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Erisco and Chioma Okoli saga — How not to catch cruise at somebody’s expense — By Moneke Godson

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For sometime now, the internet has been abuzz with the story of the rift between the Chief Executive Officer of Erisco Foods and one Mrs Chioma Okoli over what Erisco foods described as an attempt by Chioma to demarket their tomato puree brand. Although, Chioma’s cheerleaders called her actions an innocuous product review, it is my considered opinion that Chioma did not set out to do a professional review of the product. What she did amounted to a reckless demarketing and demonization of the product for no just cause other than to catch cruise and draw unnecessary attention to herself. That to me is an irresponsible action for her age and marital status.

The advent of feminism does not mean that an otherwise responsible woman should go about looking for trouble where no trouble exists. Any person who has an idea of marketing management would tell you the parameters that must be present for any product review to occur. It amounts to insults on the intelligence of Nigerians to describe Chioma’s actions against the Erisco tomato purée brand as a product review. Let us briefly revisit what the public is being fed as a product review. Chioma said that she went to the market to buy her usual brands for use but could not see them. This means that if Chioma had seen her preferred brand, she would not have touched the Erisco brand.

She had already condemned Erisco brand ostensibly because it was a Nigerian brand. Chioma compared the Erisco tomato purée brand to two other competing brands and arrived at the verdict that the Erisco brand was not fit for the purpose. What criteria did she use to arrive at her verdict? Where was the logical framework and the scientific basis for her actions? She only said that Erisco was sugary. That is all !!! What kind of review is that? You don’t use somebody’s means of livelihood to catch cruise. That is an expensive joke. Instead of admitting her mistakes and apologizing, she wants the world to believe that she was right. When has sugar being one of the active ingredients in tomato purée become a crime? Chioma further said that because she could not see her preferred brands to buy, she had to make do with the Erisco brand which she said was nothing but sugar deceptively packaged to harm consumers.

CHIOMA did not tell the public if the product contents of the Erisco product disclosed that sugar was one of the ingredients or whether the sugar content was more than what was disclosed on the package. Consumer preferences differ, there are those who prefer tomato purees without sugar and there are those who would not buy any tomato purée without sugar, yet there are numerous others who are indifferent. Since, it is a consumer product, what matters is the wholesomeness and this can only be guaranteed by NAFDAC approval. In what capacity did Chioma make the statement that the Erisco tomato purée was ki****ng people? Does Chioma have such evidence? Chioma was just reckless in her actions and I feel sorry for her because instead of looking for peace, she is busy grandstanding and hobnobbing with a mob.

An apolitical matter which has to do with bad conduct by an uncultured and indisciplined married woman is being reduced to a partisan battle involving supporters of Mr Peter Obi widely known as Obidients who instead of staying neutral like other Nigerians decided to take sides with one of the parties. The impression should not be created that Obidients are a lawless lot. The CEO of Erisco is not into partisan politics but only a law abiding citizen who is into local manufacturing.

Why give the impression that he is against Obidients? When Nobel laureate Prof Wole Shoyinka described Obidients as behaving like fascists, we all condemned that description as inappropriate. But how do you describe their actions in the current Erisco vs Chioma saga? Obidients need to put on their thinking caps because they should have seen that propagandas, hurling abuses at people, intimidation and noise making cannot lead them anywhere. Social media can be used productively but reckless use of the social media can be counterproductive. Too many cooks spoil the broth. I can infer from the people who have played one part or the other in this matter that the CEO of Erisco and Chioma are both from the Nnewi axis.

The question begging for answer is; is there anything between them that we don’t know? In our culture down there, it is scandalous for a married woman to behave as recklessly as Chioma is doing talk-less with her current pregnancy status. What does she want to achieve and what will she gain in bringing down a Nigerian brand which is providing employment directly and indirectly to thousands of fellow Nigerians and conserving foreign exchange for Nigeria through backward integration? In this matter, Chioma is the aggressor and no deodorizing by her many enablers would make her blameless and clean. Those who are egging her on to continue fighting an unjust battle which she has already lost do not love her. She does not need this battle, I believe it would ruin her.

No amount of propaganda and social media braggadocio would help her unless she retraces her steps and tenders an unreserved apology to the parties she has hurt and lied against. CNN is cable network news, it is not different from the Channels and other TV stations in Nigeria. The only advantage it has over them is that it enjoys a wider coverage. What impact would Chioma and Erisco matter being aired by the CNN and other international news outlets have on the independent decisions of the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Courts on this matter? How much did Chioma’s enablers raise for her through the Gofundme and how many times can it take her to Abuja and back plus accommodation and airport taxis? The court matter has not yet started.

How would she raise the money to prosecute this case? What happens to her family when she is running up and down on this case? It is not in the place of the opponent to press a case where it would be convenient for the other party. So those who are arguing that Erisco is pressing the case in Abuja and not Lagos are talking nonsense. That line of thought is lazy and an absolute balderdash. Police, litigations and court processes are very expensive and should be avoided except where absolutely necessary. I do not see the need for Chioma to embark on this costly frolic. Her husband should call her to order and take the initiative to resolve this matter before it gets out of hands.

Nigeria is a sovereign country with its laws and order. It is a crime for anybody who is under a Police bail to jump bail as Chioma is being encouraged to do by her cheerleaders. Police is always reluctant to grant bail to any suspect who has jumped the first bail the second time. It is ungrateful and wrong of Chioma to cause her surety to be arrested by the Police because she jumped bail. The surety should not be made to suffer the indignity of imprisonment in the Police cell because of Chioma’s intransigence. He is just being magnanimous and should not be punished for Chioma’s eccentric behaviors.

The X which is the social media platform used by Chioma has a nationwide coverage. Therefore, it is wrong for Chioma and her confederates to be arguing that because Chioma used the social media platform in Lagos, the jurisdiction must be Lagos. Since the effects of Chioma’s actions are felt across Nigeria and the CEO and other apparatchiks of Erisco are domiciled elsewhere in Nigeria, only the courts can determine the actual jurisdiction. It is a sign of irresponsibility for a pregnant woman to go out of her way to court trouble only to use her pregnancy status as an instrument of blackmail. You may not like the Police because of their many infamous conducts but it is not advisable for any citizen to ignore them and treat them with contempt and levity. That would be a harbinger for lawlessness in the society which we should deprecate. Propaganda cannot take the place of law in any society. It is therefore wrong for a party who has joined issues in law to resort to propaganda to intimidate the other party.

The courts are there to adjudicate disputes between parties and the Police are there to enforce the laws, parties should allow the laws to run its full course without let and hindrance. Erisco is a Nigerian brand which operates under the present harsh economic environment, it is very wicked of Chioma to be playing the devilish role she is playing in trying to destroy the Erisco brand by invidiously presenting it negatively to the advantage of competitors.

Many Nigerian brands have closed down because of the antics of characters like Chioma who behave like loose cannons. Mentioning the disputed matter by the CNN and other international media is never tantamount to mentioning it in heaven or bringing it before God. At the end of the day, it is the Nigeria Police and Nigerian Courts that are seized of the matter. Chioma is better advised to come down from her contrived high horse and plead for leniency, first from the Erisco CEO and then the Nigeria Police before it is too late. Denying a letter of apology which she freely wrote to the CEO of Erisco with the invented excuse that it was written under duress shows she is naturally a troublemaker , untrustworthy and untruthful. Duress by who? Proving duress is not as easy as the word sounds or is used.

You can defame somebody’s character for wrongfully accusing him of duress. Propaganda and noise making do not change anything in Nigeria and elsewhere once the law is involved. It is better to get one’s facts right when ventilating issues in courts . Public opinion cannot whitewash a bad case. You can ask OBIDIENTS where all their propagandas and noises over the 2023 presidential election took them. The loser may be more popular than the winner, what matters is the strategy employed by the parties, after all, Trump defeated Hilary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election even when he had less popular votes.

Godson O. Moneke, a registered quantity surveyor, economist, sociologist, administrator and sociopolitical advocate wrote from Abuja.

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