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Remembering Joseph Habineza: Rwanda’s Former Ambassador to Nigeria



By  Dolapo Aina

The passing on of Rwanda’s former Ambassador to Nigeria and two-time sports and culture Minister of Rwanda, Ambassador Joseph Habineza came as a rude shock to his family members (nuclear and extended), Rwandans, his close friends, the Nigerian community in Rwanda, Nigerians in Nigeria especially his close Nigerian brothers like Mr Ben Murray-Bruce, Mr Tonye Cole, Mr Soni Irabor, Mr Ade Adefeko; just to name a few; who knew him and interacted with him during his time at Nigerian Breweries, during his stint as the Rwandan Ambassador to Nigeria and during his two stints as the sports Minister of Rwanda.

Before, during and after the three-day burial ceremony (Saturday 28th – Monday 30th August 2021) which I attended, the three days brought back several memories of our interactions and discussions from when I first met him in the last quarter of 2013 to my last discussion with him in Kigali on Friday, June 11th 2021 (few days before he flew to Lagos, Nigeria. He was always shuttling Kigali and Nigeria, meeting and merging investors who were interested in investing in Rwanda). Interacting with close family members like his mother (who quipped I should’ve made my tribute a day earlier in French, so she would understand), his brothers-in-law, Mr Robert Bayigamba his best friend (since 1977) who introduced me to Ambassador Joe’s mother and interpreted my words for her and others, it was glaring the nuclear and extended family was a very close-knitted one. And this brought back the old African saying of show me your family, family background, family knowing where you are from and where you are; for they can tell your story.

So many memories (I would share some for the first time for public consumption) I recollect of a listening gentleman who always kept his word. I remember when I had informed the Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos; Erelu Abiola Docemu (a traditional aristocrat and successful and astute businesswoman. Her role serves as the ceremonial queen mother and reigns as regent of Lagos upon the passing on of an incumbent monarch until a substantive successor is chosen by the college of kingmakers) about hospitality opportunities in Rwanda in 2014 and the Lagos Princess was contemplating visiting Rwanda; Ambassador Joe’s schedule was extremely tight that the only way he could reach out was calling because he was heading back to Kigali. He kept his word and placed the call when he arrived in Kigali.

I remember him as someone who had a listening ear, who had a passion for young people, who was a selfless leader who impacted lives; a unique leader who spoke his mind no matter whose ox was gored; a very confident gentleman who did things differently; got results and did not follow the crowd. The list is endless. Many personal stories (I would share a few) and it is safe to state in this piece that Ambassador Habineza was the person (and Ms Josephine Fifi Rurangwa who headed RwandAir in Nigeria back then) who gave me the opportunity to travel outside Nigeria for the first time.
I remember a particular Sunday in 2014 (March 2 to be exact), Ambassador Habineza, Bella Crug (a Rwandan lady and friend who runs an Italian restaurant in Victoria Island, Lagos) and I were heading to Muson Centre for Silverbird’s Man of the year awards. The conversation in the car was in Kinyarwanda and very animated. We arrived at the venue and Bella Crug and I decided to look for somewhere to sit amongst the regular guests but Ambassador Joe told us to follow him since we were his guests. Both young guests of the Ambassador found themselves right in front of the stage (table 7 if my memory of that day is still intact.) Our table had another West African Ambassador (Sierra Leone or so) to Nigeria, Mr Tunde Braithwaite (now late) and the elderly Dutchman, Chief Joop Berkhout (born in Amsterdam in 1930); who is known as the father of publishing in Nigeria and the founding managing director of Evans Brothers Publishing in 1966 and who has lived in Ibadan, Oyo State in Nigeria for fifty-five years.

I remember several conversations at other occasions at Eko Hotel in 2014. I remember how one would text in the morning and Ambassador Joe would reply almost immediately and you wondered if he slept. And his response was usually that he gets up at 5;30 am every day and goes to play lawn tennis (a daily routine which close associates know him for and which I still witnessed in Kigali in 2019). I remember him always saying that he would always pick up calls which aren’t registered or saved on his phones because according to him; “You don’t know if God is calling you to give you one billion.” Apparently, I once heard him say that he used this same technique of unsaved number to call potential job seekers who sent in their applications, those who picked the calls and spoke to the unknown call who happened to be him, went on to the next stage of the interview process.
I remember when he granted interviews to some media houses in 2014 especially on Alibaba’s Seriously (a popular radio show Nigeria Info FM Lagos) and how important information about nation branding was disseminated in a relaxed, jovial format right there in the studio (and the banter amongst Alibaba, his proteges and Ambassador Habineza when commercials were being run during commercial breaks) which got a lot of listeners calling in and the feedback I got from those who listened and knew I was involved.

I remember several early morning breakfasts at one the extremely secluded boutique hotels in the premises of Eko Hotels before he dashed to the airport to catch a flight to Abuja or to Kigali. When I was informed of his demise by Usher Komugisha (a versatile sports journalist who was the person with me when I saw him on June 11th), I remember where I was as it was raining that Friday evening. Coincidentally, during the beginning of that week (August 16-20), I was just getting down to editing the interview I had with Usher Komugisha which was conducted on that Friday (June 11). And as I worked on the interview every day in the wee hours of the morning, I always smiled as I heard Ambassador Habineza’s voice in the background of the audio interview (he and some of his associates were in the same vicinity as Usher and I). When he was about to leave the premises, he came over to where we were seated and said; “Dola; I am going. See you.” Normally, I would have walked him to his car (a routine) but because I was conducting an interview, I could not do so and I could only acknowledge his goodbye with a nod of the head and a hand gesture. Only if one had known with hindsight.

I remember the interviews I conducted with him. After his demise, I did some Youtube search and realised that I had interviewed and recorded him four times in 2014 (thrice in Lagos and once in Kigali). The Kigali interview at Amahoro Stadium was quite interesting. I had walked into the stadium early in the morning since Ambassador Joe was an early riser and the security guard at the first post who could not speak English but only Kinyarwanda, was so confident in her pose and body language (this was not the type of confidence one saw, attached or associated with female security guards in 2014) whilst we tried to understand each other speaking different languages that I had to relate the experience to Ambassador Habineza when I got into his office.

I remember that on my way to my hotel abode after the interview, his personal assistant called me to ask if I wanted to attend a Presidential cocktail for the Rwandan cycling team in the evening at Serena Hotel? My reply was in the affirmative. I remember that even though I had tweeted at the President Paul Kagame some days earlier about an interview with him and the President had responded positively to my tweet, it was Ambassador Habineza who did the introduction at one of the hallways in Serena Hotel after one of the officials in the Presidency then (Sylvia Gasana) had called out to me, gotten my attention and chaperoned me after the event. I remember the brief conversation that ensued between the President, Ambassador Habineza and I. But I cannot reply the witty comments I made to get both men laugh and smile. I remember Ambassador Habineza’s comment to me after he returned from walking the President to his vehicle.

I remember the numerous times our paths would cross at some events in Kigali and a hearty conversation would ensue after we both laugh and say, “you are here”. I remember seeing him at several Nigeria-related events like Nigeria’s Independence Day celebrations on October 1st 2019 and also at Flutterwave’s introduction into Rwanda at Ubumwe Hotel, on Wednesday, 12 February 2020. I remember meeting him at Marriott Kigali in 2019 at an event and Ambassador Habineza was dressed in the full regalia of the people of Bayelsa State in Niger Delta with the spacious cap and walking stick to match. He always represented his Rwandan culture and also love for Nigerian culture. I remember my reaction when I sent him a message about when he was returning to Kigali and he replied; end of September. I remember my final interaction/question to him, when I asked for his two words/two sentences on Nyimirambo (a town in Kigali), he replied but I didn’t get to see or read his response, for he deleted his message.

I remember that on Monday, 23rd of August (few days after the news of his demise), I heard Ambassador Habineza’s voice emanating from a phone and I had to ask the person if that voice was his (Ambassador Joe). Yes, came this acquaintance’s response. And right there in this public space, the individual related his own two to three interactions with the former sports Minister of Rwanda. In a nutshell, Ambassador Habineza promised and delivered on connecting him with some tourism clients who in turn gave this tour operator one of his first major breakthroughs. He further stated that when he met the Ambassador much later on (probably years later), Joe (as he is fondly called) didn’t remember the assistance he made. He made a comment which I could relate with, Ambassador Habineza never expected anything in return. Many of such stories flooded Rwanda’s social media platforms the week the news broke of his passing on in Nairobi, Kenya.

I remember during his farewell dinner in August 2014 which was organised by Nigerians and Rwandans residing in Nigeria; people who had known him since his days at Nigerian Breweries made statements stretching more than a decade old. And it was revealed and a known fact that in the African Diplomatic circle, if Ambassador Habineza was not also present at the African Diplomatic function, you would sense it.

Succinctly put, Ambassador Habineza exemplified a selfless leader with exceptional interpersonal and social skills (a rarity in this part), who put others before himself (I witnessed this several times in Nigeria and also in Rwanda). A lot of the Nigeria-Rwanda socio-economic and cultural ties were initiated or commenced by him.

Seeing Ambassador Joseph Habineza lying in state at his residence and watching online whilst viewing from a far distance at the cemetery in Rusororo (due to covid19 measures in Rwanda, only 30 persons are allowed at the actual resting place.) on Monday, 30th of August 2021; was sobering. His departure sent shockwaves in several circles on the Continent and a lot of those who know him and have known him for decades (most especially family, friends, colleagues etc) would still be trying to process the fact that Ambassador Joseph Habineza is no more but his good works and memories live on.

Like the aforementioned acquaintance suggested, a Joseph Habineza Foundation which would focus on harnessing and bringing forth the talented Rwandan youth in the creative space (a passion of his) would be a welcome initiative to immortalise Ambassador Joseph Habineza’s name.

Dolapo Aina writes from Kigali, Rwanda

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Police Arrest Four Yoruba Nation Agitators for Seizing Radio Station




Some Yoruba Nation agitators, on Sunday morning, seized Radio Nigeria, Amuludun FM 99.1 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, taking over broadcast for more than one hour.

A source told The PUNCH Metro that the agitators, who besieged the station around 5:40 am in an 18-seater bus, were armed with dangerous weapons and charms, threatening to deal decisively with any staff member who refused to cooperate with them.

However, four out of the agitators, among whom was a woman, were arrested by the police with the assistance of the Nigerian army, while others ran into different directions to evade arrest.

One of the arrested agitators, who sustained gunshot wounds, had rushed into the studio to tell others that security operatives had taken over the nooks and crannies of the station. The blood stain was seen in the studio.

An investigation by our correspondent revealed that after holding some night duty staff and security guards hostage, the agitators hijacked the studio and announced live on radio “Welcome to Yoruba Nation.”

An impeccable source further said they continued threatening staff members to remove all Nigeria flags in the station and replace them with Yoruba Nation flags as they have already taken over the Government Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan.

It was further learnt that they initially hijacked some commercial vehicles (Micra) to block the main road.

When our correspondent visited the station at J&P Bus-stop, Moniya in Akinyele Local Government Area of the state, more than 20 operational vehicles of security agents, including Department of State Services were sighted at strategic locations to forestall any eventuality.

Confirming the invasion, the most senior staff on duty, Ajayi Omotola, stated that, “They told us that they are Yoruba Nation agitators. And in their T-shirt, there was that inscription there. They wrote Yoruba Nation. Only six persons came inside the studio with different charms threatening to kill us if we failed to cooperate. Others were outside manning security at different areas within the premises.

“They collected all our phones and threatened to kill us if we made any noise or phone calls. They said they wanted to broadcast live that Yoruba Nation has taken over. We should remove all Nigeria flags in our studio and replace it with their own. They didn’t allow anybody to go outside. The Area Commander came, addressed and even pleaded with them but they ignored him. We later heard sporadic shooting outside. So, one of our staff members then came inside to inform us that police and soldiers had arrived,” Omotola stressed.

As of press time, normalcy had returned while stern-looking security operatives were still manning the station.

The Punch

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76th Cannes Film Festival Ends with Bang




The stars on parade at 76th Festival de Cannes


By Michael Effiong

The colour, the glamour, the style and class of the 76th Annual Cannes Film Festival ends today with a big bang.

Festival de Cannes, the film industry’s most prestigious festival will take place at 8:30 pm and will be broadcast live on France 2 and internationally on Brut.

The Jury, presided over by director Ruben Östlund and including director Maryam Touzani, actor Denis Ménochet, writer/director Rungano Nyoni, actress/director Brie Larson, actor/director Paul Dano, writer Atiq Rahimi, director Damián Szifron and director Julia Ducournau, will select the winners from the 21 films in Competition this year.

Actress Anaïs Demoustier, President of the Jury, will hand out the Caméra d’or award to the best first film. Actress Stacy Martin and director Ildikó Enyedi, President of the Short Film and La Cinef Jury, will award the Palme d’or for short films.

Actor Orlando Bloom will hand out the Jury Prize. Actor Song Kang-ho, last year’s winner of the Best Performance by an Actor for Broker and actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi, last year’s winner of the Best Performance by an Actress for Holy Spider, will award the Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor Prizes respectively.


Actor John C. Reilly, President of the Un Certain Regard Jury, will award the Best Screenplay Prize, while Pete Docter, Creative Director of Pixar Studios, will present the Best Director Prize.


The Festival de Cannes will also be honored by the exceptional presence tonight of legendary filmmaker Roger Corman, who will present the Grand Prix alongside virtuoso Quentin Tarantino.


Finally, the prestigious Palme d’or will be presented by the formidable and inspiring Jane Fonda.


The Closing Ceremony will mark the end of the 76th Festival de Cannes, and will be followed by the screening of Peter Sohn‘s film Elementary in the Grand Théâtre Lumière.


The 21 films competing for the Palme d’or this year are : Firebrand by Karim Aïnouz, Asteroid City by Wes Anderson, Rapito (Kidnapped)(Kidnapped) by Marco Bellocchio, Les Filles d’Olfa (Four Daughters)(Four Daughters) by Kaouther Ben Hania, L’Été dernier (Last Summer) (Last Summer) by Catherine Breillat, Kuru Otlar Ustune (About Dry Grasses)(About Dry Grasses) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Le Retour (Homecoming) by Catherine Corsini, The Zone of Interest by Jonathan Glazer, Club Zero by Jessica Hausner, May December by Todd Haynes, Monster by Kore-Eda Hirokazu, Kuolleet Lehdet (Fallen Leaves)(Fallen Leaves) by Aki Kaurismäki, The Old Oak by Ken Loach, Il Sol dell’ avvenire (A Brighter Tomorrow)(A Brighter Tomorrow) by Nanni Moretti, La Chimera by Alice Rohrwacher, Black Flies by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, Banel e Adama by Ramata-Toulaye Sy, La Passion de Dodin Bouffant (The Pot-au-Feu) (The Pot-au-Feuby Tran Anh Hùng, Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of a Fall) (Anatomy of a Fallby Justine Triet, Jeunesse (Le Printemps) (Youth (Spring))(Youth (Spring)) by Wang Bing, Perfect Days by Wim Wenders.

The Closing ceremony, usually a wonderful evening to behold will be broadcast in English and French by Brut.

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Delta Beyond Drugs: Bishop Aruakpor Receives Silec Initiatives




In preparation for the forthcoming Delta Beyond Drugs Project in Delta State, the SILEC Initiatives team paid a visit to the Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Oleh Church of Nigeria, The Rt. Rev’d John Usiwoma Aruakpor. The solidarity visit was led by the Founder/President Silec Initiatives, Amb. Sunny Irakpo, a U.S Government Sponsored Exchange Alumni who was invited by the U.S Government to participate in the prestigious international Visitor’s Leadership Exchange Program of the Department of State in 2019.

Upon his return from the States, the anti-drug ambassador has continued to sensitize the public on the dangers of drug abuse in Nigeria where he currently floats the Delta Beyond Drugs Project to compliment the efforts of the State Government in order to help address the heightened state of drugs and substance abuse.

Irakpo, intimated the plans of the DBD Project to the Diocesan who keep championing innovative projects in Isoko especially the just concluded School of Nursing , Hospital and many other ongoing projects for the Isoko nation. He hinted that the primary objective of the DBD Project is to sensitize the youths and parents alike about the dangers of drug abuse with the various experimentations presently ongoing amongst youths.

He voiced that drug abuse has eaten deeply into the fabric of the society, and the illicit are experimentation by the youths with different hazardous chemicals/ drugs on a regular basis which is even harmful to their health and that the need to address this ugly trends claiming the lives of promising youths in the state is now.

The trend which has become very worrisome in Isokoland and other parts of Delta state, need the attention of all stakeholders to participate in the wellbeing and wellness of our youths and society.

While he appreciated the clergyman for given them the opportunity to collaborate with the church, also related that Silec Initiatives is one of the most active anti-drug NGO in Nigeria, and as a pragmatic organization that has contributed immensely to the fight against drugs merchandise with empirical evidences, remain an NGO recognized at the international level for their exception capacity in the fight against drug abuse in Nigeria for over a decade.

In his response, Bishop Aruakpor was very happy, impressed and proud with the Founder Silec Initiatives Sunny Irakpo for making the Isoko nation proud in Nigeria and across the global space.

And that seeing a young man with such laudable vision with thought provoking ideas and concept is an indication that Isoko nation is on the good path of greatness and progress if only support is given to him and many others who are making the Isoko nation proud.

In his words, I am proud of you for all the giant strides you have made in this nation in this life transforming Initiative.

We gladly welcome you home for we need you at this critical moment that our youths are becoming something else in the name of drugs. As a diocese ,we are doing our best in the environment we’ve found ourselves as we continue to apply the ant philosophy to achieve all the God given projects to us. For there’s nothing , I lay my hands that God will not help me to accomplished. So in this campaign against drugs and substance abuse in Delta State Particularly in Isokoland, we are solidly behind you to drive the message back home. We shall give Silec Initiatives the full support and to also rally round in the area of funding for the sustenance of the project. We shall also try our best to reach out to the various stakeholders of which we are also involving the Nigeria Police, all the clergy and the youths.

Other members of the team were Kingsley Ewomarevia Silec Initiatives Community Liaison Coordinator, James Agholor, Director of Publication Silec Initiatives, top Isoko artistes Obara Obaro (MC Moonlight) and Funky Franky a music impresario.

The event is schedule to take place with a mega rally to mark the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking on the 10th June ,2023 in Partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Oleh Church of Nigeria by 8:am at the Cathedral of Paul as a meeting point to take off.

The founder Silec Initiatives enjoined all Sons and Daughters of Isoko to come out enmass to vehemently resist this enemy of progress of youths, Isoko nation, Delta State and Nigeria in general.

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