Government should look into children’s education, health, others – Karifest

Government should look into children’s education, health, others - Karifest

Karifest Duchess Onyeka is the managing director and chief executive officer of Karifest Group of Companies and Karifest Foundation. She is a lawyer and a rights activist who has been using her legal practice in the defense of the downtrodden and the less privileged, especially widows. She is also an industrialist, publisher and a blogger. In this interview with Cornerstone News , the lawyer calls on government to do something urgent towards ending poverty in the country and provide basic necessities for children, especially education and health care. Excepts:

What informed your choice of advocacy instead of normal law practice?
The primary duty of a legal practitioner is to defend the people and ensure justice to the people. Whether we like it or not, the judge who administers justice is a lawyer. We are trained to give hope to the common man but you notice that many people do not get justice because they have no money to hire a lawyer to defend them in court. There are other people suffering in silence, especially the weak, poor and the defenseless. There are people facing oppression, especially in the villages, and they do not know what to do or where to go for help. So, I decided that I must contribute my quota and help the downtrodden, the oppressed, especially girls and widows.
Moreover, there is advocacy in my blood. I have a humble background. My family was not well-to-do, even though we are not poor, but you know how the rich behave. I saw how the poor were being oppressed. I started feeling the oppression of the masses at a very tender age.
I remember that my parents were surprised when I confronted a neighbour who encroached on our land, and I challenged him and dared him to encroach again. I won the battle. I threw away all the work tools that the labourers brought to fence us out of our land. After that singular act, I told my God that I would fight for the oppressed. People started knowing me in Agbor, Delta State, where I was brought up, that I stand for those being oppressed or humiliated. Once someone is maltreated, I will fight for the person. I don’t care how highly-placed the person is, I will confront the oppressor and rescue the oppressed.

What are some of the most memorable cases you have handled?
I have handled many cases. The most recent was the one of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s aide, Friday, that stripped a woman in public. I have a
platform for Anioma people and one of my admirers posted the video of the abuse of the woman by Okowa’s aide, and the person, after posting the video, called my attention to it; after watching the video, I felt so bad that, in this jet age, a woman was debased and humiliated like that. I took it upon myself and I started my advocacy war. I broadcast the video and people started calling. I went to the woman’s place in Owa and interviewed her. I heard her side. Today, to God be the glory, the man who humiliated her has been remanded in prison. You don’t just treat a woman like that and expect me to keep quite. I must fight to the end, till I get justice. People should learn from Friday’s case. It is wrong to feel that nobody would fight for an oppressed person. God will use people like me to fight for the oppressed.

Government should look into children’s education, health, others - Karifest

Are you not afraid of the work you do ?

I am not afraid of anybody. It is God that owns life and he will not allow anything to happen to me . Whether I fight for the oppressed or not, one day, I must die. It is better to fight and make impact than to live in fear and die without touching lives. I believe that God has a way of fighting for people who do His work. God loves anyone that brings succour to the oppressed or the needy. Again, I don’t step on peoples toes. I say it the way it is. I don’t cook up stories against people. As a media professional, many people have come to me to report something negative about people but I won’t do it. Anything I publish or any cause I fight is genuine. Even when a case is reported to me and you are at fault, I would approach you to see if you are remorseful before I will take my war to the public. If you are remorseful, we can settle amicably. Once your hands are clean, you don’t need to fear. I don’t blackmail people, so, God is always fighting for me .

How do you cope in a male-dominated environment?

Gone are the days when women would sit at home and men would go to work. Today, women work as men do. When we were in the school, did they have separate classrooms and subjects for the women? We are equal in knowledge. If God has endowed a woman with wonderful talents, she must not waste it. She should use her talents for the service of humanity. Women are good managers of homes. We take care of the babies, support men’s business, we pray for our husbands, we are like a pillar to men. So, we should be appreciated. We have rights to work, just like men.

What do you think about crises in marriage?
Marriage is not a do-or-die affair. Marriage is good because it is an institution that was established by God, but when a woman is oppressed in marriage, she should speak out. She should not keep quiet because she wants to remain married or because of what people will say. If, as an oppressed wife, you die, the next moment, the man is married to another woman. If you are in an abusive marriage, you have the options to take
legal action and seek divorce or you walk out of the marriage before you die.
I won’t support any woman who insults her husband because he has no money or she is richer than him. I will not support a woman who provokes her husband. Don’t provoke your husband. If you provoke your husband to make him beat you, shame on you. You should honour your husband.
On the other hand, if you are being oppressed and you are not appreciated by your husband and he is beating you, quit. As a wife, you have no right talking down on your husband; he is your crown, you should be submissive and respect him. You should pray for him and understand that he is an imperfect being, just as you are. If you are not perfect, why should you expect your husband to be perfect? But men who hit their wives are beasts. Men that beat their wives are cowards. Your wife is part of you.

How do you assist widows?
In Nigeria and Africa in general, I hear of widows being oppressed. I feel sad when I see families torturing a woman whose husband just died. Some would start fighting over the man’s property and they would deny the woman and the children the man’s property. This is the kind of battle that I fight. My organisation uses legal means to get justice for such a woman and her children. A woman loses her husband and she is mourning, in serious pains and frustration, and the man’s family comes to add to her problems. It is wrong. They should be able to console and support the woman. Society should condemn such barbaric acts.

You are involved in many things, activism, entrepreneurship, law , journalism and so on; does it mean you are a jack of all trades and master of none?
I am multi-talented. I see it as jack of all trades and master of all. I am blessed by God, I am naturally a creative person. I do training for students and artisans who are ready to learn.

How would you assess basic (child) education in Nigeria?
Child education is very important. The importance of child education cannot be over-emphasised. Every child, especially girls, has the right to education. Government should make sure that they are educated. Why I said that women should be educated is that some parents feel that to train a girl in schools is a waste of money, as women end up in the kitchen.
I want parents to know that women do not belong in the kitchen like they say, but in the boardrooms making decisions. Change the notion and begin to see women as the same as men. We went to the same schools. We were not given different curriculum because we were feminine. Women should see themselves as doing what men are doing, even better. But I don’t mean that a woman should assume the responsibility of men as head of homes, in that aspect, we should be submissive to our husbands.

What is your advise to government, well-meaning Nigerians and philanthropists in Nigeria?
The government and well-meaning Nigerians should support child education. When we say philanthropists, I laugh. We should not wait for philanthropists, all hands must be on the deck to assist at least one child to be useful in our environment. We have many intelligent people wasting away because they are underprivileged.
There are children out there who are not only intelligent but are also talented but their talent could die unnoticed because there is no money to send them to school. There are children who go to school with empty stomachs. Children are our future leaders and any government that jokes with child education is irresponsible.
Philanthropists should do something about saving our underprivileged children from wasting away. Government should have education trust funds for the less privileged, while well-to-do people should set up foundations to assist in the education of children, assist widows and the sick.

Karifest Duchess Onyeka is the managing director and chief executive officer of Karifest Group of Companies and Karifest Foundation. She is a lawyer and a rights activist who has been using her legal practice in the defense of the downtrodden and the less privileged, especially widows. She is also an industrialist, publisher, and blogger. In this interview with Christopher Oji, the lawyer calls on the government to do something urgent towards ending poverty in the country and provide basic necessities for children, especially education and health care. Excerpts:

What informed your choice of advocacy instead of normal law practice?
The primary duty of a legal practitioner is to defend the people and ensure justice to the people. Whether we like it or not, the judge who administers justice is a lawyer. We are trained to give hope to the common man but you notice that many people do not get justice because they have no money to hire a lawyer to defend them in court. There are other people suffering in silence, especially the weak, poor and the defenseless. There are people facing oppression, especially in the villages, and they do not know what to do or where to go for help. So, I decided that I must contribute my quota and help the downtrodden, the oppressed, especially girls and widows.
Moreover, there is advocacy in my blood. I have a poor family background. My family was not well-to-do, even though we are not poor, but you know how the rich behave. I saw how the poor were being oppressed. I started feeling the oppression of the masses at a very tender age.

Government should look into children’s education, health, others - Karifest


I remember that my parents were surprised when I confronted a neighbor who encroached on our land, and I challenged him and dared him to encroach again. I won the battle. I threw away all the work tools that the laborers brought to fence us out of our land. After that singular act, I told my God that I would fight for the oppressed. People started knowing me in Agbor, Delta State, where I was brought up, that I stand for those being oppressed or humiliated. Once someone is maltreated, I will fight for the person. I don’t care how highly-placed the person is, I will confront the oppressor and rescue the oppressed.

What are some of the most memorable cases you have handled?
I have handled many cases. The most recent was the one of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s aide, Friday, that stripped a woman in public. I have a
platform for Anioma people and one of my admirers posted the video of the abuse of the woman by Okowa’s aide, and the person, after posting the video, called my attention to it; after watching the video, I felt so bad that, in this jet age, a woman was debased and humiliated like that. I took it upon myself and I started my advocacy war. I broadcast the video and people started calling. I went to the woman’s place in Owa and interviewed her. I heard her side. Today, to God be the glory, the man who humiliated her has been remanded in prison. You don’t just treat a woman like that and expect me to keep quiet. I must fight to the end, till I get justice. People should learn from Friday’s case. It is wrong to feel that nobody would fight for an oppressed person. God will use people like me to fight for the oppressed.

Are you not afraid of assassination?
I am not afraid of anybody. It is God that owns life. If you decide to take the life that was given to me by God, He will require my blood from you. Whether I fight for the oppressed or not, one day, I must die. It is better to fight and make an impact than to live in fear and die without touching lives. I believe that God has a way of fighting for people who do His work. God loves anyone that brings succor to the oppressed or the needy. Again, I don’t step on people’s toes. I say it the way it is. I don’t cook up stories against people. As a media professional, many people have come to me to report something negative about people but I won’t do it. Anything I publish or any cause I fight is genuine. Even when a case is reported to me and you are at fault, I would approach you to see if you are remorseful before I will take my war to the public. If you are remorseful, we can settle amicably. Once your hands are clean, you don’t need to fear. I don’t blackmail people, so, God is always fighting for me.

How do you cope in a male-dominated environment?
Gone are the days when women would sit at home and men would go to work. Today, women work as men do. When we were in school, did they have separate classrooms and subjects for the women? We are equal in knowledge. If God has endowed a woman with wonderful talents, she must not waste it. She should use her talents for the service of humanity. Women are good managers of homes. We take care of the babies, support men’s business, we pray for our husbands, we are like a pillar to men. So, we should be appreciated. We have rights to work, just like men.

What do you think about crises in marriage?
Marriage is not a do-or-die affair. Marriage is good because it is an institution that was established by God, but when a woman is oppressed in marriage, she should speak out. She should not keep quiet because she wants to remain married or because of what people will say. If, as an oppressed wife, you die, the next moment, the man is married to another woman. If you are in an abusive marriage, you have the options to take legal action and seek divorce or you walk out of the marriage before you die.
I won’t support any woman who insults her husband because he has no money or she is richer than him. I will not support a woman who provokes her husband. Don’t provoke your husband. If you provoke your husband to make him beat you, shame on you. You should honour your husband.
On the other hand, if you are being oppressed and you are not appreciated by your husband and he is beating you, quit. As a wife, you have no right talking down on your husband; he is your crown, you should be submissive and respect him. You should pray for him and understand that he is an imperfect being, just as you are. If you are not perfect, why should you expect your husband to be perfect? But men who hit their wives are beasts. Men that beat their wives are cowards. Your wife is part of you.

How do you assist widows?
In Nigeria and Africa in general, I hear of widows being oppressed. I feel sad when I see families torturing a woman whose husband just died. Some would start fighting over the man’s property and they would deny the woman and the children the man’s property. This is the kind of battle that I fight. My organisation uses legal means to get justice for such a woman and her children. A woman loses her husband and she is mourning, in serious pains and frustration, and the man’s family comes to add to her problems. It is wrong. They should be able to console and support the woman. Society should condemn such barbaric acts.

You are involved in many things, activism, entrepreneurship, law, journalism and so on; does it mean you are a jack of all trades and master of none?
I am a multi-talented. I see it as a jack of all trades and master of all. I am blessed by God, I am naturally a creative person. I do training for students and artisans who are ready to learn.

How would you assess basic (child) education in Nigeria?
Child education is very important. The importance of child education cannot be over-emphasized. Every child, especially girls, has the right to education. The government should make sure that they are educated. Why I said that women should be educated is that some parents feel that to train a girl in schools is a waste of money, as women end up in the kitchen.
I want parents to know that women do not belong in the kitchen like they say, but in the boardrooms making decisions. Change the notion and begin to see women as the same as men. We went to the same schools. We were not given a different curriculum because we were feminine. Women should see themselves as doing what men are doing, even better. But I don’t mean that a woman should assume the responsibility of men as head of homes, in that aspect, we should be submissive to our husbands.

What is your advice to government, well-meaning Nigerians and philanthropists in Nigeria?
The government and well-meaning Nigerians should support child education. When we say philanthropists, I laugh. We should not wait for philanthropists, all hands must be on the deck to assist at least one child to be useful in our environment. We have many intelligent people wasting away because they are underprivileged.
There are children out there who are not only intelligent but are also talented but their talent could die unnoticed because there is no money to send them to school. There are children who go to school with empty stomachs. Children are our future leaders and any government that jokes with child education is irresponsible.
Philanthropists should do something about saving our underprivileged children from wasting away. The government should have education trust funds for the less privileged, while well-to-do people should set up foundations to assist in the education of children, assist widows and the sick.

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