Meteorite Older Than Earth Found In The Sahara

 

Meteorite Older Than Earth Found In The Sahara

A meteorite

A rare meteorite, estimated to be 4.6 billion years old, was found by a team led by Jean-Alix Barrat of Université de Bretagne Occidentale. Results of the study have been published in the journal PNAS.

The meteorite, which landed in the Sahara Desert last year has been dated as being 4.56 billion years old, which makes the volcanic rock older than the Earth, itself, which is approximately 4.54 billion years old.

Named Erg Chech 002, (EC 002) after the Algerian site where it was discovered, the rock is a rare artefact from a protoplanet — a large body of matter in orbit around the Sun or another star and believed to be developing into a planet — that was likely forming when the solar system was a young 2 million years old.

The solar system, with all its planets, was considered to have evolved to its current structure about 4.57 billion years ago, while the Sun formed first, over 4.6 billion years ago.

The team behind the findings, led by Jean-Alix Barrat of the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France, speculates that this astronomical body would have either been destroyed or absorbed by bigger rocky planets as they formed closer to the Sun.

Results of the meteorite study were published in the journal PNAS this month.

Part of a group that was recovered in May 2020, near Bir Ben Takoul, southern Algeria, the meteorite was found within the Erg Chech sand sea. The stones are described as having a “coarse grained, tan and beige appearance” interspersed with crystals that are green, yellow-green and yellow-brown. They are igneous in nature, which means they formed from molten rock or magma.

A rock like EC 002 is a relic from the very early days of the solar system and most of the material from the time has since become a part of other bodies that have evolved to form planets or asteroids, from which we have plenty of meteorites today. No known asteroid or meteorite looks like EC 002. This indicates how rare the finding is and how these rocks likely do not exist anymore.

About the meteorite

The rock that makes up the meteorite is of a type called andesite, which is made of solidified magma or lava. These are found on Earth in subduction zones, where tectonic plates slide below each other and rock from the crust enters into the mantle of the Earth. Meteorites have rarely been found to be andesites.

EC 002 is classified as an achondrite, a type of meteorite that originates from a parent body that had a differentiated crust and core, like the rocky planets. Achondrites lack ‘chondrules’, which are round bubble-like grains of partially molten droplets that form in space when smaller bits of rock merge together. This piece of rock is believed to have come from partly molten magma in its parent body’s crust and is rich in silica, while most magma is rich in iron.

It is also categorised as ungrouped, which means that although its characteristics are well-defined, they don’t fall into any established groups of meteorites.

According to the researchers, their analysis shows that the rock was likely the part of a crust of an ancient protoplanet or early rocky planet that eventually broke up. The magma that EC 002 formed out of would have been at least 1,220°C and taken at least 1,000,000 years to cool and solidify.

Courtesy: ThePrint

 

Nuclear Tests: France Now Haunted By 1960s Sahara Desert Nemesis

An atomic bomb explosion.

The legacy of atomic bomb testing and colonial history has come back to haunt France in the form of a radioactive Saharan dust cloud.

Dust-filled winds from the Sahara Desert flew north over Spain, France, the UK, and Ireland in February. Along with bringing golden-tinged evening skies to some parts of Europe, it also delivered a slight – yet notable – spike in radiation.

According to ACRO, (Association for Control of Radioactivity in the West) this recent plume of lightly radioactive dust can be tightly linked to France’s colonial past and its Cold War-era atomic bombing tests.

Before Algeria gained its independence from French colonisation in 1962, stretches of the Saharan Desert were used as a playground for France’s atomic bomb tests. On February 13, 1960, France carried out its first atmospheric nuclear tests, code-named “Gerboise Bleue”, (Blue Desert Rat) in the Algerian Sahara and a number of underground tests in their territory, followed. The tests exposed the residents of the region, as well as stationed French soldiers to radiation, which continues to lurk in the deserts to this day.

Analysis by ACRO suggests that the recent spike in radiation over France is directly linked to this historic nuclear bomb testing. Researchers took samples of the Saharan Dust from car windshields and took them to a laboratory for analysis. This revealed the presence of cesium-137: a radioactive isotope that is not naturally found in the sand of the Sahara Desert, but is commonly produced through the nuclear fission of uranium-235 in nuclear weapons.

Giving this radioactive signature, ACRO argues that the radiation spike seen in February is most likely linked to the French nuclear tests carried out in the Algerian Sahara during the early 1960s.

“This radioactive pollution – still observable at long distances, 60 years after the nuclear fire – reminds us of this situation of perennial radioactive contamination in the Sahara, for which France bears the responsibility,” they said in a statement.

The increased levels of radiation over parts of Europe recently were only subtle, and not significant enough to pose any real risk to public health.

However, it isn’t just the Saharan Desert that bears the ghosts of Cold War atom bomb tests. Between 1945 and 1980, the US, the Soviet Union, the UK, France, and China, are estimated to have carried out at least 520 atmospheric nuclear tests, reaching stratospheric levels.

One of the most affected areas of the planet is Bikini Atoll, which bore the brunt of at least 23 nuclear weapons by the US between 1946 and 1958, including Castle Bravo, the most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever tested by the US.

Recent scientific studies have suggested that this tropical reef in the south Pacific is still more radioactive than Chernobyl. Reckless testing in the south Pacific also brought more than its fair share of human suffering. It is estimated that 665 inhabitants of the nearby Marshall Islands were overexposed to radiation.

Just a couple of years ago, the United Nations warned that a decades-old “nuclear coffin” in the Marshall Islands could be leaking radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean.

It would be recalled that in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, effects of the nuclear weapons testing of the 1960s by France, resulted in radiation-induced illnesses that even claimed lives.

Courtesy: EuroNews ; photo: pinterest.com

 

 

South Africa’s Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini dies, aged 72

The late Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini

Goodwill Zwelithini, the controversial but revered king of the Zulus, South Africa’s largest ethnic group died today, Friday, March 12, 2021, aged 72, after weeks in hospital, for a diabetes-related illness, the royal palace announced.

The king wielded great influence among millions of Zulus through his largely ceremonial and spiritual role, despite having no official power in modern South Africa.

During a decades-long reign, he revived festivals celebrating virgin women, was blamed for fuelling deadly xenophobic violence, slammed gays as “rotten” and enjoyed a lavish and hedonistic lifestyle in a country where millions live in poverty.

“It is with the utmost grief that I inform the nation of the passing of His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini… King of the Zulu nation,” the palace said, quoting a statement signed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a powerful veteran politician who is also a Zulu prince.

The king was admitted to hospital last month for diabetes. “Tragically, while still in hospital, His Majesty’s health took a turn for the worse and he subsequently passed away in the early hours of this morning,” the statement said.

Born in Nongoma, a small town in the south-eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province, Zwelithini ascended the throne in 1971 during the apartheid era. President Cyril Ramaphosa said the king “will be remembered as a much-loved, visionary monarch who made an important contribution to cultural identity, national unity and economic development”.

Returning from hiding over assassination fears, Zwelithini was crowned the eighth Zulu monarch at the age of 23. The Zulus are South Africa’s largest ethnic group with over 11 million people.

The king in ceremonial uniform.

Traditional rulers play a largely symbolic role in modern South Africa, where they are constitutionally recognised. Under the white-minority regime which ended in 1994, kings ruled homelands where most blacks were confined to defuse broader national struggles.

Courting controversy

In 2015, Zwelithini gained international notoriety for anti-foreigner remarks suggesting immigrants were responsible for rising lawlessness in South Africa and that they needed to be kicked out. The remarks were blamed for inflaming a spate of xenophobic attacks on mostly African migrants, which left seven dead, thousands displaced and revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed.

Zwelithini later denied whipping up xenophobic sentiments, saying his remarks were taken out of context. “If it was true I said people must kill each other, the whole country would (have been) reduced to ashes,” he said.

A descendent of the all-powerful Shaka — who ruled the Zulu nation until his assassination in 1828 — Zwelithini revived the annual Reed Dance in 1984, where thousands of bare-breasted young women celebrate their virginity by dancing in front of the king.

Artist’s impression of the legendary Tchaka Zulu, ancestor of King Zwelithini.

He was the most prominent among a handful of traditional rulers who hold sway over emotive issues such as land ownership in South Africa. In 2018, he sought an exemption for nearly three million hectares of royal land which the government had wanted to expropriate for redistribution to landless, marginalised blacks, sidelined by apartheid. As the sole trustee of 2.8 million hectares (6.9 million acres) of land, through the Ingonyama Trust, he wanted his land to be left untouched, warning “all hell will break loose” if its ownership was challenged.

Three years ago, the outspoken king courted controversy when he spoke in support of corporal punishment, saying it helped pupils perform better in school. He also sparked a storm in 2012 when he slammed same-sex relationships as “rotten”, drawing rebuke from rights groups.

“If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same sex is not acceptable,” he said at a ceremony marking an anniversary when the Zulu army defeated imperial British forces.

In 1994, he sparked fears of a secessionist conflict when he rallied between 20,000 and 50,000 stick-wielding men — most of them supporters of the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) -– to march through Johannesburg to support his call for sovereignty ahead of the country’s first democratic election. The marchers engaged in a firefight outside the headquarters of the IFP’s main rival, the now-ruling African National Congress, leaving 42 people dead.

Zwelithini enjoyed the trappings of his royal status, receiving more than 60 million rand ($4 million) in yearly allowances from the state, to help fund a lifestyle that includes several royal palaces, six wives and over 28 children.

Courtesy, AFP.

Photos: independent.co.uk; iol.co.za; alamy.com

 

 

Modest Parenting Style of Microsoft Centibillionaire, Bill Gates And Wife, Belinda

The Gates family, from left to right: Melinda, Jennifer (front), Phoebe, Rory, and Bill, live a surprisingly modest life despite their vast fortune and huge, high tech house. Photo: Bill Gates/Facebook

  • Children go to church
  • Jennifer, Phoebe and Rory not allowed phones until age 14
  • Forbidden to use phones at dinner table
  • Help wash dishes every night
  • Will inherit a ‘paltry’ US$10 million each
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, world’s largest private foundation, holding assets worth almost US$47 billion

It’s easy to assume that centibillionaire Bill Gates spoils his three children with his vast fortune. After all, they belong to one of the wealthiest families in the world. However, the Microsoft co-founder and his philanthropic wife Melinda have made it a point to raise their offspring in surprisingly modest ways. They may live in a US$127 million mansion in Medina, Washington and own lots of other properties and assets, but their parenting methods are somewhat similar to the average family. Please, read for yourself:

Belinda and the young Gates children. Photo: BillGates/Facebook.

The family still does household chores together

Although Bill and Melinda run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world and holding assets worth almost US$47 billion, they still share the housework with their two daughters and son, Jennifer, Phoebe and Rory. Washing the dishes together almost every night is a Gates tradition. Melinda came up with this idea to emphasise that this “unpaid” chore should not fall on women more than men. She believes that dishwashing makes their relationship as a couple and as a family, stronger.

The three children are “only” inheriting US$10 million each

Jennifer, Phoebe and Rory’s dad may be one of the few centibillionaires in the world, but they will have to work hard to earn the same title. That’s because Bill has stated that his offspring will only be getting “a minuscule portion” of his massive wealth in the future, with the majority dedicated to charitable causes. This is their parents’ way of letting them achieve what they want, independently.

The Microsoft co-founder and his father, Bill Gates Snr. Photo: nbcnews.com.

Phones are forbidden at the dinner table

The tech titan is also very strict with his children when it comes to the use of technology. Bill and Melinda prohibit their little ones from using gadgets while they are all eating together. Jennifer and her two younger siblings were not even allowed to use mobile phones until they were 14! Bill also limits their screen time because it “helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour”.

The Gates regularly attend a Catholic church

During an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Bill Gates revealed that his family actively participates at church. “We’ve raised our kids in a religious way. They’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in,” he said. He also explained that his philanthropic work is primarily to reduce inequality in the world, a cause the children have reportedly picked up from their parents.

Bill Gates displays a copy of one of his pet projects. Photo: Bill Gates/Facebook.

Bill and Melinda follow a 1970s parenting model

While Bill Gates has been a revolutionary in the field of technology, he and Melinda still follow a parenting model developed back in the 1970s. The “Love and Logic” method minimises emotional reactions such as reprimanding children. People who follow this approach encourage their children to solve problems on their own. Bill, however, has admitted that he and his wife are still working on perfecting this approach.

Bill Gates with Africa’s richest man, Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote. Photo: africanews.com.

(Courtesy, Style Magazine)

 

 

Reggae legend, Bunny Wailer dies, aged 73

Late Bunny Wailer

Finally, it is ‘nunc dimitis’ for reggae legend and the only surviving member of the founding trio of the Wailers band, Neville O’Riley Livingston, best known to the music world as Bunny Wailer.

Bunny Wailer died in a Kingston hospital this morning, March 2, 2021, aged 73. Although the cause of death is not immediately known, Bunny had been in and out of hospital since he suffered a major stroke in July, 2020. His wife of many years had also gone missing.

The late Bob Marley.

Bunny was a childhood friend of Bob Marley’s. Together with Peter Tosh, they formed the Wailers and went on to become the best-known reggae act, worldwide.

Bunny, as a solo act, was a winner of three Grammys and was given Jamaica’s highest honour, the Order of Merit, in 2017.

His death was confirmed by his manager, Maxine Stowe and by Jamaica’s Culture Minister, Olivia Grange.

Many tributes to the late legend have been pouring in from all around the world. In his own tribute, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holmes, described Bunny’s death as “a great loss for Jamaica and for reggae’.

The original Wailers lineup (left to right): Bunny, Bob, Peter.

Photo credits: buzzcaribbean.com; Getty Images.

 

Okonjo-Iweala Resumes Work In Style

Clad in her usual simple, but eye-catching ‘ankara’, with headgear to match, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, steps out in style to work, as the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, (WTO) at the headquarters of the global body, at The Centre William Rappard, (CWR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

(Photo: courtesy, stelladimokokorkus.com)

 

 

Okonjo-Iweala Resumes duty as WTO DG today

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation.

The newly-elected Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, (WTO) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assumes duty, today.

The former Nigeria’s two-term Finance Minister was selected by the General Council of the WTO a fortnight ago, as the organisation’s seventh director-general.

With her emergence as the first African and first female to be the Director-General of the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala had unveiled her agenda, which included working with other members of the organisation in reforming and rebranding the global trade body.

Okonjo-Iweala, in her acceptance speech, had also highlighted the need for procedural reforms so that the WTO would better serve its members.

Her term which is renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.

According to her, the rule book of the Geneva-based organisation is outdated, while its rules lag behind those of some regional and bilateral trade agreements, which are incorporating many innovations.

Okonjo-Iweala had stated that the WTO’s rulebook must be updated to take into account, 21st century realities such as e-commerce and the digital economy.

She said: “It has been a long and tough road, full of uncertainty, but now it is the dawn of a new day and the real work can begin.

“Some WTO rules and procedures also need to be revisited, including the procedure for appointing director-general.”

According to her, the WTO secretariat should be strengthened, to enable it to provide cutting-edge services to members.

She had explained: “An important change would be to move away from the current silo way of working, to a more team-based and task-based approach.

“The secretariat has to be fit-for-purpose to take account of the changing dynamics of the global economy and priorities of members.

“The challenges facing the WTO are numerous and tricky, but they are not insurmountable. There is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel if we work together in a transparent manner that builds trust, builds bridges and diffuses political tension and encourages convergence.”

(Courtesy, THISDAY; Photo: Martial Trezzini/EPA).

 

 

The Osogbo War Of 1840

Artist’s impression of battle scene.

After the Fulanis systematically captured Ilorin via the treason of Afonja the Field Marshall of the Oyo empire, the fulanis together with Malian and  Hausa immigrants made Ilorin their territory. They had immense assistance from some Yoruba Ilorin Muslims which led to the sacking of the old Oyo Empire in 1835.

For administrative reasons, the fleeing Oyo citizens relocated the Oyo administrative centre from Oyo-Ile to the present Oyo-Ago. The Alaafin devolved the military power of the Oyo army into the hands of garrison commanders like Ogunmola, Kurunmi, Timi and Soun.

The Fulanis had sworn to dip the sword of Jihad into the Atlantic ocean and they were still not satisfied with their victory; they wished to extend their rule deep into the heart of Yoruba land and annex the whole coastal cities of Yorubaland into the Sokoto caliphate. Thus in 1840, they set to capture Osogbo, a Yoruba town. The Fulanis, under the command of Ali, the Hausa balogun of Ilorin, laid siege on Osogbo.

The Fulanis got help from the Sokoto caliphate and other Arab/Tuareg mercenaries from across the Sahel. The major war agenda of Sokoto caliphate was to destroy the Oyo monarchy and civilisation completely, before destroying all other Yoruba kingdoms for total subjugation, just like they destroyed the Hausa civilisation.

The Fulani army could not pass through the Ogbomoso axis and Oke-Ogun axis because the Ogbomoso army led by the Soun and Kurunmi Ajadi of Ijaye had blocked and sealed off that route, making it impossible for them to launch any attack from the rear.

When the king of Osogbo realised that the Ilorins were too strong for the Osogbo army, he summoned the Ibadans for help. Ibadan immediately sent some auxiliaries to Osogbo under the command of Obele, alias Mobitan and Alade Abimpagun. As this force could not stop the Ilorins, another contingent was sent to Osogbo under a more experienced leader. But still the Ilorins won every battle and gained more ground.

The Fulanis controlled Osogbo for two years before the Oyo army led by Ibadan came to the battlefield.

When the Ibadans realised that the Ilorins were becoming more threatening to Yoruba land, they sent a large and stronger force under Balogun Oderinlo to crush the intruding forces and Jammas of Ilorin. When Oderinlo and his men arrived at the battlefield, they realised that things had gone worse than they thought.

They could not show their faces in the open field for fear of the Ilorin horses and for about 20 days after their arrival at Osogbo, they could not fight outside the town thickets. Oderinlo suggested that Elepo, a brave Ibadan warrior was badly needed at the warfront. Elepo had been rejected by the war-chiefs of Ibadan for his actions at the late Agbamaja expedition.

As soon as the message from Oderinlo reached Ibadan, the Bashorun wished he could send Elepo to Osogbo but could not go against the wish of other war-chiefs. The Bashorun gave Elepo a cow to worship his god, Ori , and pray for the victory of Ibadan at the warfront.

Artist’s impression of Hausa/Fulani army.

At the warfront, the Ibadan could not attack the Ilorins during the day because Osogbo was practically in a plain and the Ilorin horses might have advantage over them, with disastrous results.

They decided to attack at dusk when the Ilorins would no longer be able to use their horses. About 2 pm, the well-prepared Ibadan army left the gate of Osogbo for the battlefield. They were to keep a strict watch and arrest anyone suspected to be a spy.

About a mile from the Ilorin camp, they halted and arranged the order of the attack.

The Osogbo army and the earlier auxiliaries were to handle the centre of the battlefield; chiefs Abitiko and Labuju were to command the right wing, Balogun Oderinlo with the rest of the Ibadan war-chiefs were to form the left wing of the army. The Ilorin camp was then attacked at midnight. The password was “Elo ni owo odo?” (How much is the ferry fare?).

The reason this password was chosen was because the river Osun had to be crossed in entering Osogbo from the south and anyone who could not tell this was likely to be an enemy.

Stampede engulfed the Ilorin camp as the Ibadan army set it on fire. The Ilorins could not offer the slightest resistance; they were smoked with the gunpowder of the Ibadan guns. Thousands of the Sokoto caliphate soldiers were slaughtered that day and thousands sold into slavery.

This attack was a success for the Ibadan. Some Ilorin war-chiefs were captured in the attack. Prominent ones were:

  • Jimba the head slave of the emir;
  • One of the sons of Ali, the commander-in-chief;
  • Chief Lateju;
  • Ajikobi, the Yoruba Balogun of Ilorin.

The first two were released while the latter two, being Yoruba by birth, were regarded as traitors and were executed. This was a huge victory for the whole of Yoruba land.

After the Osogbo victory, Ibokun, an Ijesa town, not far from Osogbo, was taken by the Ibadans for being an ally of Ilorin. The Ibadans accused the Ijeshas, Ekitis and the Ondos of giving the Fulanis free passage for their army and infantry, in attacking another Yoruba town. The Ibadans then placed Ajeles on these Yoruba enclaves for the roles they played during the Osogbo war.

The violent imposition of the Ajeles on these Yoruba kingdoms led to the Ekiti Parapo Civil War, several years later.

Aare Kurunmi Kakanfo  

 

 

TRIBUTE: U-Roy, Jamaican Reggae Legend  for Burial March 28

Late U-Roy

The late veteran Reggae and Dancehall toaster Ewart Beckford, better Known to the music world as U-Roy, will be buried at Dovecot on March 28, 2021, about a month from now.

Marcia Smikle, Daddy U-Roy’s partner of over 40 years, previously said that there would have been a viewing on March 25 at the National Area, but Jamaica’s Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, has confirmed that there will be no viewing at the Arena, due to COVID-19.

“We will announce funeral arrangements at a later date. At that time, Minister Grange will give a statement,”  Oliver Watt, Director of Public Relations and Corporate Communications, added.

“I am trying to get a big church so that social distancing can be observed because I am not sure that the 10 people stipulation, because of COVID, can work with a popular public figure like U-Roy. A lot of people want to be there,” Smikle had said.

Daddy U-Roy is survived by 16 children. Smikle, who is in her 60s, had lived with the artiste for 41 years. They didn’t have any children together, but he raised Smikle’s child – from a previous relationship – as his own.

Marcia Smikle, U-Roy’s companion of 41 years.

“I came there with one child and when I realised that he had so many other kids, I didn’t want to join the bandwagon, him did hot, so I just raised everyone, I didn’t bother to have anymore,” she joked.

“We had some great years, ups and downs like everyone else, good times and bad times, but I stick with it through faith. At my age, where me did ah go go again? There was a lot of love in our home,” she said.

Daddy U-Roy passed away on February 17, 2021, 10 just days ago. The veteran toaster helped transform Jamaican music through an innovative vocal improvisation process known as ‘toasting’, where he expanded the role of D.J. into someone who didn’t just play and introduce records but added their own verve and vocal ability to the product. At the height of his career, he became hugely popular around the world around the mid-1970s, through to the 1980s. He was 78.

Smikle said that the artist had been receiving treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure conditions and that he also suffered from kidney problems.

“He had a kidney problem but he didn’t want to go on dialysis,” she said.

She said he had been in and out of the hospital and most recently had undergone an operation to address an issue of internal bleeding.

“The operation was successful and the bleeding stopped, but then the bleeding started somewhere else in his heart,” Ms. Smikle said. He was readmitted to the operating theatre at the University Hospital of the West Indies on Wednesday (17th) and he later died.

“We will be live-streaming the event so that his fans all around the world can say their farewells. Everything is being handled by Perry’s Funeral Home,” she said.

Dancehall legend, U-Roy.

Beckford was the first toaster to popularise the form through a series of successful releases on the Duke Reid label, gaining a wider audience for toasting. This approach to production and the remixing of previously recorded tracks with a new vocal influenced the early hip-hop pioneers such as Kool Herc.

Beckford’s first two singles released on Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label were iconic smash hits. Those singles, Wake the Town (1970) and Wear You to the Ball (1970), dominated the airwaves and established his reputation as one of Jamaica’s most popular toasters.

One of his most significant achievements was the establishment of his own sound system which he named Stur Gav after his sons in 1978. The sound system would then launch the careers of a younger generation of toasters and singers including Ranking Joe, Jah Screw, Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales.

He was conferred with an Order of Distinction for his contribution to Jamaican music.

U-Roy’s most recent album is Pray Fi Di People which was released in 2012.

(Courtesy: DANCEHALLMAG)

 

 

 

 

 

A Requiem For Stephanie

Late Stephanie Anams

By Basil Chiji Okafor

The text was terse and sharp, as the point of a needle and jolted me to the very depths of my being:

“So sorry, she’s gone.

I’m her brother, Christopher.”

The message came in on Tuesday, the 10th of November, 2020, at exactly 7.35 pm. Although I’m not in the habit of usually checking my Facebook Messenger inbox, as I do the WhatsApp, I suddenly felt compelled to look in there because I actually hadn’t done so, nearly all day. I quickly logged in and there was Stephanie’s chat-box, right on top of the row, a message having just arrived in it.

Her older brother had picked up her phone and decided to contact her friends that were prominent in her chat-box, to intimate them of her death. According to him, she had passed away last week, Wednesday the 4th, exactly eight days ago. But as you can see from the screen shot of my chat box, she was active on the 6th of November, a good 48 plus hours, after she was supposed to have passed on! Absolutely intriguing! Could it be some kind of a software malfunction? You can also, actually read my message to her that evening:

“Hello Steph, how’re you doing? I am happy to see you here. So eager to know how you are doing, yet so confused and embarrassed to reach out when one can’t make any meaningful input to alleviate your situation.”

She was online after I typed that message for about a little longer than it would normally take to read such short text (or so, it seemed, as the three little dots that indicate typing at the other end, kept bobbing up and down). I tarried awhile, expecting a reply but suddenly, she went off line. Then, she surfaced twice again for two brief, separate moments, before finally going off line, for the last time.

I took it that she probably wasn’t too happy with me for being out of touch with her for several days, at a go, knowing her condition. Of course, I would have loved to stay in touch by the hour, but of what value would that have been when I could not provide the means to support her regular dialysis, let alone the several millions required for a kidney transplant? So, I hovered between and betwixt disturbing a very sick person and adding to her problems with just a mere, “hello”, or “sorry” and just letting her be.

I first met Stephanie Anams on Facebook, through an article I wrote back in 1990 and first published in the Guardian (Nigeria). I republished that article on my wall, on May, 27th, 2017. Titled, In Search Of The Jimi Hendrix Legacy, it told the story of my search for the family of guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix, in the United States.

Stephanie reached out to me after reading the article. She had shared it on her wall, she said and also told me she had actually been following my work for quite a while. Thus, began a very deep friendship, based on mutually shared interests and values, in a wide variety of subjects, particularly the literary and visual arts, history, music, extraterrestrial intelligence and the paranormal, to mention a few of them. Above all, we were both ardent fans of Jimi Hendrix.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to me, as she later told me that she was an English graduate. But beyond being an English graduate, was her eclectic taste. Her thirst for knowledge and voracious reading appetite was quite rare in these parts, especially for a young woman of her generation. I was simply fascinated by the depth of her intellect, the breadth of her knowledge and the wisdom and power behind the analytical mind of such a young woman, only just 42, at the time of her death.

When I told her I was starting a Website on history and asked if she could write for us, she most enthusiastically took up the challenge and made a substantial input into the project when she introduced her column on ancient history, which we aptly named, Stephanie Chronicles. She pursued this task with great zeal and up to the time of her illness and death, never asked for a kobo, for all her contributions. She was confident that the publication would grow and so worked hard to help grow it.

To date, my box is still littered with several of her yet to be published articles. She was that prolific and that also highlights one aspect of her that stood her out from most people – her extreme kind heart, dedication to duty and eagerness to be on the side of human progress and to drive things, whichever way she possibly could.

The lady had class and great integrity and carried herself with dignity. And if she had any failings, it was in these great strengths that what one might term her flaws, also lay. Stephanie could hide things, even from a friend, especially when she felt that sharing certain troubles with you, meant being a burden to a friend.

We never met, physically, so during those long, late night hours of brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other, we talked about how great a day it would be, when we would finally meet, face-to-face. It was during one of those nights, only last October, that she told me she would be coming to Lagos in just a matter of days. I was naturally excited. I asked about where she would stay and she gave me an address in Victoria Island.

Of course, she arrived promptly and notified me, accordingly. But when I asked for when we could meet, she drew a blank. Well, you never quite know with women, I thought, so I kept my cool…and maintained my distance. Four days later, she got in touch from Benin. I was perplexed and didn’t know what to make of it all, so I continued to maintain my cool. You can then imagine my shock when, a few weeks later, she sent me documents and photographs of herself in a hospital bed, undergoing dialysis! She had been dealing with renal failure and this was what brought her to a Lagos hospital and subsequently, took her to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital. I was devastated.

Among the documents she sent, was one of friends, organising a Go-Fund-Me fund raiser for her. She needed several millions to be able to continue to fund her twice-weekly dialysis and ultimately, a kidney transplant. She had drained her accounts and sold virtually all she had, to sustain her treatment but the condition only deteriorated. In my frenzy, I did what I had never done before in my life.

I have had a personal policy of keeping my distance from old friends and acquaintances, once they got rich, or got appointed to top government positions. But to help save Stephanie, I called an old friend I hadn’t been in touch with for a while and whom I know could shell out thrice the total required amount of money, without batting an eye lid. I also called him because Stephanie said she knew him and I thought that mentioning her plight would move him.

I shall never forget that phone call till I take my last breath. Why did I even try, I asked myself? I ended up sending this gentleman an apology on his WordsApp, for barging into his space and disturbing his peace. I hope he has forgiven me. I later called up Stephanie to tell her my experience with that call and how scared I was to try another person. Poor girl! Courageous and kind, as she always was, it was even she, in that state of severe pain that offered me words of comfort.

And so, we most painfully watched Steph, die a slow and agonising death, as the life-force slowly ebbed out of her, finally flickering off like the classic candle in the wind.

On the 28th of October, 2020, she sent me what was to be her last set of messages:

“(sic) Went to the ladies this morning. Fell. Notice right side of leg loosing motor functions same with hands.”

“(sic) Early set of stroke seems to be setting in.”

“(sic) Brother now carries me literally can’t walk at all.”

“(sic) Unfortunately was to see the MD n consultant n of course do my dialysis today. No funds so on Gods good graces as it is now.”

Stephanie’s body is being interred in her grave, about now, as I write. My heart goes out to her innocent eight year-old son, Aden, who is yet to feel the import of what has happened – I was exactly his age when my own father passed away, many years ago. My heartfelt condolences also go to her heartbroken mother and the rest of the family, the offspring of late football coach, Michael Malagwu, of Kwale, Delta State.

To Christopher, her brother, I say, thank you. There is no treasure in this world, greater than a good brother, or sister and friend. Thank you for being there, for a good woman. Thank you for having the presence of mind to notify me and for feeling free to share further information about my good friend and her family that I didn’t have. I look forward to meeting you in person, for the first time, when the grief and this whole nightmare can be managed. God bless you.

Today is a very sad day for me, bringing up to a final anti-climax, a season of deaths and burials. First, it was an old friend of nearly four decades, Dr. Yima Sen, who was also an old friend of Stephanie’s. In fact, it was a heartbroken Steph that broke the news of Yima’s death to me, from her sick bed. This is also the week of the burial of one of the greatest reggae singers that ever lived – Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, frontman of the legendary group, Toots and the Maytals, whose great fan I have been for several decades. In fact, it was Toots that gave reggae music its name, with his hit song, Do The Reggay, a version of which the great Bob Marley, also performed.

Indeed, in the words of the great English poet, Thomas Gray:

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me…”

Late Stephanie