Jeniffer Uju Madike, the ravishingly beautiful Lagos socialite who easily became the Achilles heel of erstwhile drug czar and Rivers State governor, Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome, is dead.
She died a few days ago, after a brief illness. She was aged 61.
Madike's celebrated love affair with Fidelis Oyakhilome, former chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), had her life massively disrupted. The riveting tale of love-gone-sour between the two made sensational headlines in the late 80's and early 90's.
Madike used to be a traveller on the fast lane. So dizzying was her speed that she arrived at her various destinations well ahead of her peers. By the time she was 16, Madike was married. At 34, she appeared made. Despite her early marriage, she got a degree in microbiology. She branched out into private business with her Biofrika Ventures.
At the same age, she claimed to be the owner of 40 houses within and outside Nigeria. Then came fame, in bucketloads. From 1991, Jennifer Uju Madike, was a prime fodder for society journals.
Madike and Oyakhilome generated interest nationwide between 1990 and 1991. Oyakhilome, a dashing, handsome police officer, before he took up the mantle at the NDLEA, was the military governor of Rivers State. A police officer, his career peaked at the rank of Deputy Inspector-General.
Oyakhilome was born on April 13, 1939 in Ewu, Ishan in Edo State. He joined the Nigerian Police Force in 1959. He studied Law at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife between 1965 and 1968 and from there proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1969.
He became Chief Superintendent of Police, serving in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Rivers State Police Command, Port Harcourt, between 1972 and 1974. For another two years, he also served in Grenada, an island country and Commonwealth realm consisting of the Island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines, in southeastern Caribbean Sea. Oyakhilome was appointed military governor of Rivers State in January 1984 after the General Muhammadu Buhari military overthrow of the President Shehu Shagari civilian administration. On August 26, 1986, he was redeployed and replaced by Colonel Anthony Ukpo. In 1998, however, he was appointed chairman of the NDLEA.
The Jennifer tango
Though from the outset, it seemed that Oyakhilome and Jennifer, an Owerri, Imo State-born society woman were merely fond of each other as some celebrities could be, it was soon to be revealed that there was more to their closeness than meets the eye.
The incident that felled Oyakhilome from his Olympian height was his alleged complicity with Jennifer, in offering bailout to drug barons under the influence of Jennifer’s undue closeness to him. The specific banana peel upon which Oyakhilome stepped and tripped, as it were, was the case of a suspected drug baron, Gregory Odilibe, whom the NDLEA had declared wanted over drug offences. The anti-drug agency under Oyakhilome had placed a newspaper advertisement, declaring Odilibe wanted.
But before then, series of events had thrown up delicately pretty, suave and charming Jennifer as a special friend of the NDLEA boss. For instance, during Jennifer’s self-professed 35th birthday on October 22, 1990, the crème de la crème in the Nigerian society attended a bash thrown at the eyebrow Lagoon Restaurant, Victoria Island, Lagos, by Jennifer. Among top government officials attracted to the event were Oyakhilome, Health Minister, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, and National Population Commission (NPC) chairman, Alhaji Shehu Musa. At the period, Jennifer was the president of a company called Biofrika Ventures Limited, located in Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, Lagos.
An enthused Jennifer, on the occasion, wondrously courted Oyakhilome, having photo snaps with him, and it was afterwards established that most drug barons who dreaded the Oyakhilome-led NDLEA were on hand at the party. They reportedly attended the event to confirm if it was true that Jennifer was close to people in power, and by publicly carousing Oyakhilome, it was enough confirmation to them.
As for the Odilibe case, Jennifer reportedly got in touch with Linus, the fugitive’s brother and one Sam Ejiogu, his friend, assuring them that she could successfully wade into the NDLEA advertisement matter and persuade the anti-drug agency to drop charges against Odilibe. But she maintained that in doing them the ‘favour’, they had to part with a million Naira, which she would have to give to Oyakhilome and his men.
Impressed, the two men promised to get back to Jennifer. Later on, they returned to say that the Odilibe family had agreed to pay the N1 million but that they could not get it immediately and as such, would be paying in tranches. To start off, they reportedly offered Jennifer N100, 000 in N20 denomination. When further events convinced them that this socialite was indeed close to Oyakhilome, they paid another N500, 000, also in N20 denomination. Along the line, the Odilibe family members started bringing money to Jennifer in the installments of N100,000, N50,000 and N30,000, until the sums added up to N800,000, which was N200,000 short of the bargained deal.
But it was also reported that while Jennifer was collecting money from the Odilibe family, she was also making frantic telephone calls to Oyakhilome to release some arrested drug dealers believed to be connected with the run-away drug baron. She also wanted their seized vehicles released. She had hinged her request on the argument that the barons and couriers were working for certain personalities in government. When it seemed Oyakhilome would not budge, this lady then introduced another dimension. She told him that late Maryam, the wife of military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, had interest in the case. But Oyakhilome expressed doubts as to the interest of the president’s wife in the case. The ding-dong continued, culminating in Jennifer telling Oyakhilome that Babangida himself was in the know, and could remove Oyakhilome for proving stubborn, by not releasing the detained drug suspects.
With the growing pressure from Jennifer, Oyakhilome put a call across to Maryam Babangida, who distanced herself from the whole saga, saying she had never known Jennifer Madike or her drug baron fellows. At this time too, the Inspector-General of Police, Aliyu Attah called Oyakhilome, informing him that Jennifer came visiting, to tell him (Attah) that Oyakhilome might soon be removed because he could not comply with a directive from the president’s wife to let off the detained or hounded drug barons.
At that stage, to the government, the cup of Jennifer seemed full. The Vice-President was duly informed and he asked the police to probe the Jennifer involvement in the drug saga. Eventually, she was arrested at her Biofrika Ventures Limited office and detained by the police.
But shortly after her detention, Jennifer, through one Doris Obi, who claimed to be her sister, filed a suit at an Ikeja High Court in Lagos, challenging her detention. In a supporting affidavit, she deposed that her sister and Oyakhilome had a long personal and business relationship. According to her, Oyakhilome is the actual owner of Biofrika Ventures Limited and that Jennifer was only fronting for him. They were using the firm to handle major contracts for the NDLEA, she claimed.
But swiftly, Oyakhilome came out to clear his name. To start with, he admitted knowing Jennifer intimately. He said he had known the subject since 1981, when she was brought to him by her parents in company with his cousin, Ani Kadiri. “Her parents said my wife and I should look after Jennifer like our own child,” he further claimed. According to Oyakhilome, at that time, Jennifer’s marriage was almost breaking up as her life was allegedly being threatened by her husband and his family members, thus making him to come forth as a foster parent to the married woman.
On his alleged ownership of Biofrika Ventures Limited, Oyakhilome said his involvement in the company came about following his retirement as a DIG. He said Jennifer approached him with a proposal to establish a company. “I accepted the idea as thoughtful and appended my signature to the memorandum and article of association of Biofrika Ventures Limited because I was no more a public servant.” He said when Jennifer offered him the position of chairman in the new company, he had replied with a joke, “Where do I fit in when you are already the president?”He said he was in the process of taking up the offer when he was appointed NDLEA chairman, and that he quickly told her to let them put his involvement in the business in abeyance.
Furthermore, Oyakhilome tried to puncture several other allegations of using the Biofrica Ventures Limited to collect juicy contracts, and of treating drug barons with kid gloves or with no punch at all. Again, Jennifer exhumed many correspondences between her and Oyakhilome, which indicated that the duo might be in a steaming hot love affair, before the bubble burst. For instance, in the letters written by Oyakhilome to Jennifer, he started with suggestive compliments like, ‘My Sugar’, ‘My Dearest’ and ‘Darling.’ Why? Oyakhilome responded: “They contain absolutely nothing, because that is the parlance that we use at my level. It is just like calling somebody ‘my darling daughter’.”
To worsen things, Jennifer accused Oyakhilome of actually being in touch with the family of the drug barons and that she was a mere smokescreen in the theatre of the absurd. She said out of the N800,000 she collected from the family of the fleeing drug baron, she actually gave N600, 000 to Oyakhilome. But the NDLEA boss denied the allegations, describing them as mere blackmail.
But what tended to help Oyakhilome a bit initially, was a surreptitiously taped conversation between him and Jennifer which they had on January 9, 1991. There, Jennifer said she was being pressured by the drug barons to make a statement to the effect that she obtained money from them and gave the bribe to the NDLEA boss, to implicate him. In the same vein, on January 16, Jennifer’s sister called on Oyakhilome’s house to deliver Jennifer’s message that it was the Assistant Inspector General of Police, in charge of the Federal Investigations Bureau (FIIB), Adamu Aliyu, who asked her to implicate Oyakhilome. She said Aliyu promised to release her if she did his bidding.
But in all, Jennifer’s statements were contradicted by Opara, Ejiogu and Linus, the family members and friend respectively, of the detained drug baron, Odilibe. In their statements to the police, they said it was Jennifer who offered to help them get Odilibe “off the hook of the drug offence for which he was declared a wanted person.”
The police also confirmed their claim, saying there was circumstantial evidence that Jennifer collected money from the trio, and that already, she had bought a one-story building at 27, Obalodu Street, Off Coker Street, Ilupeju, Lagos, for N125, 000.
As the crisis festered, the Oyakhilome saga had engendered camps of interested parties in the Babangida government. While one group wanted the NDLEA boss to be immediately removed, another opposed the idea, saying that it would encourage blackmailers to seek after people in position of power. Yet, some persons advised Oyakhilome to lie low and refrain from further speaking with journalists on the matter, so that the case could die a natural death.
But at that critical moment, the body language of the Babangida administration indicated that it was becoming embarrassed by the whole saga, more so that while he was governor of Rivers State, Jennifer was said to be in charge of Oyakhilome’s public relations activities. Besides, when he was made the NDLEA chairman, Jennifer it was, who organised the first media luncheon for Oyakhilome. And so, on March 8, at 11pm, an announcement came on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) that the Federal Government had ordered the immediate removal of controversial Oyakhilome.