campaign was meant to run till December 2020 and I wasn’t going back to base until mid-December so?
Thankfully, on the first day, I addressed the class, one of the class members approached me and informed me that her hubby works with the Drainage Department and is very passionate about causes as I have suggested; she eventually introduced me to him and though he was on official leave, he assigned a staff of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment Emergency Flood Abatement Gang EFAG (who turned out to be an angel orchestrated by God to help me realize a laudable project) to work with us. He was also kind enough to give us a proper guide about the drainage system, informing us that most of the trash may be traced to the barracks.
Be this as it may, work and project area surveys commenced in earnest with more hope. Prior to the day we had our first meeting with the 9 Brigade Garrison Commander in the company of two staff from the Flood abatement Gang, the female hostel governor and I had visited the cantonment with the intention of making enquires on how to trace the small drainage channels that empty into the canal and terminates briefly at the Academy front gate. On the first day, we encountered the officer known to me, who beckoned on me and after exchanging pleasantries and educating him about the project, he promised to help us see the right persons to help with the project. We also approached the director of the NBA who invited the director of academics and they both welcomed the project idea expressing how excited they were that God sent us their way to solve a seemingly obvious problem that had lasted many years without a solution in view.
Meeting with the 9 Brigade Garrison Commander, representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, representatives of NBA (Director Academics), and student team members of the Presentation department NBA, the following week and subsequent meetings were all successful. After surveys had been concluded, the issue of funding stared us all in the face and we were at crossroads.
At this point I called my team, and members of the department to reassure them of my resolve to still carry on with the project, even if it lingered into the next year 2021. It was the last weekend before everyone resumed at their IT posting venues and the support from shareyourself.org (a project management tool where I had run most of my previous projects for 2020) I had anticipated wasn’t forthcoming; I had been advised to apply for the grant due in January of 2021. A few of them said they could be available if possible, should I access funds for the project later on.
We had our final meeting with the management two days into IT resumption before I traveled to Ibadan, Oyo state; to remind them to forward an official letter to the Commissioner for the Environment, and other stakeholders connected to the project; and also reassure them that the project would still be possible, and they promised to send out letters at once. I had already made up my mind to scale and fund the project to the extent that I could. I also submitted to the director of NBA, a copy of the project proposal.
Interestingly, about a week later whilst in Ibadan, only 3 days before December 12 tentatively scheduled for cleanup take off, the director of academics NBA called to notify me that letter to the Commissioner of the Environment was ready and requested to know when I would be available to go deliver the letter at the secretariate, quite perplexing! At this point, I notified him that I and my team members were still on IT and were anxiously waiting on management feedback from the Commissioner as agreed. Interestingly, he flared up when he realized I was not in the city.
Amazingly, the next day December 10, while I was thinking about which of my gadgets, I could sell to raise some immediate cash for project execution, the staff assigned to work with us called to notify WORK HAD COMMENCED ON PROJECT SITE! I was soooo excited because I knew I would spend less eventually. I immediately put a call through to the director of academics who reluctantly applauded the effort and instead instructed me to call the director of NBA to notify the same.
Now straight into the real gist, on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, work had already gone 50% and the workers from the EFAG had made sincere requests for some work materials and also anticipated some refreshments penultimate day. This prompted the important and urgent meeting of team members and the NBA management after a meeting of team members where we assigned roles to each team member ahead of the program's grand finale Friday, December 18 (the same day as the closing ceremony for all Batch C students). During the meeting, the director of academics asked about funding and we highlighted our plans having scaled the project from the initial budget in the project proposal to something feasible to accommodate the grand finale.
Moreso, the meeting with the management did linger longer than we anticipated, during the meeting, the director of academics was very specific with the conversion of the project budget as submitted in US dollars, and in fact rounded the value of the budget up to a million naira. He and the Director NBA also requested to know when I would receive funds for the project from my partners in the USA.
I politely explained to them that I wasn’t expecting any funds as the project was rounding off in 2 days and we were able to scale the project to the barest minimum to ensure the project is not abandoned. They reluctantly accepted to carry on with the project and we shared items to be purchased or provided between management and team members (members of the Presentation class Batch C). The final cost was shared between the management and the team in a ratio of 45% to 55% (team members had accepted to give a token each to support the cash available). We rounded off a meeting that started before 6 PM, a few minutes to 8 PM.
Finally, the meeting ended! screamed most of us, and the moment we got out of the office, we said our goodbyes and reminded ourselves to study ahead of the final papers the next morning. Not long after I went to my room to get ready and head back for tutorials in the classroom, I got a call from Deborah notifying me that the officer and his friend had been around — they had promised to come by after the closing of work to see the extent of work on the project, and had initially called several times whilst we were in the meeting with management but I couldn’t pick up. I met up with the officers and the female hostel governor at the canteen just behind the boys’ hostel. I apologized and pleaded with them to hold on for the restaurant staff to prepare something pretty fast for me so I could have dinner before resuming study into the night. Whilst we waited, we had some friendly chats and I remember laughing many times at the officers’ jokes.
Then happened some drama that Nollywood has not been able to script in many years as contained here.
Most importantly, I must commend the young military officers for their unreserved comportment and maturity in how they handled the situation as they ignored the assaulter’s antics until he ran upstairs and came back to attack them possibly with a weapon; which prompted their reaction which I may consider pretty mild during self defiance. I feel very sorry for exposing them to such unruly behaviour from a bloody civilian.
I would have let sleeping dogs lie, but the assaulter had the temerity to demand from me an apology through the female hostel governor, hence my resolve to want to find out the actual reason behind his attack, his accomplices’ and what they intend to achieve if they hadn’t already. This I suppose should prevent another attack as a demand for an apology to me, sounds like another plot may be launched from the cooler if I don’t get to apologize -BUT WHAT EXACTLY WOULD I BE APOLOGIZING FOR, THAT I GOT ATTACKED OR THAT I OBSTRUCTED THE SCRIPT FOR SMOOTH ATTACK?
A few questions that keep plaguing my fragile heart:
1. Did the director of academics aka Pastor, liaise with the assaulter to attack us?
2. Did he presume I had received funds for the project and didn’t share the global cake with them?
3. If the director of academics lives within the academy (as he confirmed after the attack and was unknown to me until then), did he see me and my guests at the canteen and assume we were spending his money?
4. On the Monday of the same week (I had returned from Ibadan Sunday evening), the assaulter attended the meeting my team and I had with the management uninvited (when I asked to know who invited him and that he should be asked to excuse us, one of the male students advised that I let him be as his presence wouldn’t make any much difference), could he have been invited by the management to investigate how and whether we had received funds?
5. Whilst I tried to get help and ensure Deborah goes home with her own testimonial, I pleaded with the class Governor Mr. Victor to make an attempt at pleading with the management, when he got out of the office, he confirmed that the management asked to know specifically how much had been released to us for the cleanup project; this suggests the intentional act on the part of the directors of the Academy.
6. Why was the assaulter’s name not announced during the closing ceremony as one of the students who would not be receiving his testimonial?
7. Was it right for the management to decide to withhold my testimonial without hearing from me what exactly transpired?
8. I could go on and on.
It is my prayer that issues get resolved as soon as possible as medical expenses continue to increase every passing day and both orthodox and native treatments haven’t really helped.