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AILING NIGERIAN ARTISTES AND DISPUTES ARISING FROM PUBLIC FUNDS

In what is becoming a sad trend, some Nigerian artistes recourse to the public to fund their treatment when they fall ill. However, the case is not always smooth as exhibited by the recent exchanges between Leo Mezie whose kidney disease has relapsed and Chioma Okoye, who attempted raising funds for him. JOE AGBRO JR and DUPE OLASUNKAMI write…
N 2016, when Nollywood actor Leo Mezie took ill with kidney disease and needed funds to treat himself, the actor was broke. In the precarious situation that his life was at stake, he did what many other Nigerians do – beg. Sucking up his pride, the fair complexioned actor leveraged on his popularity and ‘begged’ Nigerians for funds to save his life.
But he was not left alone as fellow actress, Chioma Okoye, waded in for him. Kick-starting a crowd funding campaign, Chioma and her Purple Ribbon Care Foundation brought Leo’s case to Nigerians. Nigerians responded with funds and Leo was flown abroad for treatment of the kidney disease afflicting him. Part of the treatment included surgery.
However, when Leo would return to Lagos after a while, he told journalists at a press conference at Ojez Restaurant, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos that he was healed. There was no need for the surgery, he announced, saying he ‘miraculously’ got healed by God. Among those who contributed financially to his medical treatment, was popular priest, Apostle Johnson Suleman of Omega Fire Ministries Auchi, Edo State. In fact, he paid £15,000 British Pounds.
Upon his return, Leo said he was misdiagnosed several times and drugs he took were likely suspects of what caused his kidney disease.
“In my own case, there were mixed diagnoses. I really can’t say what caused the kidney failure, because it comes with many systems. I was wrongly diagnosed with malaria, typhoid fever and pneumonia for over a year and the medications prescribed on these occasions were part of what led to the collapse of the kidneys.”
The actor said it was three months into his initial treatment abroad that his kidneys started working again and doctors said there was no need for a surgery. He also said that doctors placed him on a strict diet to “recover fully.”
He said: “Also, I was not mindful of my diet. The potassium in my system was five times higher and that was first controlled by placing me on a strict diet that involves plantain, oranges, banana, tomatoes and other foods and fruits. That was the reason I lost so much weight.”
Following his return from London, he regained his health. But Leo is sick again. Again, it is kidney disease. A report by doctor, Dr T. T. Umeizudike, a Consultant Nephrologist, at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, gave a trajectory of Leo’s kidney plight.
“Mr. Leonard Mezie was first seen at the Nephrology clinic of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in July 2016,” the doctor wrote, saying he commenced dialysis immediately.
“He was on regular clinic follow up till May 2018 when his kidney function worsened again. At this time an assessment of end stage kidney disease (ESKD) was made.
“He has been counselled to have a kidney transplant as a definitive treatment for the end stage kidney disease.”
Again, Leo needs money for his kidney disease. And Chioma Okoye sought to come to his rescue again.
Her first message went thus: “My name is Chioma Okoye I have been receiving a lot of calls and text messages regarding Leo’s illness, yes Leo was sick three years ago, he was diagnosed with kidney failure, we started raising funds from the public, we reached out to different pastors among all the pastors, Apostle Suleiman was the only one that responded and actors stopped campaigning for money at that point we had about 3 million plus (over N3million), we stopped the campaign, two days later Leo flew to London, after three weeks his result came out well he didn’t need a transplant anymore, he came back to Nigeria and was placed on dialysis and food type, Leo’s food type is not what you get in the regular market because of his illness, in as much as his kidney revived back he still needed dialysis three times a month right now he has been trying to survive because there is no money anymore so we are back to it, his two kidneys are not functioning, for the past ten days Leo has not gone to the toilet, at this point he is in need of dialysis to make use of the toilet and a doctor advised we do a transplant immediately and it shouldn’t take longer than four weeks.
The only way we can help him is to campaign for support from everybody with minimum of one thousand naira so we can sought Leo out. Leo celebrated his 43years birthday few months back, he has been married for 11years with no child, thank you and please share this message so everybody will know that Leo needs a surgery. Apostle. JOHNSON SULEMAN did NOT perform MIRACLE oo! he only paid £15,000 British Pounds to support his hospital bill. Leo’s family and friends went to his church (Omega Fire Ministries Auch, Edo State.) to give thanks by sharing his testimony on his health journey. We are still believing same God is still on his case, thank you and God bless you. Please rebroadcast.”
However, recent development reveals that Leo does not seem to be comfortable with Chioma’s set-up to raise funds on his behalf. And he accordingly fired a message to Chioma which she also posted online.
“Hello Chioma,” began Leo.
“I have taken time to read the MOU you sent to me and I have equally consulted with my lawyers.
“Now Chioma the good book says can two work together expect they agree. We have been disagreeing in just one thing which has been the main challenge in raising these fund. You’ll equally agree that people are complaining on the account used for these campaign, a thing you’ve refused to accept.
“I’ve gone through your terms and have consulted wildly I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t continue this campaign with you.
“I completely disagree with your MOU and all its terms. We both belong to a Guild and I want to allow the Guild to carry on from now. Let me cease this medium to thank you for your efforts so far and your previous support.
“I request with immediate effect the account should be shut down and the campaign brought to a close.
“All monies collected so far should be remitted to my account,” he said as he signed and put his bank account details.
Chioma also was quick to respond to Leo. However, she directed her message to the public whom she had earlier engaged.
Her message, in part, read: “Due to Mr. Leo’s renege, Purple Ribbon Care Foundation have instructed the donate-ng team to end the campaign and commence the process to remit fund raised less donate-ng’s charges to Mr. Leo’s personal account. Purple Ribbon will bear all its administrative cost incurred during the entire process.
“Purple Ribbon would like to thank all well-meaning colleagues and Nigerians in general who donated and shared this campaign. Thank you for your support.
Not done yet, Chioma went online on Wednesday to state that the monies received a total of N2, 036, 393.99, have been remitted to Leo’s account.
She wrote: “This is to update you with progress made.
“1. Statement of Leo Mezie’s campaign was provided by donate-ng in line with their campaign closure process. This was sent to Leo M and Purple Ribbon Care Foundation for review and approval. – Leo was not willing to review the statement or approve it. He said he was only interested in his money and i should pay him and he wants “his alert”. See statement attached.
“2. The funds as detailed in the statement have been remitted to Leo’s account. A total of N2,036,393.99. donate-ng have also confirmed they would remit any other donations received after this statement. After several effort by donate-ng and Purple Ribbon Care to confirm from Leo receipt of funds have proved abortive. Leo is yet to confirm he has received the funds. Proof of payment to Leo’s GTB by donate-ng is attached.
“3. To this end Purple Ribbon Care Foundation managed by Chioma Okoye has hands-off all fundraising that has to do with Mr. Leo and we pray him the best.”
A curious case of other ailing artistes
In the past, some Nigerian artistes have fallen back to the public to when ill. Some of them include:
Baba Suwe
RECENTLY, Yoruba comedian, Babatunde Omidina, aka Baba Suwe, was ill and had to come to the public for assistance to take care of medical condition. His call was heeded by the Theater Arts and Motion Picture Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who donated N1m. Also, the Health Minister, Isaac Adewole, gave directives that he should be admitted to Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, for treatment. And two days after that, Reverend Esther Ajayi, founder of the Love of Christ Generation Church, C & S (Iya Adura), London, donated N10m and flight ticket. According to Yomi Fabiyi, Baba Suwe, who was recently discharged from LUTH, will embark on a foreign medical trip.
Moves to raise fund for Baba Suwe’s treatment did not also go without some controversies, especially as some fans accused TAMPAN and the actor’s colleagues of not rising to the occasion at the early stage.
OJB Jezreel
IN 2013, singer and record producer, Babatunde Okungbowa also known as OJB Jezreel, suffered renal failure which led to the loss of both kidneys. He needed assistance to raise funds for his treatment which included a kidney transplant and his fellow artiste, Nomoreloss, championed the fund raising cause.
As chairperson of the OJB Donation Committee, Nomoreloss raised $100,000 for the producer. And in his quest to save the life of his friend, Nomoreloss went against some Nigerian celebrities who claimed they had donated to OJB. He blasted Kokomaster D’banj for claiming that he paid N7m to OJB’s account on Twitter.
Sadly, three years after a kidney transplant operation in India, OJB Jezreel died in the early hours of June 14 in a Lagos hospital. He was a month away from being 50.
Mayowa Ahmed
IN 2016, a young lady, Mayowa Ahmed, who was diagnosed of ovarian cancer, needed funds for treatment. And it was actress Toyin Aimakhu that intervened in raising funds for Mayowa’s treatment. The target was $100, 000.
Following Toyin’s post which went viral, money started pouring in and rumours started spreading that Toyin’s involvement was fraudulent.
Expectedly, Toyin denied it.
“In view of the recent happenings around Mayowa Ahmed’s ill health and the many allegations of fraud surrounding the funds raised, it has become imperative that I come clean by stating my side of the story and by implications, set the record straight,” Toyin wrote on Instagram.
“When I got wind of Mayowa’s sickness, I was moved to tears and immediately sought to know how I could help, hence my on-the-spot video which went viral as my genuine intervention.
“Indeed, I was overwhelmed by the quick response of well-meaning Nigerians to whom I will forever owe a debt of gratitude. But all this changed yesterday, Thursday 28th, July, when I went to the hospital in the morning to check as well as follow up on Mayowa. Her brother had told everyone to leave them alone because they wanted privacy. Although I was shocked at the sudden change in attitude, especially the tone of communication, I still did not suspect anything was amiss.
“However, on my way out, I received a call from one Aramide Kasumu of Life Stake Foundation, who would later claim the whole Mayowa Ahmed fund raiser was a scam. Importantly, she wanted to know the extent of my involvement and in her words, “so that when they are giving their reports, I would not be roped into it”.
Toyin further stated that the family deceived everyone in the first place by raising funds for Mayowa despite the fact that her case was helpless and the hopes of her survival was near impossible.
“Upon hearing this, I was appalled and in a bid to clear my name, I went back to the hospital in palpable anger and demanded explanations from all concerned. Perhaps, I overreacted when I went into a rage of anger over the matter with the CSO. I then alerted the Police PRO, who invited the parties involved to the police command.
“I want to state for the record that I have never been a fraud and will never partake in one, not even at this stage of my career (which I hold to heart). All my efforts were strictly on humanitarian grounds without recourse to any pecuniary consideration or the resort to cheap fame.”

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