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MAKING A MESS OF EATING PAWPAW

By NBF News

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool protagonist of zoning political offices. And no apologies. For many months now, we have hardly focussed on any other matter on this page than zoning. But today, let's digress a little. Let's talk about the pint-sized actors, Aki and Pawpaw.

Chinedu Ikedieze is the one they call Aki. He holds an HND in Mass Communication. His 'twin' brother is called Pawpaw, and his real name is Osita Iheme.

Since fate brought them together in 2002, when they played lead roles in a movie titled 'Aki Na Ukwa,' the two have become inseparable. They live together, negotiate acting roles together, take investment decisions together, attend the same functions, and because they are both bachelors, some people are even beginning to insinuate they could be gay. They've both denied the unkind suspicion.

I remember the day Aki and Pawpaw came on a courtesy visit to The Sun Newspapers last year. They virtually grounded our operations. It was the bedlam that first drew my attention, and on peeping out of my office, I saw the two actors surrounded by an army of newspaper staff. The printers had abandoned the machine. The secretaries had left their offices unmanned. Even the security men were off their posts, making the very best of an opportunity to physically see the naughty 'boys' they had only been opportuned to watch on the screens. These were surely stars, and they shone brightly.

A couple of years ago, I had travelled to Cape Town, in South Africa for the World Editors Conference. And before returning home, I had booked a trip by ferry to visit Robben Island, the gulag where Nelson Mandela had been sequestered for more than 20 years. As we waited to board the ferry, I got talking with a South African man. When he heard that I was Nigerian, he was so very delighted, and declared: 'You are from the country of Aki and Pawpaw? How are the two boys? Have you met them before? Are they real? Oh, how I wish I can meet them.' This shows that Chinedu and Osita are not just local stars.

The fortunes of the two young men are inextricably linked. Whatever they've achieved today, they achieved together. Apart from the slight difference in their education (Pawpaw has just a Secondary School Leaving Certificate) they've done the same movies, entertained and delighted millions across the globe, and built the same cult following. But something has now happened, and the camaraderie is threatened.

Two weeks ago, the Federal Government handed out the National Honours List to about 185 Nigerians. Among them was Aki, who bagged Member of the Federal Republic (MFR). Curiously, his kindred spirit, Pawpaw, was left out. If you were Pawpaw, wouldn't you be jealous? (Tell the truth and let the Devil be ashamed). Wouldn't you be green with envy? Wouldn't you be suffused and gripped with what Shakespeare describes as 'the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on?' Even the Good Book says 'love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave.' If you were in Pawpaw's shoes (and what 'big' shoes they must be), you would be jealous, unless you have had that divine experience, the spiritual kiss of life that renders mortals immune to such feelings. That is the simple truth.

The two actors are from different states. It is possible Aki was nominated by his state government, and Pawpaw did not get the same favour from his own. But isn't there a committee that still screens nominees and can make further recommendations? That committee was remiss in its duty. There is something improper, even unfair, about honouring Aki and leaving out Pawpaw. It has the possibility of creating a wedge between the two 'brothers.'

Already, a softsell magazine has reported this week that both 'no longer step out together,' though they claim they are still friends. It would be quite sad if such a wonderful relationship is rendered prostrate by a rather careless act of the Federal Government. If Aki is MFR, Pawpaw too should have been. It is not about educational background, it is about service to motherland. Whatever qualified Aki should also have qualified Pawpaw. But trust us in this country, we make a mess of eating an egg. No, a mess of eating pawpaw.