Five Reasons Why Maje Ayida Has No Case Against Toke Makinwa

For those unfamiliar with the facts, in June 2015, news broke that On-Air Personality Toke Makinwa’s husband, Maje Ayida, had gotten his mistress pregnant. While Makinwa filed for divorce from her husband, she remained largely silent about the incident until November 2016 when she published her now best-selling memoir On Becoming chronicling events that led to the end of her marriage. In the book, Makinwa alleged, among other things, that Ayida cheated on her repeatedly throughout their relationship and that he infected her with STI on at least two occasions.

In February 2017, a letter purportedly written by Ayida’s lawyers to Makinwa surfaced demanding that Makinwa stop selling and promoting the book or risk being sued by Ayida. Ayida’s lawyers alleged that Makinwa made certain misrepresentations in her memoir and defamed Ayida thereby. In support of their position, Ayida’s lawyers claimed that the couple had signed a legal separation agreement as far back as July 2014, a fact which Makinwa failed to mention in her book.

Ayida’s lawyers denied that Maje had given Makinwa an “STI in the past or at any stage in their relationship.” They also noted that it was “highly misleading” for the book to allege that Maje “did not financially contribute adequately” to the marriage.

Ayida’s professional integrity, his lawyers wrote, as one of the leading health and wellness practitioners in Nigeria, and his professional credibility built over the years through dedicated hard work was being negatively affected by the content of the memoir.

In defiance of the lawyers’ demands, Makinwa continued promoting her book and even hosted a tour in London.

Making good on his threat, Ayida through his lawyers instituted a legal action demanding N100 milliom in damages against Makinwa at the Lagos judicial division of the high court, Lagos state.

I have read Makinwa’s memoir and I have considered the issues raised by Maje in his letter (I assume the issues in the lawsuit are same as the ones in the cease and desist letter). I now wear my lawyer hat and tell you five reasons why Maje will have a difficult time winning the lawsuit against Toke.

1. Ayida First Breached His Contract With Toke and Caused Her Monetary damages
Although marriage is a religious institution in Nigeria, it is also a legal union guided by the law of contract, a breach of which has consequences. Ayida and Makinwa celebrated a monogamous marriage under the Marriage Act at the Lagos Registry. An implied term of that contract was that the parties would not have sexual relationships with third parties outside the marriage.

Ayida does not deny that he had sexual relationships with the woman who got pregnant for him thus tacitly admitting said infidelity. So it is not in dispute that Ayida breached his marriage contract with Toke.

Ayida’s breach of the contract had adverse consequences on Makinwa’s career. Makinwa wrote in her memoir that when the news of Ayida’s infidelity broke in 2015, viewership of her weekly vlogs on Toke Moments plummeted and her brand suffered. In the memoir and in the documents she filed in court for her divorce , Makinwa claimed she was days away from sealing a N20 million endorsemnt deal with a telecommunication company when the news of her husband’s pregnant mistress broke in June 2015. When the story came out, however, the company withdrew from the deal for they did not want to be associated with the negative publicity. In the book, Makinwa wrote of how she cried the night the deal was called off and how she wondered why a man she loved so much could hurt her deeply as to take food from her mouth.

While Ayida may assert that he did not intend the adverse consequences his actions had on his then wife, his knowledge that his wife gave advice on relationships in her vlogs is an indication he foresaw how his actions could harm his wife’s brand. Ayida’s actions brought shame and embarrassment to his wife.

To succeed in an action for breach of contract, a party need only prove the existence of a contract, breach by the other party, and damages to the suing party as a result of the breach. Here, there was a marriage contract between Makniwa and Ayida, satisfying the first arm. (Ayida’s reference in his cease and desist letter to a separation agreement the parties signed in 2014 is a weak defense. The said agreement, even if it exists, did not have power to end the marriage relationship. Only death or a dissolution order signed by a court can effectively bring a marriage contract to an end. Moreover, that Ayida and Makinwa coninued to live together after the alleged separation agreement negates any intentions they had towards the agreement.)

The second arm of the requirement for succeeding in a breach of contract agreement is satisfied because Ayida indisputably had sexual relations with another woman during his marriage to Makinwa.

Lastly, regarding damages, but for Ayida’s promisciuoty and infidelity, Makinwa would not have lost her contract with the telecommunication company.

Counter-suing a plaintiff is a very potent defense weapon. If Makinwa’s lawyers want to use this strategy to defend Ayida’s lawsuit, then they have all the elements they need to counter-sue Ayida for damages arising from his breach of his marriage contract with Makinwa. So even if Ayida succeeds in his defamation claim, which is very unlikely, he may still be the one signing check book based on the legal defense of Set-Off ( an equitable defence to the whole or to a portion of a plaintiff’s claim, a set-off is the right of a debtor to balance mutual debts with a creditor.)

2. Truth is a Defense to Defamation Claim
In an article she wrote shortly after Toke published her book , Ivie Omoregie, a Nigerian lawyer and columnist identified the elements necessary to prove the tort of defamation as follows:
a. The plaintiff must show that the defendant made false and damaging statements about them;
b. The plaintiff must show negligence on the part of the defendant in making the statement;
c. The plaintiff mush show that the defendant was not protected by the rules governing “privileged publications” to third parties;
d. Where claiming special damages (i.e a loss of specific revenue directly resulting from the defamatory publication), the plaintiff must show evidence of the special damages being claimed.

The first prong shows that truth is a defense to an action for defamation .

Thus if a statement of fact is true, then there can be no claim for defamation. As Omoregie explained:
“where the defendant alleges and can show that the statement is a reflection of the truth, then this will serve as a viable defense. I must stress that the entirety of the statement need not be literally true for this defence to stand. What the courts require, is for the statement to be substantially true. Thus, where there may have been some embellishments to the “gist”, as long as the majority of the statement is substantially true. Truth will stand as an affirmative defense.”

Hence as Ayida has neither denied having relationship with the woman in question nor the paternity of the love child, Ayida’s claim of defamation has little basis .

Even if Ayida proves that he had no SDI, in contradiction to Makinwa’s allegation in the book, his infidelity is a far weightier allegation than the transmission of a SDI. So his reputation suffered more from his sexual indiscretion than from alleged infection. Same goes for his claim that Makinwa misrepresented the extent of his financial contribution to their family during the marriage.

3. Maje’s Reputation and Finances Were Damaged Before Makinwa Published Her Memoir

To succeed in an action for defamation, in addition to the requirement that the statement made by defendant be false, a Plaintiff must show he suffered damages. Here, Ayida must prove that he lost his reputation because of revelations Makinwa made in her memoir. But it does not seem to be the case here. As stated earlier, Makinwa published her memoir in November 2016, but well before then, in June 2015, a popular Nigerian blogger, Stella Dimoko Korkus, reported the news.

Indeed, in her book, Toke wrote that the blogger called her to give her a heads-up before the blogger published the embarrassing news. Makinwa’s account of the call was the most heartbreaking portion of the book for me. .

So in suing Makinwa, Ayida is barking up the wrong tree. Stella Dimoko Korkus who published the story first in June 2015–more than a year before Makinwa did–may be a more appropriate defendant.

Moreover, a month before Makinwa released her memoir, in October 2016, in an interview posted online on October 7, 2016 , Ayida made comments suggesting that his reputation and business had taken a hit because of the events surrounding his break-up with Makinwa.

When asked about the media attention he had the previous year, he said:
“I had a very dramatic year last year. I am kind of slowly trying to climb out of that hole. How did I deal with it? I focused on my work. I put my work forward and allowed that speak for me. A couple of the big brands I work with got a bit spooked. Business wasn’t actually kicking.”

Asked whether it was fair for him to have been in the face of the media at the time, Ayida said:

“I think it’s life. I think it happens. If you are in the media for the wrong reason, it’s going to affect you.”

4. Ayida May be Liable To Makinwa in Damages for the STI

Besides Maje being liable to Toke for breach of contract as discussed in No. I above, Ayida may also be liable to Toke in Torts (civil wrong) for infecting her with an STI.

In her memoir, Makinwa wrote that Ayida infected her with STI. She wrote of a particular time when Ayida returned from a trip and after they had sexual intercourse, she started itching a few days later. Makinwa wrote that she went to the doctors and was prescribed medication, but when she asked Ayida about the infection, he denied knowing anything about it. Toke wrote that when she went through Ayida’s phone, however, she saw a conversation Ayida had with his mistress where she complained that she had been itching. According to Toke, the conversation read like the report was not news to Ayida but more like an update from his paramour on a situation he already knew about.

The details in the account suggest that it is not a made-up story, and given the electronic communication trail, Makinwa can easily prove the allegation thus making Ayida even more liable to her in monetary damages. In some jurisdictions, women win hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions against sexual partners who infect them with STI. Infecting someone with an STI without their consent is considered a civil wrong, and can lead to criminal prosecution in some jurisdictions. So Makinwa has a claim to counter Ayida’s.

5. Even Though Maje and Anita May Succeed in Breach of Privacy Claims as Regards the SDI Claim; This Could Easily Be Offset by Their Liability to Makinwa

Of all the claims Maje may make against Makinwa, the one that holds water is an invasion of a privacy claim.

As rightly stated by Uduak Oduok, a Nigerian practicing law in California, there are four ways to invade a person’s privacy:
a) through use of that person’s image or name for commercial advantage;
b) intruding on the person’s affairs or seclusion;
c) publishing facts that place that person in a false light; and
d) publicly disclosing private facts about that person.

Of the four ways, D, publicly disclosing private facts about a person, seems to be the most viable claim Ayida may have. So even if he did have an SDI, he and Anita had the right to privacy to not have this fact made known to the public.

Section 37 of the Nigerian constitution guarantees a person’s right to privacy including the privacy of their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.

While by reason of her marriage to Ayida, Makinwa may not have violated the constitution when he read Ayida’s email/phone chats without his consent, making public the content of Ayida’s electronic conversation makes Makinwa vulnerable to an invasion of privacy claim from both Ayida and Anita.

That said, Ayida’s liability for breach of contract and infecting Makinwa with STI dimnishes any claim he may have for invasion of privacy.

As regards any claim Ayida’s paramour may have, Makinwa may offset such claim by counter suing her for the of tort enticement or alienation of affection for the role she played in breaking up her marriage. In some jurisdictions, these torts are maintainable against third parties who interfere with the marriage relationship.

The best form of Defense is an attack. If Makinwa’s attorneys get on the offensive and counter sues Ayida for the torts above, Makinwa would have won half the battle.

P:S. Although the above is written by a lawyer, it’s a mere opinion. Laws vary by jurisdiction and the opinion expressed may not apply to your particular case. Please consult a lawyer if you need legal advice.

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These Nigerian Celebrities Prove that Unrelaxed Black Hair is “New School”

chioma akpotha

Before the dawn of 21st century, afro-textured hair was unpopular. In Nigeria, it was associated, in a derogatory manner, with Deeper Life Christians. But in recent time, the trend which was once seen as unsophisticated is now popular among elites. A hair type which once characterized women deemed not well-versed in the ways of the world is now worn by the most knowledgeable.

According to Wikipedia, “going natural,” is now so popular that hair care suppliers have seen a rapid decrease in the purchase of relaxers, the chemical hair straightener. An industry that was once worth an estimated $774 million in relaxer sales have gone down 26% over the last five years, says a 2013 numbers report. Sales are estimated to decrease to 45% by 2019. Brands are lowering their production of relaxers and instead are producing more natural-friendly products.

Bringing it close to home, I present to you ten (or twelve, depending on how you count it) influential Nigerians who are leading the Natural hair movement.

1. Chimamanda Adichie
adichie

I her 2013 novel, Americanah, Chimamanda made a case for accepting black women’s hair the way it grows from their scalp. Walking her talk, Chimamanda now rocks her hair in stylish natural ways.

Here’s what Adichie has to say about natural hair:

“Many of us say our natural hair is too hard, too difficult. But that’s because we weren’t taught how to care for our hair. I have discovered the wonders of coconut, castor, shea, even honey for softening hair. Trick is add it when your hair is wet! You get wonderful softness!

Relaxers are not about softness. They are really about texture. Otherwise there are ways to soften hair without permanently changing the texture of hair.”

2. Genevieve Nnaji
Genevieve-Nnaji-London-Natural-Hair-November-2014-BN

Genevieve Nnaji is perhaps Nigeria’s most influential actress. With over two million Instagram followers, her influence is widely felt when she sets or associates with a trend. While I didn’t find any statement regarding natural her attributed to the the rather reticent actress, popular Nigeria blogs, including Bellanaija have carried numerous headlines of Nnajis’ transition to natural hair.

3. Kate Henshaw
kate

If you consider that it’s been twenty-three years since When the Sun Set, Kate’s first movie, you will realize that this Nollywood beauty is aging gracefully, not that she’s too old at 45.

Besides sharing her fitness routine with her Instagram followers, the beauty also discusses her natural hair journey on her page. In a recent post she wrote: “We are all different. Genes and all. We all will not have thick, long hair.. some are soft and curly, some are wiry and coarse. The important thing is to maintain good hair routines that will keep your hair healthy.”

4. Dakore Egbuson
dakore

Long before her colleagues joined the natural hair trend, Dakore Egbuson wore dreadlocks– a hair style that made her unusually visible in the industry. Although the gorgeous mother of two cut her dreadlocks a few years ago, she still wears her natural hair.

She had this to say about cutting her locks: “I made up my mind that I wanted to wear dreadlocks, and when I was tired of it, I decided to cut it. My husband did not want me to cut my hair; he wanted our children to meet me with the hair. I dance to the beat of my own drum and my path is different from every other person’s. I have my own mind; if I let people shape my opinions of myself, I will not be authentic to myself.”

She deserves credit for seeing the beauty in natural hair long before the rest of us started appreciating it.

5. Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha
chioma akpotha

Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, the Nigerian actress with the girl-next-door disposition, started her natural hair journey in 2014.

Pictured above (middle) with her Wives on Strike colleagues (Uche Jombo, left and Omoni Oboli, right, who also happen to be naturalistas), the actress wrote about her natural hair journey in her Instagram page some days ago thus:

“@YellowSisi got me gushing all over my hair yesterday , all day! Her “special” touch makes you wonder how she really does it! For anything that has to do natural hair @yellowsisi is there for you. Follow her and you’d be glad you did. For my not so secret to my healthy hair, stay tuned for a post on the products I have used from when I transitioned till this point!. #naturalhair #TeamNatural”

In another post a week earlier, the Early Marriage actress wrote about how she almost gave up midway into the journey: “I’ve been feeling good about my hair all day. It’s been quite some journey from Dec’14 . I did a not so big chop in December 2014 and started the perm to natural transition. It was hard and quite tiresome. I almost gave up especially when it was difficult to comb when the new growth started coming in March 2015.

Now when I look back I’m so glad I didn’t give up! I absolutely love my hair. So with 1 year and 4months on, I believe I can fly.Once you set your mind on something and don’t give up, with time you’d get there gradually.” #NaturalHair #Naturalista”

@YellowSisi, The Instagram user she gave a shout out to also has Kate Henshaw as a client. No doubt, she seems to know her onions.

6. Nse Ikpe Etim

nse ikep etim

I fell in love with Nse Ikpe Etim the first time I saw her on screen. The banker-turned-actress in one of the most influential Nigerian natural hair promoters. She had this to say about her natural hair:

“I don’t wear dreadlocks, it is just my natural hair that you are seeing. I twist it and loose it when I choose to. I do not fix a weave-on because it is artificial. I carry my hair most of the time, except when I have to attach something else to it. If I am playing a role in a home video film, I wear another hairstyle.”

As I can’t miss an opportunity to emphasize the need to follow one’s passion, here’s what Nse said about quitting her banking job for acting:

“I don’t think I remember the year I quit banking. But when I decided it was not longer what I wanted to do I had to leave. I was doing the same thing everyday. I was not passionate about it and I think if you want to earn a living, you should be passionate about what you do.”

She is inspiring in so many ways.

7. Sisiyemmie

Sisi-Yemmie-Bn-Fro-Friday-July-2016-BellaNaija0025

By now, you know how much I love Sisiyemmie. I listed her in my favorite people on the web here.

In an interview with Bellanaija the beautiful blogger who wore her natural her even for her wedding said she will never go back to relaxing her hair.

When asked what she loved most about natural hair, she said: “I love how versatile natural hair can be, I can have it straight today if I want and get it kinky tomorrow. I also love how thick it has become, well, thicker than when I was relaxed. There is a certain look you have when you’re rocking well styled natural hair-you look healthy!”

If you haven’t checked her out, please check her website here. I haven’t missed an episode of her more than now 50 weekly vlogs!

8. Yagazie Emezi

yagazie

Yagazie was also among the people I listed as one of my favorite people in the web. The young Nigeria who combines photography with art has an unusually long natural hair because of her Malaysian gene which she inherited from her mother.

Speaking on natural hair, Yagazie said in this clip : “Good hair all has to do with hair care, good hair has to do with how you take care of your hair regardless of whatever hairstyle you have on or what length your hair is…It doesn’t always mean that because you have long hair that you have healthy hair.”

Given how gorgeous Yagazie’s hair is, she’s definitely one to take hair advice from.

9. Eki Ogunbor

eku

Eki joined BellaNaija team this year and she has become a favorite of many even landing an endorsement with a luxury homeware company.

About her natural hair journey she said, “I transitioned for 6 months but I did the big chop after. I did this because I wanted to get a feel of my hair texture before committing to the journey and I did the big chop because I really wanted to see what I’d look like with really short hair. My family was really shocked when I cut off all my hair, others were really angry because I had long relaxed hair.”

About her hair routine she wrote, “I always have one protective style or the other which I get done at O’Naturals natural hair salon and they take good care of my hair there because I don’t always have time to do it myself. They also advice on the hair care routine that’s best for the style I have on and how to prolong it’s neatness till my next visit. Between protective styles, I wash and deep condition with different products like the Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla range, the Cantu Shea Butter range especially the co-wash shampoo and Herbal Essences Hello Hydration range. I also use a lot of Coconut Oil (hair and scalp), Castor Oil (mostly scalp) and Shea Butter (hair, to seal in moisture).”

Eki is definitely one to look out for.

10. Adanna Ohakim

Adanna o

I saved the best for last. Adanna doesn’t just rock natural hair, she teaches others how to take care of it. I’m wearing a kinky twist I braided myself. Thanks to Adanna and her many tips.

Seeing these pictures may inspire you to consider transitioning. When you decide. here’s a list that contains natural hair salons and beauty shops in several cities in Nigeria.

If you are in Lagos, I think O’Naturals is a good place to go. People recommend it.

So what are your thoughts?

P.S If you are a hair dresser who works with natural hair, please write your contact in the comments section so people will find you. Black hair rocks!

MEET ADA OPUROZOR: A PIONEER OF E-COMMERCE IN NIGERIA AND CEO OF TWO MAJOR ONLINE STORES

Ada 1
Ada Opurozor

Editor’s Note:
When I learned I would be interviewing Ada, I was pleasantly surprised because I had thought that with the level of success she has attained, she should be interviewed by Forbes, not me. CEO of Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng, Ada started offering goods for sale online when many Nigerians still thought Facebook was all there was to the internet. E-commere wasn’t Ada’s first venture into entrepreneurship. As a child, Ada displayed steamed groundnuts for sale in front of her parents’ home, to make her “own” money, much to the embarrassment of her blue-blooded father who graduated with a first class in Statistics.

After graduating from university, Ada worked with her father’s advertising company. Not one to be complacent because of her father’s success, Ada opened a brick-and-mortar kids’ store. Thereafter, seeing the need to serve customers outside Lagos, Ada ventured into e-commerce. Today, drawing from her experience in running Nigeria’s favorite online kids’store and Nigeria’s No.1 wholesale mart, Ada now also runs a company that offers digital marketing and website designing. In this interview, Ada gives us an insight into how she came to be a serial entrepreneur.

Let’s Get to Know You.
A: My name is Princess Ada Opurozor, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of three Companies: www.dafunshop.com-Nigeria’s favourite online kids store and www.wholesaleng.com- Nigeria’s number 1 online wholesale mart and Big Ideas Communications Limited- A web design/digital marketing Communications Company.
I do not believe in Impossibility, everything is possible.

You are one of the pioneers of e-commerce in Nigeria, an exceptional feat. Do you have a background in technology?
A: I have no background in Technology. I had my first degree in Mass Communication and started my work career in the Advertising/marketing Communications Industry as a Client Service Executive. I had always loved business so I started a Kids Store even while I was still working. I had to resign my job after 6 years to run the kids store as I needed it to succeed.

What motivated you to transition from a brick-and-mortar store to online business? Do you still have physical stores?
A: The Motivation was the desire to succeed. The business wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped and I was thinking of ways to reach more people than those within my store location. Going the e-commerce route was me being innovative. At that time, online stores weren’t so popular in Nigeria but I had shopped online from stores abroad and one day I said to myself, if I, being I Nigeria, can buy from stores in UK and China, without even meeting these people or stepping my foot in these countries, then people from far and near can also buy from me if I take my business to the world-wide web. That gave birth to http://www.dafunshop.com (Nigeria’s favourite online kids store).

Going Online really helped grow the business beyond my expectations. We still have a walk-in Store where customers can walk in to buy if they do not want to shop online.

How have you succeeded in ensuring goods are delivered to your customers without getting lost in transit? Are the goods insured?
A: We work in partnership with some reputable Courier and logistics company who ensure delivery of orders to our customers nationwide. The Courier Companies insure these items so they get to replace any item lost in transit although this has never happened in our years of doing business. The worst that has happened is that an item got damaged in transit and in such cases, we replace the item and charge the courier company for it.

What’s your return policy?
A: We have a three-day return policy within Lagos and a seven-day return policy for outside Lagos orders. However, items on SALE/Clearance are not eligible for returns.

How do you ensure customer satisfaction?
A : We encourage customer feedback as that is the only way we can improve. Customers drop feedback on our website, Facebook page or in –store and we are always ready to look into areas of concern.

Many Nigerian entrepreneurs complain that though there are many unemployed graduates in Nigeria, it is difficult to find skilled employees with good work ethic. What has been your experience with finding skilled employees with integrity for your business?
A: This is a problem that we face regularly. Getting the right people with the right attitude is like looking for a needle in a haystack really. I always say, there are lots of people looking for jobs but very few willing to work. I have had dedicated serious staff as well so all hope isn’t lost, we are always on the lookout for such people who can bring something to the table.

Nigeria has a reputation for fraud. Your success shows one can achieve any goal the put their mind to. How have you been able to ensure your customers’ financial information do not get into wrong hands? I understand your sites are 100% secure.
A: I always tell people that Nigerians are not the only fraudulent people in the world. There are fraudulent people everywhere. A friend of mine got duped trying to do business with some Chinese guys so this fear applies everywhere. We have been successful because we do our best to fulfill customers’ orders as timely as possible. My happiness and satisfaction comes when I read messages from customers on how happy they are with goods purchased or our services etc.

Let me say something here, we are currently the only online store now in Nigeria that doesn’t offer pay-on-delivery service anymore. Initially when we started, we did pay-on-delivery for the first two years, it wasn’t an easy ride. Some customers are not really serious and just want to play on the website, when you go to deliver, they switch off their phones on you or blatantly reject the item for flimsy reasons. They even refuse to pay the delivery fee for bringing the item to them so who bears that cost? We decided to only process prepaid orders and I tell you, business has not slowed down at all, we are still very busy. We have made a reputation for been a serious business and our customers do not doubt our reliability at all. Also for new customers who are skeptical, they can choose to walk into our physical store in Festac Town, Lagos to buy. Those who are outside Lagos and can’t visit themselves, may send their friends or relations to the store to shop for them.
On Site Security, we use a reputable and secured hosting company. Also paying online on our site is very secure as we also deploy a reputable payment process for this purpose.

Who are your major competitors? What sets you apart from them?
A: Many Online Stores are springing up every day so competition is stiff. However, for instance the wholesaleng.com, we are really the only ones doing what we do the way we do it for now. We sell items in bulk online in Nigeria from various categories ranging from baby to kids to beauty to appliances, etc., at low wholesale prices. Our main focus are resellers who own kids stores, supermarkets, gift shops, bookshops, beauty shops etc. For dafunshop.com, what sets us apart from other kids’ online stores is that we have a walk-in-store and an address. Most online stores just have telephone numbers on their contact us page.

I notice your stores seem to offer high-end products; my friends who patronize you are from upper middle class families. I see some kids’ cars that go for over a N100,000 on your site. Obviously not many Nigerians can afford that. Do you have products for the average Joe (or is it Emeka since we are talking about a Nigerian market)?
Yes of course. Our Customers cut across all classes. You will also find products for as low as N50 on our website or In-store. We stock items for people of different pocket sizes. If you are looking for high-end or low-end, you will find them at our store.

What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I own me and own my time. I can decide to take a vacation anytime and not answer to anyone. The fact that I love what I do and I am happy. The fact that every sweat, every effort I put into the business translate into my own pocket. I love that.

What is the difference between Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng?
Da Fun-Shop is a Kids Retail Business with a Walk-in and online store. Our Customers are mostly parents who wish to purchase unique, quality items for their kids. While Wholesaleng is a strictly Online wholesale business with a physical office. Wholesaleng customers are mainly resellers who own their own shops.

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You were in South Africa recently as a guest speaker at an e-commerce conference; how was the experience?
It was a wonderful experience for me as I got to meet different people taking advantage of the online hemisphere from other parts of the world. I got to rub minds with intelligent driven young people like myself. I was motivated and inspired to do more.

Has the depreciation of the naira affected your business?
Yes, it has affected us greatly. Prices of goods have doubled and the purchasing power of the average Nigerian has decreased so this has caused a huge problem as many people are not buying or shopping as much anymore. Some of our customers who used to buy wholesale on a regular basis to stock up their shops have not placed an order in a long time.

Do you miss being a paid employee?
Not at all, I DO NOT miss being a paid employee at all. I make more than I could ever dream of working for someone and I have full control of my time as well.

Do you have any challenges peculiar to your business as an online business?
The Challenges we face are two-dimensional as we are both an online and physical store so we face common problems associated with these industries. Problems such as Server- down time, Power(electricity) remain a major challenge. We have to have steady power, computers have to be on 24/7 as orders are processed each second.

You deliver in all 36 states. What is the average time it takes from the time a customer places an order to the time the goods are delivered to them? Have you ever delivered to Zamfara (I assume it is one of the most obscure states in Nigeria)?
Yes, we deliver to all states in Nigeria. As long as there is a bus going to that state, we can deliver there. The average delivery time is one day in Lagos and 3-5 days outside Lagos. And yes, we have processed orders from Zamfara.

Where do you see your two online stores in the next seven years?
In the next seven years, we see Da Fun-shop having more Walk-in-stores in other states in Nigeria. We see ourselves being a household name. For Wholesaleng, we intend to increase our product categories/lines and start delivering products outside the shores of this country.

Fittingly, drawing from you experience in successfully running two online stores, you now design websites and run digital advertising campaigns for clients. Please tell us the importance of a good web design.
I have always been very artistic and picked up graphic designing when I was working in the advertising industry. By the time I left, I was writing advertising copy and doing graphic jobs as well.

Moving into the Online industry, I realized a lot of people were unreliable and leaving the fate of my business to some unreliable web designer wasn’t the way I wanted to do things so I decided to learn web-design in order to manage my online store myself. By the time I decided to set up wholesaleng.com, I was able to design the site on my own. Since then I have built websites for some other clients. Most web design jobs I have done are based on referrals from people I have worked for in the past. I also run digital advertising campaigns, social media campaigns for my online stores and other clients as well.

A good website is very important as this is a major factor in ensuring that interest becomes a Sale. Customers should be to navigate the website easily, find products and place their orders easily otherwise they can give up along the way and the store loses.

You previously worked in an advertising firm before digital marketing became prevalent. What skills from your previous experience have you transferred into your services as a digital marketing consultant?
Advertising principles whether traditional advertising or Digital advertising are basically the same. I learnt Copy writing, graphic designing, client management and lots more from my previous employment and this has contributed greatly to my success in my own businesses.

How effective are digital marketing?
Digital Marketing is where is the world is now. The Internet has made the world a truly small village; communication is a lot easier with all the social media sites, apps etc. Tapping into this benefit has helped most businesses since it is easier to target specific audiences and also easier to measure effectiveness of your advertising online.

Can you give us a price range for designing a website?
Depending on the features needed on the website, prices may vary from N50,000 to N500,000. An e-commerce site costs more than a corporate website due to certain plugins and features that have to be integrated like payment, shipping etc.

What is the minimum budget one should have before they can consider digital advertising?
There is no minimum or maximum budget. We can work with what the Client has available. No matter how small, every kobo expended will bring in a result.

You are proof one can do it all and a breath of fresh air in a country where the media tend to publish mostly depressing tales. You are an inspiration to young women.
Thank you very much for granting this interview.

You are welcome.

Hulk Hogan’s $140 Million Lawsuit Win Against Gawker, A Win for Privacy

In this post, I condemned the unethical manner media companies like TMZ conduct their businesses–by feeding on the misery and weakness of celebrities. So when last month I read The New Yorker’s The Digital Dirt How TMZ gets the videos and photos that celebrities want to hide, I gave a fist pump excited that the tables were turning on TMZ. While reading the feature I was struck by the writer’s narration that when he approached Harvey Levin (TMZ’s Managing Editor) during his investigations, Levin expressed displeasure over the fact that the journalist had been contacting current and former TMZ employees for the feature, and instead of granting an interview Levin referred the writer to his publicist. I wondered if Levin realized the irony that while he aggressively digs for dirt on celebrities and send paparazzi to harass and follow them around, he won’t himself grant as much as an interview. After reading the feature, I hoped the Feds would investigate TMZ for possible violation of privacy laws.

While I waited for the Feds to act, last week I was exhilarated when a jury awarded Hulk Hogan (former wrestler) $140 million (Hogan only asked for $100 million) against Gawker, a media company that operates very much like TMZ.

Hulk Hogan had sued Gawker for publishing a sex tape that showed him having sex with the wife of a friend of his at the time, Todd Clem. While his sexual indiscretion is reprehensible, it is not for Gawker to act as a moral police. Consider what dirt(literally and otherwise) would be uncovered of each of us if there is a secret video recording our every action. (For example, though most people look down their nose at nose-picking, a survey shows that 91% of people do it when no one is looking.)Hogan sobbed as the verdict was announced. This verdict will definitely send a cautionary signal to online publishers. In an interview he gave after the trial, He said he sued not to make money but to send a message.

While media houses are easily held for defamation when they publish untrue and harmful stories about a person, it has been tricky to win an invasion of privacy claim due to its conflict with the first amendment right to free speech. In an invasion of privacy claim, a Plaintiff is saying though what you published is true, I expected a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding this subject but you published it and caused me damage. It is especially hard for celebrities to win privacy tort actions because it is argued that having decided to be in the public eye, they have given up any expectation they have of privacy.

The tort of intrusion which is one form of privacy tort encompasses not-consented-to physical intrusion into the home, hospital room or other place the privacy of which is legally recognized, as well as unwarranted sensory intrusions such as eavesdropping, wiretapping, and visual or photographic spying.

The element of intrusion is not met when the plaintiff has merely been observed, or even photographed or recorded, in a public place. Rather, the plaintiff must show the defendant penetrated some zone of physical or sensory privacy surrounding, or obtained unwanted access to data about the plaintiff. This element, that the act must have taken place in a private space, may be the reason Solange and Jay Z (Solange punching and kicking Jay Z), and Ray Rice (Dragging out his unconscious wife from an elevator) may not succeed in a privacy lawsuit against TMZ for their publication of the infamous videos. Though an elevator is an enclosed space, it was within a public area. So if you pick your nose while in the elevator alone (or break the wind) you do so at your peril.

In the Hogan case, Gawker and their attorney’s arrogance and lack of remorse may have played a role in the jury’s decision. In his closing statement for the defense, Gawker’s attorney insisted that uncovering the sometimes less-than-laudatory activities of public figures “is what journalists do, and at the end of the day it’s what we want journalists to do.” This statement rubbed the jurors who sat on the case the wrong way. After the trial, the jurors cited this statement and said that it spoke of the defense’s arrogance. One of the jurors cited that the defense was also “very flippant” during the depositions (I suppose the deposition was read in court).

A juror’s advice to Gawker founder when asked by an interviewer? ‘Don’t demean yourself by going for the vulgar and the lewd and the trashy. Stick to the newsworthy journalism — you understand what that is.’ When asked what his advice to Gawker is, another juror said, “Put yourself in their shoes, if you have the ability to do that,” before saying, “I don’t even know if they even have the heart to be able to do that. It’s just amazing, everything I listened to, that they have no heart. No soul. It’s all about the almighty dollar, and it’s sick.”

I couldn’t have said it better than the jurors. While is is easy to condemn Gawker for their exposure of celebrity secrets, I find that in real life, it is hard to keep juicy stories to oneself. If we take time to scrutinize every story we share, we will find that we spread harmful gossips and rumors about others as much as TMZ and Gawker do. For example, if you hear that a girlfriend who is neither engaged nor unwed is pregnant, will you pass this information on to mutual friends?

As a rule of the thumb, before you speak THINK, that is, Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? It must pass all five musters. If it isn’t any of these, Keep it to yourself. This is the argument I made in this post.

Congratulations to Hogan! So what’s your opinion? Are you happy Hogan’s secret tape was leaked? Do you feel it was a just punishment for his sexual indiscretion and that the jury verdict is like paying him for committing adultery? Some people have taken this position. Please let me know what you think in the comments section.

Linda Ikeji’s N600,000,000 House: The Law of Compensation, The Streisand Effect etc.

Last year, I blogged about Linda’s purchase of a 24 million Naira car and how she was such an inspiration to young people. In the blog, I told a story of how Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo suggested that blogging wasn’t a job when political blogger Omojuwa told him he blogged for a living. Linda’s latest acquisition of a N600,000, 000 (You read that right, six hundred million Naira) mansion in Banana Island is proof that just like Ota farm, blogging can make one a billionaire. How did Linda go from a thirty-year-old broke hustler to a thirty-five-year old billionaire (I guess it’s safe to assume she’s worth that much)?

The Law of Compensation
In this 2012 interview with Toolz, Linda told a story of how she started blogging as a hobby with no intention of making money from it. According to her, after blogging for several years and as her readership grew, she started getting inquiries from businesses about her advert rates. After she overcame her shock that people were willing to pay her for doing what she loved, she asked around and was surprised at how much people made from blogging. She felt guilty asking for the going rate and instead told the businesses to pay her much less than the industry rates. Given her recent acquisition however, I am sure Linda has let go of her guilt.

As Linda’s story shows, most successful people set out to serve and provide value to others and are often amazed when riches follow as result. Chimamanda Adichie once said that she hasn’t lost her sense of wonder that she is making money from writing. She said that even if she never got published, she would have been somewhere writing in addition to whatever her 9-5 job happened to be. A corollary to the proposition that success follows service is the Law of Compensation.

The Law of Compensation states:’Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.’ Since, reading about this law, I have a better perspective of why celebrities make more money than common folks. So, while an actress like Kaley Cuoco makes one million dollars for each episode of Big Bang Theory (The show has huge ratings), a Certified Nurse Assistant who does an obviously more noble and valuable job earns 12 dollars an hour. The Law of Compensation is the reason inventors like Mack Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are among the richest people in the world–Facebook has over one billion users.

Now that you understand the Law of Compensation, you see how invalid the argument that Linda couldn’t have made all that money from blogging is? That even though it may seem unfair that Linda made so much money from gossiping and literally copying and pasting posts from celebrities’ social media accounts, she earned it. Each day, hundreds of thousands of people visit Linda Ikeji’s blog. Arguably she has a wider readership than many of the mainstream media outlets in Nigeria. Her blog is probably even more influential. Because millions of people visit Linda’s blog every month, advertisers seek her out to sell their products. While writing this post, I visited her website and saw adverts from big name brands like MTN, GTB,LG,Dettol,Sky Bank, UBA etc. Linda is successful because her blog is serving millions of people. So if you want to become rich, find a way to make your business serve more people. For example, you can advertise more to acquire new customers.

On Linda’s Decision to Make Her Success Known
Some people opine that Linda’s announcement of her latest acquisition is ill-advised. While I understand the concern for her safety and the fact that modesty is a great virtue to have, there are other consideration that may have informed Linda’s decision to announce. First, Laura, her younger sister had hinted to the new house via social media. Apparently, she couldn’t contain her excitement that she was would soon become Mike Adenuga’s neigbour. That said, Linda had her own reasons too. Anybody in the blogging business knows how traffic to one’s website determines the success or otherwise of one’s blog. That alone is an incentive for even the most modest to do a blog that will yield more customers. As proof, the post in Linda’s blog announcing the Banana Island house has about ten times more comments than an average post on her blog. People who didn’t know about her will do now and will become customers and that means more money for Linda.

Moreover, Linda told her story to inspire young women. In this very inspirational post where she showed her house to her fans, she wrote about how only five years ago, on her thirtieth birthday, she turned to God broke, sad and depressed. It’s hard to imagine that she’s had such financial success in only five years and that is why she chose to encourage young people struggling to find financial stability. Linda has never wavered in her determination to encourage women to make it on their own without looking to men to provide their financial needs. Her ‘I’d rather be self made’ project is only one of her several projects aimed at empowering young people and rewarding her readers. While there may be valid reasons to keep her success secret, I applaud Linda’s courage in making it known.

On the Theory that Nigerians are Obsessed with Wealth
In one of the blogs celebrating Linda’s success, a non-Nigerian observed that Nigerians are obsessed with wealth. They ((I don’t know the gender) questioned the validity of the argument that Linda’s success is an inspiration and a good example to youths. They wondered why we don’t place more emphasis on non-tangible values. While I agree that Nigerians place too much emphasis on material wealth, I also realize that having enough money in the bank is very important. Even if one doesn’t aspire to richness because of the comfort and relative peace of mind it provides, one may aspire to it for altruistic purpose of helping others. I once read that with all his good intentions, the rich Samaritan in the bible couldn’t have helped the wounded man if he had no money to take the man to the hospital. So no one should feel ashamed of their desire to be rich and successful. It is a valid dream to have.

Why Linda Must Now Protect Her Assets
Shortly after Linda bought her car last year, Google shut down her blog following allegations and complaints of copyright infringements. I expect that following her recent disclosure, Linda may face a couple of setbacks and probably lawsuits. Nigerians are becoming more aware of their rights and thus more litigious. Recently, Abike Dabiri filed a N500,000,000 lawsuit for defamation against Diamond Bank and Punch Newspaper for publishing her name as a debtor. Chaz B’s widow hired lawyers over allegations that St. Nichola’s hospital were negligent in treating her husband which led to his death.

Given the possibility the Linda will get sued, Linda should first, hire a good lawyer; second, make her blog a separate entity so her personal funds won’t be reached if a huge verdict is given against her blog ; and lastly, get a good insurance policy to cover her liability in case she gets sued.

On the Ethicality of Her Blog
Some have said Linda cannot attribute her success to God when her blog is premised on gossips and false rumors that hurt other people. But if you watch her interviews, Linda seem to be a humble and nice person. However, several months ago, I made a personal decision to stop visiting Linda Ikeji’s blog for the same reason I stopped watching TMZ and Wendy William’s show – at that time in life, I felt they weren’t helping me get where I wanted to be professionally and personally. In place of Linda’s blog, I started reading Bellanaija because it aligns more with my preferences and interests.

That said, Linda is an inspiration to me and she has explained that her conscience guides her in what she publishes and what she censors–she doesn’t publish comments she finds in her judgement to be harmful to others. If that is the case, it would be unfair to judge her. Moreover, even when one have reservations about the content of her blog, one cannot discount its entertainment value.

On Why Celebrities Don’t Sue for Defamation
Many celebrities including RMD have chosen to reproach Linda via Twitter rather than bring a lawsuit for defamation. Here could be the reason they choose not to see. First: The Streisand Effect which is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. In other words, suing Linda for a defamatory remark will make more people aware of the defamatory remark. For example, I didn’t know that Abike Dabiri’s name was on the debtors’ list until she filed a lawsuit to clear her name–her lawsuit made more headlines than the debtor’s list.

Second reason a celebrity may choose not to sue for defamation is that truth is a defense to defamation. So however disparaging a story is, if it is true, the aggrieved party cannot win in court. Moreover in some jurisdictions, a public person have a higher burden of proving that the defamatory remark was not just negligently published but with malice or reckless disregard for its truth. So it is easier for a private person to win a lawsuit than for a celebrity who makes a living by living in the public eye.

Third, the money and time spent in litigation may not be worth it especially because attorney fees in Nigeria are not contingent on the attorney winning a client’s case. (I hope to do a blog on why that law should be relaxed). On the other hand, a well contested litigation may hurt a public figure as the trial may necessitate the party airing even more of their dirty laundry.

Finally, opinion is not defamatory. So if Linda posts: ‘A smokes weed’, it may be defamatory if A doesn’t smoke weed. But if instead Linda says ‘Could A be Smoking Weed?’ and goes on to post a picture of A with something like weed wrapped between her fingers, leaving it to readers to draw their own conclusion, it is not defamatory even if turns out A was merely holding a rolled harmless sheet of paper. Same Story. Different legal consequences.

Once more, Congratulations to Linda on her blog. She is such an inspiration. And you, please keep the law of compensation in mind in whatever your business might be. I hope you too will get to the top! Ciao!

Google’s Shutdown of Linda Ikeji’s Blog: How to Protect Your Business from Legal Problems in the Digital Age

The news is everywhere that Google took down Linda Ikeji’s blog on allegations of plagiarism. Here are four important legal lessons we can take away from it on how to protect ourselves and businesses in this digital age:

1. Know your Rights – Trademark Issues
Knowing one’s rights and taking appropriate actions to safeguard them can make a difference between protecting one’s business and having others take undue advantage of one’s labour. Before the recent development in Ms Ikeji’s legal battles, I had been wondering why she still hosted her blog, as big as it is (was), on blogspot; why she didn’t have her personal domain name. Yesterday however, I learnt that the people who filed reports to Google against Ms Ikeji did so out of malice because she had been reluctant to pay them the money they requested for the domain name they registered using the blogger’s name – Linda Ikeji; a case of cybers-quatting.

While the internet is the greatest invention in recent history, it has also provided opportunities for people to outwit and take advantage of less knowledgeable people through questionable practices including cyber-squatting. Cyber-squatting is defined in the United State’s Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act as registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The law was enacted to counter the practice where unscrupulous – or savvy, depending on how you view them – businessmen register a domain name using the trade names of popular companies and brands who have yet to register their domain name, and subsequently force the companies to pay them outrageous sum of money when the companies want to use their tradenames to establish an online presence. For example, before the law was enacted, if Coca Cola hadn’t done so, anybody could register cocacola.com, maintain it, and then wait to make money off the multinational company, who will have no choice than to buy the name from them, when they eventually want to register the domain name.

In Ms Ikeji’s case, it would have been prudent of her to register a domain name with her name, Linda Ikeji, once she saw that her blog was getting traffic and was making money. That would have prevented cyber-squatters from doing that first and trying to extort her now as they are doing.

Even now, Ms Ikeji can start to do some damage control. Although I doubt Nigeria has a similar law as the United states against cyber-squatting, the Nigerian tort of passing off, illustrated in the case of Niger Chemists v Nigerian Chemists should be sufficient for Linda to sue the people who are unjustly misappropriating her name for damages. Passing off prohibits a person from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with another when this is not true. Since passing off can be used to enforce unregistered trademark, it can be especially useful for Linda since it is unlikely she registered her blog with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a business in Nigeria. Most people who google Linda Ikeji do so with the intention to get to her blog. So anybody registering a domain name with her name has no good intention but an ulterior motive to take advantage of a brand she has single-highhandedly built. Alternatively, Linda can take the high road and ignore her detractors by using a different name to start a new website and subsequently conducting her business within the bounds of the law.

So the first lesson to take away from Ms Ikeji’s current legal battle is to make effort to take the extra step to protect one’s business and brand especially when there is a likelihood they would be a success. If it is a business, register it with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Besides protecting one’s business name, if registered as a limited liability company, one’s private funds and investments are kept safe if there is a liquidation of the business. If it is an online venture, buy a domain name with the name of your business. And if you don’t have the resources put the TM mark on top of your business name to alert potential users that you are laying claim to exclusive use of the name.

2. Know Your Responsibilities Towards Others – Copyright Issues
Having a right comes with a corresponding obligation to respect other people’s rights. For example, a factory owner has the duty to keep his plant safe from hazards for his employees and visitors. Same goes for a landlord. A trader has the duty to make sure his wares are fit for the purpose for which a seller buys them, etc.

In the case of intellectual property, it is the law that people who use their intellect to create intangible works should be allowed to benefit from them and not have others gain unduly from them; otherwise, there will be little motivation for creativity. Intellectual Property law therefore protects intangible creations of the mind including literary, musical and artistic works. To help protect such rights, companies like Google are required by law to take appropriate steps to take down contents infringing on other people’s rights. And I believe before Google took down Ms Ikejis’ blog, they must have at least found prima facie evidence that she did engage in some plagiarism. While it is hard for a celebrity blogger to produce original content all the time, it is important to note what is permissible and what is not when one lifts content from another website. The concept of Fair Use dictates the extent one can go. For example, while it may be okay to report a news one saw in another blog using one’s own words since facts are not protected rights, it is wrong to copy and paste a story the exact way it is written in another blog. Again, while using just an excerpt or quote is in order (with due credit given), copying an entire page isn’t. Moreover, where re-posting something posted by another will divert traffic from the person’s site to yours, the defense of fair use is not available to you.

Particular mention must be made of pictures as I have noticed that people often use them without authorization from the source. The same way one has a copyright to any article they write (except of course they are a journalist in the employ of a company in which case the right lies with the company) is the same way they have a right to any picture they take. For example, I understand that the right to the now popular, probably most tweeted selfie ever, taken at the Oscars at the behest of Ellen DeGeneres actually belongs to Bradley Cooper merely because when the selfie was taken, Ellen gave him the phone to take the picture because he was in a better position to capture everybody in the picture. Unless of course Bradley assigned the rights to the Academy.

While we may not put much value to intangible property in Nigeria, we must realize that intellectual property is highly treasured in developed countries. For example, paparazzi make money each time a picture they take is used on TV or in a magazine. Adequate authorization is given before such use and anybody who fails to do so risks paying much more in damages. So lifting pictures from other people’s websites without authorization puts one at risk of being sued by the copyright owners.

And a tip for other bloggers who need pictures to illustrate their posts – Gettyimages offer some pictures for free to bloggers. Using those pictures can be a way to keep yourself out of trouble and from using ones with price tags on them.

3.Hire an Attorney – Let Him Do Your Thinking for You
The best advice one can give to any successful entrepreneur is to get an attorney. Although the restriction on attorney advertising limits litigation in Nigeria (unlike in the US where people are inundated with advertisements from attorneys who engage in ambulance chasing teaching and reminding them of how others have wronged them), every entrepreneur must now brace for some legal disputes as Nigerians gradually become more aware of their rights. Having an attorney, even if one cannot employ him full time makes a difference between seeing and avoiding potential pitfalls litigants can rely on to sue one, and falling blinding into them and losing one’s hard-earned money to a costly suit that could have been avoided if one had worked within the law on the advice of his attorney. As unethical as TMZ is in their business practices, one would think they get into legal trouble often for torts including defamation and invasion of privacy, but they don’t. The reason they don’t is that they have an in-house counsel who go through every material before publication to ensure they carefully walk the fine line between freedom of speech and committing tort against others.

People in high-risk business especially need an attorney as they are prone to constant legal battles. Having a full time in-house counsel is highly recommended in such cases. Though Google can be a handy resource for a quick research, the difference between researching on your own and working on the guidance of an attorney is analogous to the difference between self-medicating and seeing a physician. So why not pay your attorney to worry about your legal battles while you concentrate on the important task of building your business?

4. Get an Insurance – For the Rainy Day
Having an insurance can make the difference between watching all of one’s sweat go down the drain with one costly lawsuit that ends against one and another that lets one be in business because they pay a little premium to an insurance company that takes care of such liabilities. While paying for insurance may sometimes seem like waste of money, the headache it saves one on a rainy day more than makes up for the premium paid. And that is why physicians and attorneys insure themselves against malpractice.

On a final note, I do hope the people who came after Linda weren’t solely prompted to act by malice and envy merely because of the 24 million naira car she recently added to her garage. If that is the case, then it is reprehensible. If they understand that there is enough room at the top for everybody, they will be better off spending their time and resources climbing the success ladder than pulling others down; doing the latter doesn’t help them make any progress in their own journey to success.

Disclaimer: The above is not a legal advice. Please consult your attorney for your legal problems. While the author made diligent effort to present the current state of the law, jurisdiction, subsequent changes in law and the peculiarity of your case may account for some differences that can only be made known to you by your attorney following a comprehensive research.

TMZ and Beyonce, Rice, Elevator Videos.

TV programs such as TMZ Live that focus on celebrity gossips are popular because they satisfy our curiosity to know what happens in the lives of the stars we see on TV. However, if we take a while to consider what value, if any, they add to our lives, we may watch them less often. TMZ, (an acronym for Thirty Mile Zone which refers to the thirty-mile radius in Los Angeles where many studios are located), a news outlet founded in 2005, is known for breaking big celebrity news. It is credited with breaking the news of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 hours before the more conservative and traditional news networks did. TMZ has established itself as the go-to company for all news concerning celebrities. The problem however is that lately TMZ seems to focus more on the bad than the good.

Within the last year, TMZ published incriminatory video or audio recordings of Lamar Odom, Donald Sterling and just some days ago, Ray Rice, and as a result, a marriage ended, an NBA franchisee lost his team and an NFL player lost his career respectively. TMZ also released an elevator video recording showing Jay-Z being hit by Solange, his sister-in-law and that led to months of speculation that Jay-Z’s marriage with Beyonce was over. While these are newsworthy events, it’s worrisome that in each of these cases, some privacy was violated. These celebrities were caught in their worst moments in places they had reasonable expectation of privacy, yet they have been subjected to public ridicule and criticized by some of us who may be worse than they are but are lucky to not have had our dirty laundry aired. However, given how much money that is increasingly being paid to sellouts who release these videos, everybody is a potential victim. While publishing these stories often start conversations on certain social issues including racism, domestic abuse and fidelity in marriage, it is doubtful social change is TMZ’s motive for publishing these stories. Otherwise, what purpose did publishing the Solange-Jay-Z video serve? And after Rice had been suspended for two games and the issue of domestic violence addressed, even if inadequately, why did TMZ publish a video they knew was going to cause harm to even the victim?

We have all had moments, however fleeting, in our lives that if made public, we would not be proud of. How many of us, even though we know the proper place to break the wind is in the restroom, have done it when alone in a closed room in the hope that the air clears before somebody else walks in? Don’t we all have our dirty laundry? Ray Rice’s wife Instagram post following the publication of the video articulated the point eloquently. She wrote: “I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow and show the world what real love is…!” Her post goes to show that news outlets, like TMZ who allow ratings, traffic and fame, rather than conscience, to dictate their business practices harm people and families and so shouldn’t be promoted.

Moreover, I have always found it awkward watching TMZ founder (whose name I won’t mention), a former attorney in his sixties, dish graphic gossips, on national TV, of young celebrities who could pass for his grandchildren. I also found while writing this article that TMZ also played a role in 2009 in exposing Tiger Wood’s infidelity. How do people whose day job is digging dirt on celebrities to find news that can lead to demise of marriages and careers sleep at night? Could the pressure on celebrities to be perfect be the reason Hollywood has a high suicide rate?

If we, as a society, agree that there is something wrong about a news agency focusing only in reporting the ills and mistakes of others, then there are things we can do to thwart the success of their business venture. We can start by boycotting their TV shows and websites so as to tank their business. Second, people who take advantage of their job positions to release videos of patrons visiting their employers’ businesses should be adequately punished, not rewarded. That is the only way to deter employees from violating their employers’ privacy policies. For example, the hotel staff who released the Solange-Jayz video was reportedly merely fired from his job whereas TMZ paid him $250,000 for leaking the video. Obviously, he gained more than he lost. If he were prosecuted however, it would deter future sellouts since whatever money they are paid for violating the trust reposed on them would be expended in legal fees for their defense.

On a personal note, I like to keep in mind what someone always tells me, that ‘Influence doesn’t ring a bell’. Watching TMZ, one would think that every celebrity cheats on their spouse or drives under the influence since those are the sort of things they get to report. And by watching it, one feeds one’s senses with negativities which imperceptibly reduces one’s moral standards. But the truth is that many of these celebrities are good role models, responsible family men and women who deeply care about others and are often committed to several charities. I recommend we patronize news agencies who focus on and extol these virtues because they somehow make us conform our behaviors to high moral standards.

Finally, let me make it clear that I do not support the vices the celebrities in this post were caught in, not racism, and definitely, not solanging (am verbing now). And in this age, if one doesn’t conform one’s conduct to acceptable moral standards, for its sake or for religious conviction, then they should for this reason-there aren’t just human eyes and ears watching, there are now digital ones. Yes, it doesn’t matter if the said conduct is done in the dark or even in Vegas where they claim that everything that happens there stays there.

PS: On feeding the senses with things that are edifying, I find that listening to christian songs while in the car calms my nerves while tragic news about Ebola, ISIS and Boko Haram, only frays them. For those in the LA area, I highly recommend 95.9FM The Fish.

Genevieve Nnaji: They Said She Said

I was watching a TV show today (July 3, 2015) when one of the co-hosts, Kelly, told a story of how while on Vacation in Utah with her husband, Mark, people she ran into kept asking her if she was there in Utah with Mark to which she replied, yes. Unknown to Kelly, Mark Wahlberg, a popular US actor was also in Utah to shoot a film. It wasn’t until she was asked ‘so you are going to be in the movie?’ to which she replied, ‘what movie?’ did she realize there had been a miscommunication – people had been asking about Mark the actor and she had been answering with her husband in mind. When she finished narrating the story, she and her fellow co-host Michael Strahan said: ‘And that’s how rumors get started’.

Later in the day, I was on the internet when I saw that Genevieve Nnaji had reportedly, in a Punch Interview, made not so flattering comments about Nollywood – the industry that made her. She had said among other things that Nollywood was ‘bland and mediocre’ and that was the reason she accepted fewer roles as there weren’t many scripts that had the depth and creativity she loves to see in a script.

Following a backlash from Nollywood on her choice of words, Genevieve took to Twitter and said ‘I never called my industry bland and mediocre. Truth or not, they were NOT MY WORDS. As a person/writer, you can “assume” what you like about my thought process but DO not project those thoughts as “quotes” by me. It’s distasteful, insensitive and quite unprofessional. It’s insulting to those limited few working hard to make a difference in the industry. I am a product of Nollywood and my loyalty remains unshaken’

I have read her interview with The Punch in its entirety and I see no intention by The Punch, which by the way is a reputable newspaper in Nigeria, to harm Genevieve’s reputation. Taking things out of context sometimes distort the meaning at the heart of an interview like the one in question. However, I noticed that the part of the interview that contained the bland and mediocre remark was in quotation marks so anybody reading the interview can reasonably infer that those were the exact words used by Genevieve. If Genevieve didn’t use the exact words, then it was irresponsible of The Punch to pass them on as hers.

That said, Genevieve’s observations about Nollywood were dead-on and the media circus that has been created by her comments are unwarranted. I am selective of Nigerian movies I watch. If it doesn’t have Genevieve, RMD (does he still act?), Omotala Jalade, and recently Nse Ikpe Etim, it hardly piques my interest. I also watch movies directed by Tchidi Chikere or Amaka Igwe ( a pity we lost such a talent that directed classics like Violated and Rattle snake. I noticed she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet. Please create one for her if you have a Wikipedia account. She is notable enough). Movies produced by Ego Boyo or Emem Isong are also a delight to watch. I appreciate the fact that there are some very talented actors like Mercy Johnson who can excel if given opportunity to work with brilliant directors. There are some other decent actors, directors and producers I may have failed to mention, I will appreciate your recommending them in the comments section. I highlighted the ones above to show that there are people we associate with high standards in Nollywood – people who make effort to produce quality movies in an industry that prefers quantity ( We are still waiting for Half of a Yellow Sun. The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board has continued to delay its release). I don’t mean to dis smaller producers who work on very small budgets and only produce movies to make a living. But there’s also nothing wrong in acknowledging people whose efforts and works have stood out.

On the Genevieve saga, honestly, I don’t see a demon between any of the two sides. Even if the words were Genevieve’s, she said a glaring truth and so shouldn’t be hounded by the press for it. If the words weren’t hers (and she has said they are not), I still won’t fault Punch so much. It could just be a case of a sophisticated writer trying to present more elegantly the thoughts of her interviewee. I have pointed out earlier that that wasn’t a very professional and responsible thing to do. It is unfortunate that a quote taken out of context has clouded and taken away from the purpose of the interview which was to highlight Genevieve’s charity , St Genevieve Foundation, and her recent endorsement with Etisalat.

There are things we can learn from this – the need to be more careful when we say what we think we heard; When we are the object of a rumor, to give benefit of the doubt to the monger as they may not be ill-intentioned. We can also learn to communicate better with people around us. I have lost count of how many times I had been upset with someone only to realize subsequently that it was a pure case of misunderstanding and poor communication. I guess you have had the same experience.

It’s serendipitous that before I came across the headline on Genevieve, I had written but not published a blog on how to manage rumors. Do find time to read it here. It’s short but edifying.

Are there outstanding Nollywood players you love who I didn’t mention? Please let us know in the comments section. Who knows who will be watching them next?

UPDATE: Just got the news today July 5, 2014 that the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board has finally approved the release of Half of a Yellow Sun. The release date is yet to be announced. Who will be watching?

In Defence of ‘Ms’ Chimamanda ‘Adichie’: A Look at Our Obsession with Titles in Nigeria

Someone I consider a literary mentor and friend who knows how much I love Chimamanda Adichie asked me sometime ago why Adichie doesn’t have a child yet. I should know because I google her every two or three days to see what article she has written for a newspaper, what talk she is giving next or what book she is working on. I should know why she hasn’t had a child as is expected of every married Nigerian woman. I told my mentor friend (I will call her Ada) that Adichie probably doesn’t want to have one yet, that she knows how much dedication is required to raise children, that perhaps the internationally acclaimed author wasn’t ready to make her schedule any busier than it was – shuttling between two continents, sometimes more, giving lectures, organizing workshops, lecturing University students and promoting books and film adaptations were demanding enough . Ada reminded me that Adichie’s biological clock was ticking. I countered that her career was at its peak and needed little distraction at this time. At the end of our conversation, one of us mentioned and the other agreed that she was probably trying without any success. We concluded that may be that would be the subject of her next book. I know, that’s us, Nigerians, carrying other people’s perceived problems like they are ours (in Nigeria-speak, drinking panadol for other people’s headache) and suggesting what they should write next. In retrospect, it was preposterous that I inferred that she didn’t have a child merely because I hadn’t seen it in the news. I know someone of whom similar assumption was erroneously made because she didn’t announce the birth of her child on Facebook – Facebook which has become the unofficial and universal record keeper of births, deaths and marriages.

About a month ago, Adichie came up again in my conversation with Ada. This time, she sounded more concerned: ‘Are you aware she doesn’t want to be addressed as a Mrs?’ I wasn’t aware and as someone who follows her on Facebook and elsewhere, I was surprised I missed it. After my phone conversation with Ada, I went on the internet to read the details of my favorite author’s latest ‘crime’ – her other ‘crime’: suggesting that given all our problems, criminalizing gay and gay-related activities shouldn’t be a priority for Nigeria.

Miss, Ms or Mrs

A reporter had started an interview by addressing Adichie as ‘Mrs Chimamanda Adichie’. Since she isn’t married to an Adichie, my view is that she should be addressed either as Ms Chimamanda Adichie or Mrs Chimamanda Esege ( She is married to Ivara Esege pictured above with her). Although the rules are recently being relaxed, traditionally, Mrs goes with a woman’s married name, Miss with her maiden name and Ms being a generic title for a woman, married or unmarried, can precede a maiden name or married name. Maybe if the interviewer had used the title appropriately, Adichie would have protested less. Although some sources reported that she said to be addressed as ‘Miss’, I doubt that is true. The reports must have stemmed from the similarity in the pronunciation of ‘Ms’/ˈmɪz/ and ‘Miss’\ˈmis\. Given how knowledgeable Adichie is in the use of English language, I doubt she could have mixed up the two.

Adichie’s insistence on not being addressed as a ‘Mrs’ may also have been motivated by her desire to downplay the importance we attach to it in Nigeria. She once told of how a successful but single woman would put on wedding bands to business conferences; her reason: to earn the respect of her fellow attendees. There was also the woman who sold her house to attract suitors who would otherwise see her as out of reach and too much headache. It is unfortunate that in Nigeria, we still see marriage as something that accords higher status to a woman. However accomplished a woman is, there is this pressure to be under a man’s roof even if it means giving up an aluminum roof for a leaking thatched roof. By not making her marriage a public affair, Adichie reinforces the need for women to be judged by their own accomplishments and nothing else.

Maiden Name: To Change or Not to Change

Adichie’s revelation in the interview that she hadn’t changed her name to her husband’s last name also drew criticism from people who thought it inappropriate – people who have never met her or know what loving relationship founded on mutual respect she enjoys with her spouse.

When I was in the university, one of my classmates who got married while in school was advised by one of my professors to put off changing her name till her graduation so that her maiden name will be on her Law degree certificate. My professor thought it was an honor (and I agree with him)to her birth family? Isn’t Chimamanda’s decision to keep her maiden name an honor to her aged father, James Adichie, who each time he mentions his name would naturally be asked if he is related to the author? Would he enjoy this honor if chimamanda had a different surname? Should the pride he takes in answering ‘Yes, I am her father’ be taken away because this particular child that has brought him honor is a woman? Should a choice that honors one of two equally deserving families be condemned? Perhaps the fact that a woman is made to throw away her maiden name upon marriage is the reason female children are less desirable in Nigeria than male children. Women cannot perpetuate the family name.

Some people argue (and reasonably so) that if a man is not required to change his name upon marriage, there should be no pressure on a woman to change hers especially when she has worked so hard to build her name as a brand that sells. Should those of us who changed our maiden names before establishing our careers judge women whose careers took off before their marriage because of their reluctance to change to their married name? Is it possible that not everyone can easily deal with the inconvenience that comes with a name change including making newspaper publication (in Nigeria); changing passports, drivers license and social security cards; notifying financial institutions and employers; making modifications to social media accounts and explaining the discrepancy in the names on credentials every time? But for her unique first name, will Chimamanda Esege be as recognizable as Chimamanda Adichie? I know a very popular female author who has been divorced four times ( I wish it weren’t that common). Could she have retained her brand name and fan base if she had changed her name each time (nine times) to reflect every change in her marital status? If Adichie’s husband is okay, and obviously he is, with her wife retaining her maiden name, should it be anybody else’s business? I am just saying: different strokes for different folks. I changed my name when I got married and I am very happy with my decision because I know the inherent benefits. Adichie has made hers and we ought to respect that.

And There are all Those Titles…

Since reading a novel by either Chukwuemeka Ike or Ifeoma Okoye (it has been a long time, both authors are amazing in their ability to subtly pass on moral lessons without coming off as preachy.) that caricatured our abuse of titles in Nigeria, I have developed a preference to be called simply by my name. In the novel there was even an ‘Accountant’ Chigo as you would have in Dr Chigo. In Nigeria, addressing a physician, an attorney, a Catholic knight or a local Chief without the appropriate title is deemed disrespectful. An introduction of a Chief Dr Sir Okeke Okafor in a fundraising event is an indication that a generous donation is expected. An omission of any of the titles will most likely result in a reduction of the intended sum given on ‘behalf of me, myself and my wife’.

While I understand that some titles are given as a reverence to people who hold certain positions in established institutions, many of them are superfluous. While I cannot imagine addressing a catholic priest by his first name without preceding it with a ‘Father’, and I cannot imagine calling a High Court judge anything but ‘My Lord’ ( I used to have reservations about that too. Isn’t God the only Lord), I don’t feel obliged to address as a ‘Dr’ a rich man who literally acquired a ‘Doctor’ title with his wealth.

That said, I admire the Ibo culture that teaches children to call their elders De, Ndaa, Sister, Aunty, etc. Calling someone that seem to automatically instill in the child the idea that this Aunty, De etc deserves his respect.

After all is said and done, the question from Shakespeare remains: ‘What is in a name?’ We should, like a rose which would smell sweet irrespective of what it is called, do all the good we can to as many people as we can; that trumps any name and sound more highly than any title we are called, earned or unearned.

PS: Regarding the title of this blog, Adichie doesn’t need any defending. With her eloquence, I doubt she would ever have need of an attorney to explain the motivations for her actions.
I couldn’t verify the title of the book with an ‘Accountant chigo’. Google didn’t help me this time. I guess we need to do more to archive at least the description of some of the wonderful books written by Nigerian authors before the internet age. I think it is Men Without Ears by Ifeoma Okoye, am not sure.